Heather Mae Boulton started her business in April 2018 with only £1.86 in her pocket. Just over a year on, Ballet Contours has become a popular fitness studio for Mancunians who are seeking a full workout for mind, body and soul.

Based entirely on a programme developed by Heather and drawing on her expertise as a former professional ballet dancer, Ballet Contours promotes physical and mental wellbeing through progressive barre workout classes. Unlike most ballet-based fitness classes, which combine a fusion of ballet and modern dance, Ballet Contours is based purely on classical barre techniques. Heather explains: “Classical ballet works the whole body, providing a low impact, toning work-out that builds strength and flexibility as well as developing co-ordination, balance and helping with confidence. We attract a fantastic mix of people, from young professionals looking to tone-up and use the calming benefits of barre fitness to de-stress during their lunch breaks, to older people who want to rebuild their flexibility or ease conditions that are causing chronic pain.

“Traditional ballet classes can be quite intimidating for newcomers, so one of the key principles we’ve established at Ballet Contours is inclusivity. We have people coming from as far as Warrington, Chester and Preston to take part in our classes. I want to make ballet-based fitness accessible to everyone, and it’s so rewarding to see the transformation that my customers make over the course of just a few classes.”

Heather, who began her career as a professional ballet dancer and has performed in South Africa, the United States and Canada, started her business so that she could fit her work around a demanding homelife. She is the sole carer for her daughter, who has autism. With help from Salford University’s social enterprise scheme, she secured investment to help turn her ideas about developing a programme specifically designed to teach ballet to adults into reality.

The railway arch she occupies in Trinity Row, just a short walk from Spinningfields financial centre and shopping district offers a practical mix of good value space and busy footfall. Heather said: “When I started the business I looked at several properties in the area and they were really expensive. The arch offered the perfect value for money space and Danni French and the team at the Arch Company were so supportive, helping me through the process of getting into the space and giving me lots of advice during the installation of our fit-out. It’s hard to get a business off the ground, but the support I’ve received from the team has been wonderful.

“I’m really pleased with what we’ve achieved within the space. The curvature of the arch gives it a great sense of flow and works well with the Feng Shui principles that shaped our design. It creates an environment that helps customers to relax as soon as they come in. We’re also lucky to have Transflash personal training in one of the neighbouring arches. They’re a nice complementary business and have referred a few customers over to us to build on their strength and conditioning work at the gym with a whole-body barre programme.”

Reflecting on a tough, but rewarding first year, Heather shares her sense of excitement for the future of Ballet Contours. She has big plans to develop the business and has recently launched her own range of fitness wear, B-Contoured Studiowear, featuring comfy clothing for beginners as well as fitted outfits for more experienced barre practitioners. Also high among her priorities for the next year is a more proactive marketing approach and pulling together an application for Intellectual Property Rights for the course content that she has developed. She is already well on her way towards making Ballet Contours an attractive fitness brand that could well be popping up in a studio near you over the next few years.

Arch 1 Trinity Row, Manchester