Pilates in the Park with Camille LeFevre


"Now, let’s lengthen our spines as we lift up," says Camille LeFevre, "and continue to lengthen them on the way down by pressing the heels of our hands back toward us and into the floor." Lying prone on their mats, she and her students lift and lower their torsos for an exercise she playfully calls "fancy swan." "Continue lengthening to keep from dumping into your lower back," she adds. "Feel the difference?"  Nods and smiles all around. As Camille demonstrates a slight rocking motion with her torso, her students’ torsos also move up and down like gently bobbing swans. 

It's 6:30 on a Tuesday evening, and Camille's Pilates students are gathered in her second-floor studio with a view into the treetops of her pocket neighborhood in the Creative Enterprise Zone. For the past three years, she's been guiding students in the core-strengthening, spine-lengthening, body-integrating benefits of mat Pilates. "All Things Are Delicately Interconnected" says the slogan on her T-shirt today.   

An accomplished freelance arts journalist, Camille has found her own new sweet spot in teaching mat Pilates. It draws on her decades of dance and writing about dance, which honed her eye and her vocabulary for the subtle mechanics of the human body. After several years of neighborhood Pilates classes with Fran Ouellette—whose own teacher studied with Joseph Pilates in the 1960s—Camille wondered if she was ready for teacher training herself. Yes, Fran told her. Now a certified Balanced Body Pilates Mat Instructor, Camille has taught at several studios: Core Pilates & Yoga, Healing Elements, and Defining You Pilates & Fitness, which has just opened a location in Vandalia Tower.

But these days, Camille relishes her home-studio classes, known as Pilates in the Park, where she gives students plenty of individual attention. Her small classes also spark camaraderie, to the point of occasional bouts of group laughter.  "And I keep them super-affordable," she says of her classes: new clients pay just $105 for a 10-class pass. Offerings include a 45-minute lunchtime express class as well as one-hour morning and late-afternoon sessions. She also teaches intensive Pilates workshops: one is planned for November 2–4 at the Harbor View Event Center on Lake Superior in Washburn, Wisconsin.

A 25-year resident of South St. Anthony Park—on Bayless Avenue, near Hampden Park Co-op— Camille has seen the area’s creative spirit evolve. One of her earliest contributions after settling here was helping purchase the land for the St. Anthony Park Community Garden on Robbins Avenue, just a few blocks from her home. Hosted by the SAP Community Council, the garden has grown to over a hundred plots. This year, Camille is helping cultivate and harvest the ones that provide fresh produce to residents of Seal Hi-Rise.
In the meantime, Camille has excelled as an independent journalist, writing for dozens of area publications and national magazines on performing and visual arts, design, and architecture. She served as the Star Tribune dance critic, and her books include The Dance Bible. She’s taught arts journalism at the University of Minnesota. Writing on architecture is a particular focus in recent years; as the New York Times’ David Carr said of her, “She lifts up whole buildings with her little finger.” But Camille still enjoys taking broad cultural viewpoints: in 2013, she wrote what is still the most-read article in the history of The Line (an online publication she edited for five years): "Forget Midwest. We Are North: Repositioning MSP's National Identity for the 21st Century." Read more on her website.

Now that the CEZ has such a varied street life, what are Camille’s favorite spots?  She doesn't have to go far. "I like mid-century modern, so I often walk down Raymond to browse at Shag, Succotash, and Mid Mod Men," she says. "Then I'll stop at Workhorse Coffee— love that place!"  She'll take friends and family to Urban Growler for a beer and dinner. And once in a while, just for fun, she looks in at Twin Cities Reptile. Talk about flexible spines!

Visit the Pilates in the Park website for more details.

Julie James