A Northeast Portland Studio Stirs Up a Multicultural Fitness Movement

(com)motion's class roster runs from vogue dance to introductory karate.

By Jagger Blaec March 22, 2018

The new Northeast Portland fitness studio (com)motion

Sometimes getting fit translates to fitting in. Many fitness spaces in Portland are predominantly white; finding Zen becomes an issue when navigating those spaces in peace feels physically impossible. Now a new studio is causing a literal commotion, with the intention of offering a place for inclusive calisthenics.  

(com)motion explicitly states on its website that “(com)motion is a collaborative effort between Theresia Munywoki, and Our 42nd Avenue, a local nonprofit, to develop a multicultural movement studio in the Cully neighborhood of Northeast Portland.” The nonprofit focuses on economic development and neighborhood prosperity, with backing from the urban-renewal agency Prosper Portland. The studio, which opened in December 2017, came into existence as a way to serve underrepresented communities in Portland’s fitness industries.

I caught up with studio head Theresia Munywoki to find out more about how (com)motion came to be. “We developed the name for community in motion, in order to encourage people to move,” she says. “People make a commotion when they want people to see them. Let's stir things up and do something new so people can say, ‘What's going on over there?'”

And it’s hard to miss what is going on. The 1,000-square-foot studio has hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling mirrors. The website boasts that “(com)motion is a movement space where everyone feels welcomed and empowered to share their expressions of culture and self.” That feeling is evident when you look at a classroom roster. As a Black yoga teacher in this city, I've been hard pressed to find instructors who might look like me. That matters in a vulnerable state that involves changing your physical body. Fitness instructors of color do exist, but often there is an air of assimilation. (com)motion makes no apologies for encouraging teachers to celebrate their cultural differences. Classes include vogue dance, hip-hop/jazz funk, burlesque, "c**temporary," and more.

“The mission is still under construction,” Munywoki says. “But the idea and the statement around the project is to create an inclusive space that has different groups represented and the teachers that teach. I want to have teachers of color and queer teachers and teachers with different bodies and teachers with disabilities. So that people who see themselves represented by their teachers feel comfortable coming in. What happens then, and I am really fascinated to see, is something that is kind of revolutionary.”

The space is open to people of all body shapes, colors, genders and identities, so if you're an instructor who has had trouble finding a space to teach, or you're a student who's hungry for representation, check it out. 

Jagger Blaec is a Portland-based freelance writer.

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