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Q&A with Dylan Archambault, Co-founder and Creative Director at CMMN GRND

by Caitlin Akai |

Hi Dylan! Please tell us about yourself in a nutshell - work and personal. 

I am a libra. I'm left handed. I'm a former competitive figure skater. A queer boy. A creature of love. A spin instructor and a small business owner at CMMN GRND Fitness and Social Wellness Collective in Vancouver, BC! 


Your vibe is so inspiring! How do you maintain such an authentic excitement for life?

Aww thank you for that! I do like to laugh and joke a lot. I must say though, I am really not a huge fan of toxic positivity. When we only allow the space for ourselves to process positive emotions we stunt our ability to process everything else. I think I am able to maintain authenticity through practice and intentionally allowing myself to feel the full spectrum of my emotions. Some days are amazing if you let them be amazing and some days can be crap if you allow yourself to trudge through the crap (and that's also okay). What is most important to me is trusting in the ebb and flow and knowing that not even my emotions have to be binary... I also dropped out of post secondary to go to comedy school, so having that under my belt helps with levity :).


What inspired you to start CMMN GRND and how do you hope others benefit from it?

I will try my best to be short with this answer. When asked why I wanted to open CMMN GRND: Fitness and Social Wellness Collective I usually make a joke about how I opened the space because I’m selfish. I wanted a space where I, Dylan, a cis-gender white man, could work out (please note the sarcasm). But the truth is, I’m not really joking. I have been moving my body in ways that go against gender-norms since the day I was born. I started with Ballet class when I was 3, graduated to dancing the Macarena on picnic tables by the age of 4, and began an illustrious figure skating career all the way into my teenage years. Sidebar: Let’s all give a huge shout out to my mom, Cheryl (and co-founder of CMMN GRND). Thank you for allowing me the space to express myself in whatever way felt right to me. You get an A+ for that part of parenting, Mom! (I used to put on her clip-on earring and pearls and dance around her bathroom and she never batted an eye. She also let me wear a fierce winged eyeliner when I performed as Bamm Bamm from the Flintstones in a skating carnival).

By early adulthood I started to question why, after going through the fabulously liberating process of coming out, did I haved to then start moving my body in ways that were more stereotypically “masculine” to fit in. We can muse about how queer men often times try to strictly adhere to heteronormative ideas of manhood as a way of compensating or apologizing for their gayness in society. This idea only further perpetuated by the media where, when I was growing up, gay men were almost exclusively depicted as hyper-masculine, perfectly tanned, ripped and hairless. Thus creating exceptionally impossible beauty standards for our community to uphold. Or how toxic masculinity even exists within the our queer community, subtly designed to continue upholding the patriarchy. The point is, my relationship with my body runs deep, just like everyone else's, and I wanted a space to be my damn-queer-self. I want to move in ways that feel truly good to me, in my body, that feed my inner child. This often translates to more intense cardio, and mindful/ free movement, rather than lifting heavy things in order to sculpt my body a certain way.

I started to wonder, If I don’t feel at home in fitness spaces then, heck, what about everyone else? As I started to explore what inclusion even really meant, I realized there was a heck of a lot to learn. I continue to keep learning to this day. The fitness and wellness industry should exist for me in all my queerness. It should exist for the Black yoga instructor who doesn’t see themselves reflected anywhere else in the industry. It should exist for the straight male who likes to do street jazz in heels. There are human beings existing in a multitude of intersections. If we create the space for it, fitness and wellness CAN be a common ground for everybody.

 

You teach Spin - what's your favorite thing about the workout and what would you say to someone who's never tried it before?

I love spin because it brings me back to my days as a figure skater. It's a space where I get to meld the lines between performance, musicality, and athleticism. I love that I can share all my energy in the room and it truly gets shared right back to me.

For anyone who is just starting out in spin, it's important to first acknowledge that it is intense, there's no denying that. With-in all the intensity there is still tons of space to find power in your own body autonomy. At the end of the day. you're the one riding the bike, and you get to decide how those 50 minutes go for you. it doesn't have to be all or nothing, all in one day. Sometimes it's okay to just come into a dark room, on a stationary bike, with fun lights and music, and just go for a little stroll with everyone.

 What advice would you give to someone who wants to become healthier in mind and body?

 This is probably a controversial opinion, but I am very anti routine or regimentation. I live with type 1 diabetes and a turning point for me was when I realized the best thing to do was listen to my body on any given day and give it what it needs. Sometimes that means going wild in a spin class. Sometimes that means having a nap half way through a yin class. Sometimes that means skipping a workout all together and finding another way to take care of myself. Before I book a class I often ask myself: what is going to regulate my blood sugar the most today? Or how can I feel more reassociated with my body today?

For anyone just starting out the idea of a hardcore routine can be really scary, so just start by FOCUSING ON THE FEELING and asking yourself some questions: How do I want to feel today? What does it feel like to be at home in my body? Am I feeling hyper-aroused or hypo-aroused and what movement practice might bring me back to my window of tolerance? Etc.

As we're currently honouring 2SLGBTQIA+ month, we'd love to hear your story. When was the moment you knew...the moment that everything sort of crystallized? How was that journey for you?

I am 30 years young. I still have not had a moment of crystallization and I hope I never do. To me, being queer is magic, but it's a lifelong journey. It means looking at all aspects of the world and saying, "hey I think we could do things differently!", and that is so needed at this point in our history.

I will always continue to steep in my queerness by learning from our queer elders (namely the Black Trans and Two-Spirit femmes who have always been the backbone of our community), by advocating for the many members of our community who are still grossly underrepresented. And by further discovering and interrogating my own relationship with my body, my identity, and my community. I hope that the more I can dive into experiencing my own queer joy, the more future generations can see themselves represented in the world around them and thrive. 

How do you see more/less acceptance of 2SLGBTQIA+ in society?

Our Queer family before us fought so that we could experience the increase in visibility and legal protections that we have in Canada today, and we are very fortunate for that. However, we are also existing during a time of immense social change which is stirring up so much more. There have been over 250 anti-Trans bills circulating in multiple US states intended to restrict Trans folk’s access to any variety of important things, from life saving healthcare to participation in youth sports. In Canada, Trans folks still are met with discrimation and barriers towards housing, employment, social services, and medical services. The short answer is, we still live in a world where being cis-gendered and straight is the default and therefore Queer bodies (especially those in a place of privledge) must continue to keep fighting for our community. We must stay proud and we must always stay resilient.

What is an issue the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is facing that many people might not know about?

The 'I' in 2SLGBTQIA+. This is something I am still learning about myself. Our entire community should know more about and stand up for Intersex Activism. Intersex is a general term used for a variety of situations in which a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't fit the binary boxes of “female” or “male.” People who are Intersex in Canada have little to no recognition of their rights to physical integrity and bodily autonomy, and no specific protections from discrimination on the basis of sex characteristics. This means that there has been decades of medical trauma to Intersex bodies having their sexual organs surgically altered as infants to fit with-in the binary . Often times people who are Intersex experience an immense amount of gender dysphoria due to these non-consensual surgeries.

We must advocate for informed consent for anyone who may be born with genitalia that is a-typical and acknowledge that people who are Intersex are born as a gift that truly proves gender is not BINARY! 


How are you celebrating Pride month?

CMMN GRND celebrated pride month by partnering with the Vancouver Pride Society. We curated a selection of wellnesawesoms and fitness, each reserved for a specific subculture within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. 

We know that carving out queer-specific spaces within fitness and wellness is a pivotal part of collective healing from trauma and fear…as well as an important community building component for all queer people. Our goal was to create brave space for queer folks to connect with their bodies. 

Some of the classes: QTBIPOC Yoga, Bodies Beyond the Binary (Trans, Non-Binary, Gender Fluid, A- Gender circuit class), IndigiQueer Medicine Circle, and a Queer Kirtan and Breath Work Class.