A new sharing economy has moved into the world of street dance in Montreal.
Think of it as a kind of clubhouse: Espace Sans Luxe is a gathering space for the kind of dancers you usually see on the slippery tiles of the AMC Forum or in the spacious entranceways at various Metro stations dancing, clapping, spinning on their heads, interpreting groovy melodies and hard-hitting beats.
Espace Sans Luxe was founded by street and contemporary dancer Axelle Munzero.
Her inspiration was the common narrative of most, if not all, dancers linked to hip hop and urban cultural expression. Street dancers are self-taught – spending hours watching others, watching music videos, doing their own research and eventually, bringing their own touch to whatever form within the genre.
And there are many forms to master — from breakdance to pop'n'lock, from waacking to house to hip hop to crump — all calling for different feeling, music and expression.
Without the validation of an instructor but rather with a heart full of passion and confidence, you come into the cypher — join in, that is — wherever it takes shape, sharing with others the ultimate celebration of a physical expression of art that is unique to each and every street dancer.
Espace Sans Luxe is a new kind of cypher, where the battle element of street dance is left outside on the street.
Inside, it's about community learning.
Espace Sans Luxe is housed in a former apartment in Montreal's Gay Village, at 1838 Amherst Street, just above the Ti-Agrikol.
For an annual fee of $40, to cover the rent, amateur and professional street dancers can come by from 12 noon to 11 p.m., Monday to Friday.
The space's beautiful hardwood floors are the ideal dance surface for the kind of creation that happens there.
The large windows usher in the sunlight. There are cubbies for your outdoor clothes and locally made wooden stools when you need to rest.
For inspiration, the walls are lined with colourful photos and the artwork of other Montreal creators, and a mini-library is equipped with throw cushions. The kitchen feels like your own. You can replace your phone or boom-box by using the sound system.
All of these details are meant to set the scene of an unpretentious and welcoming space for people of all body types, genders and abilities.
There are no mirrors on the walls at Sans Luxe.
There is no year-end performance for family and friends.
Some dancers play host — not dance teacher — and you don't go to class: you come to train on your own or for a session with other members to share your skills, to learn new moves, to exchange ideas and, most importantly, to be in a place where you know you belong.