Need a feel-good fitness hit? Meet Shilling & Black – the yoga, Pilates, barre and dance studio who are determined to help you find the joy in movement
What’s Shilling & Black all about?
[Melissa] Our Shilling & Black studio on Park View in Whitley Bay offers an escape from everyday living – where all are welcomed to enjoy a wide variety of movement classes based around yoga, Pilates, barre and dance.
We provide a unique space and style, where everyone is welcomed to enjoy movement in a safe and inclusive environment.
What drives Shilling & Black?
[Steph] We want people to feel amazing – from the moment they enter our studio until well after the session has ended. Feeling welcome and supported is central to the Shilling & Black experience, and everything from the lighting, décor, temperature and even the scent in our space is carefully considered to deliver that.
We recently featured you in our round-up of body-positive workout spots. How do you cater your classes to suit a range of abilities?
[Melissa] Our small and friendly classes allow us to adapt and respond to the needs of the clients in front of us, so that they can benefit from a more tailored experience. We know that people come to us with different histories, different needs and goals, and often with different reasons for seeking to improve their physical and mental health.
Since our classes are designed solely by us (and not dictated by any commercial franchise), we’re able to allow our sessions to evolve organically with the needs of our students and constantly respond to their feedback.
Tell us about when Shilling met Black.
[Melissa] We met four years ago, when Steph – then owner of Studio Velo – got in touch with me to bring Black’s Barre to her space. What a journey it’s all been since then!
I remember walking into the then-unfinished space and being overwhelmed by Steph’s attention to detail throughout the entire building. No corner had been cut and no expense had been spared. From the reclaimed flooring to the bespoke reception and hand-painted mural of mountains on the back wall, it just resonated absolute style, luxury and taste. A studio with a soul, filled with purpose and finished with a unique personal touch – which is what boutique fitness is all about, right?
Why do you think you work so well together?
[Steph] It was clear right from the early days of our collaboration that we shared the same disenchantment towards the types of fitness venues, classes and spaces that were readily available. That was something we both wanted to change by bringing our personal touch and high level of expertise to everything we offer our clients. Our joint aim is to provide more than just a place of exercise – we want our brand to be community-powered.
Steph, your own life was transformed by Pilates – what would you say the particular benefits of Pilates can be?
[Steph] Pilates trains the body as an integrated whole with a focus on core strength, correct alignment and posture and attention to the body-mind connection. Some of the benefits of practicing Pilates include:
- Improved posture
- Increased muscle tone and strength
- Promotes balanced muscular strength on both sides of the body
- Improved joint balance and resilience
- Improved flexibility and joint mobility
- Effectively decreases the risk of injury in many settings
- Improves spinal stabilisation and can reduce back pain and other related symptoms
- Relieves mental tension and anxiety allowing the mind to calm
Pilates workouts can always be tailored to the needs of the individual and complements training in an abundance of other sports, as well as being used extensively in the rehabilitation setting.
And Melissa, your focus has always been more towards the dance and yoga side of things. How can these classes transform your body and mind?
[Melissa] My whole life and career has revolved around dance and movement – whether that be in the context of performing as an artist, working as a choreographer, teacher, leading Dance as a subject or being a student.
Although dance and yoga both have very functional aspects to them, they’re also both so much more than just ‘fitness’. They can challenge us to leave our comfort zones as we learn new choreography, sequencing and movement, which is empowering in itself. But they also provide us with the opportunity to ignite our inner creativity as we explore new neural pathways, becoming completely lost in movement and music. I guess this is where the magical feeling of escape happens: when we’re completely engrossed in what our body is doing. Our thoughts or anxieties have to be put on hold or, sometimes, we’re able to use this process to find a new perspective altogether.
You’re focused on helping others find the joy in movement. Why do you believe this is so important?
[Steph] The more we move, the physically fitter, stronger and leaner we become. To transform or change our bodies physically, we need to be consistent in our movement practices and with our nutrition, which isn’t necessarily easy. So I’m a strong believer in loving the movement that you do, so that you don’t need to remind yourself to do it – which makes being consistent so much easier.
One of our fundamental philosophies is that doing what you love brings you fulfilment, joy and even a sense of ‘joie de vivre’ – which is the route to finding your healthiest self, inside and out.
You take great care to make sure your studio has soul and that the whole Shilling & Black environment is as welcoming as possible – why was this always a main focus for you?
[Melissa] The corporate fitness world is frequently a little uninspiring and the rows of endless machines and smell of stale sweat has never really appealed to us! So we wanted to move as far away from this stereotype as possible.
We both thrive in a creative and beautiful environment, and we’ve witnessed over the years how this has positively impacted others who visit and share our space. We’ve always hoped that all ages and abilities would feel completely welcome in the studio and we’re proud of the fact that this is one of the main things our new clients comment on – that feeling of immediately belonging.
Why is Whitley Bay the perfect spot for Shilling & Black?
[Melissa] Our seaside town is alive with a buzz of energy and positivity. We live in an extremely active and friendly community and wouldn’t for a second wish to be based anywhere else. The street our studio’s on, Park View, was even listed in the Guardian’s Top 10 cool shopping districts of the world – which also included Paris and Hamburg!
There’s a real sense of community spirit among the many independent boutiques and businesses on the street, particularly after the recent challenges we’ve all faced during the pandemic. And we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing somewhere to hang out after class!
As well as group classes, you also offer bespoke services – such as 1-to-1 training and Hen Dance packages. Do you have to be a Shilling & Black member to enjoy these tailored packages?
[Steph] We strive to remove any inhibitions people feel about trying something new or entering an unknown group environment. This is one of the reasons that we’ve kept a PAYG option on all of our classes, instead of becoming an exclusive members-only studio. We want people to feel as though they can come and go as they please, no pressure. And, if they decide that they want to attend more regularly, then they may take advantage of a block booking or an unlimited monthly membership package to get the most value for their money.
What does the future look like for Shilling and Black?
[Steph] Despite recent challenges, we’re in a positive place and feel hugely excited for the future. Yes, we know that there will still be uncertainty about things going forward, but we’ve seen how strong we can all be when we work together and support one another.
Our residential retreats have been necessarily rescheduled during the last year, so we’re really looking forward to meeting as a community again – be that on a day retreat or at our upcoming 3-day escape to the Lake District. Or even in Italy, for a very special Shilling & Black immersion! We’re looking forward to getting that side of things back on track.
[Melissa] One of the most exciting developments for us is the launch of our online Shilling & Black Lifestyle Membership next month, which has been in the pipeline for a couple of years now. Imagine an online space to escape to when you need it most. Move with us in pre-recorded Pilates, barre and yoga classes (to suit all abilities), unleash your creative side and discover how to not only bring love to your table and home, but to every aspect of your life – regardless of what is going on in the world around us.
Or pop by their gorgeous studio: 236 Park View, Whitley Bay, Newcastle NE26 3QX