|The Football Players, by Henri Rousseau
Jacob Frazier, a trim, superbly fit young man with a neat beard, leads three shoeless women and a male visitor through their paces in a softly lit exercise room, warmed to a gently challenging 85 degrees. We are at BIÂN Chicago, which once might have been referred to simply as a “health club” but describes itself as a “private, members club built on the foundation of holistic wellness, vitality and social well-being.”
Three years ago, the space BIÂN fills with beige drapes, blond maple floors and large, blurry, vaguely Gerhard Richter-ish photographs was the empty shell of the former Japonais restaurant in the Montgomery Ward warehouse at 600 W. Chicago, and Frazier was a professional dancer.
BIÂN opened in November 2020 at the height of COVID restrictions. Frazier was among millions of Americans— a Harris poll released last year said more than half of our nation’s employees want a career change — prodded by the pandemic to swap one profession for another.
“There was no more work, at the time, for dancers,” explains Frazier, who danced professionally for five years. “‘I’d always cross-trained to sustain my body, so it just felt like a natural shift.”
Leaving dance was easier than an outsider might imagine.
“The life is very hard because you are living in poverty most of the time,” Frazier says. “So no, it wasn’t hard to give up. I was ready. I was sick of living that way.”
If talking to dancers-turned-fitness-instructors and nibbling cucumber, apricot, pistachio and yogurt salad seems off brand for me, it was. I was slogging through my own COVID-induced doldrum when Justine Fedak — who used to be in charge of brand strategy for BMO Harris Bank and now does marketing for BIÂN — suggested a visit might perk me up.
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