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Madonna’s Hard Candy Fitness opens in Toronto

Aura’s new fitness centre hopes to attract gym queens with luxury setting, Madge-approved training

"Proximity to the gay community was a very big highlight to us," says Hard Candy Fitness Toronto president Annick Marcoux. Credit: Hard Candy Fitness

Muscle Marys and gym queens are getting a new destination workout palace as Madonna launches the first North American location of her luxury Hard Candy Fitness chain in Toronto.

Hard Candy Toronto will occupy 42,000 square feet on the top retail floor of the Aura condo, still under construction at the corner of Yonge and Gerrard streets. When it’s complete, the 78-storey Aura will be Canada’s tallest residential tower – it already eclipses the entire Yonge Street strip and dominates the Toronto skyline — making it a fitting landmark for the queen of pop’s signature gym.

The $6-million gym has been designed with luxury in mind: commanding views over the strip, floor-to-ceiling windows, top-of-the-line strength and cardio equipment, luxury steam rooms and saunas, juice bar, terrace and group fitness programs designed by Madonna herself, along with her trainer, Nicole Winhoffer.

The chain’s proprietary Addicted to Sweat program includes cardio dance classes inspired by Madonna’s choreography, including a class based on “Vogue.”

“It’s a routine that’s choreographed that you have to learn, that you have to practise week over week over week, and basically what happens is you become extremely good at it but you become extremely fit because it’s such a workout,” says Annick Marcoux, president of Hard Candy Fitness Toronto.

Another group class is called Strength and Heels, in which participants learn a choreographed aerobic routine on stilettos. Marcoux says that at other Hard Candy locations, the classes have been evenly split between men and women.

“It’s a really demanding core class. You really do dance on heel, on stiletto. This would not happen in a very conventional club,” Marcoux says. “We’re creating a sense of community, and we are making fitness fun,” she says.

The Toronto location is a joint business venture led by Montreal-based fitness mogul Leonard Schlemm, co-founder of the global 24-Hour Fitness chain, and known in Canada for such luxury gyms as Montreal’s Mansfield Club and Vancouver’s Steve Nash Fitness World. Aura developer Canderel had proposed that Schlemm build a gym for the condo’s residents in 2008, but later it was decided to open up the location to the public.

Schlemm proposed a luxury gym with a celebrity brand behind it, and the group decided to pursue Madonna’s Hard Candy brand in 2010, figuring that Madge was a good fit for the vibrant entertainment centre of downtown Yonge and the 20 to 50 demographic both Aura and Schlemm were chasing. Not to mention the building’s proximity to the gay village, just a few blocks north and east.

“The neighbourhood was very important. It’s the most vibrant and the most interesting in Toronto. And yes, the proximity to the gay community was a very big highlight to us,” Marcoux says.

When they approached Madonna and New Evolution Ventures — which controls the brand — after the opening of the first Hard Candy in Mexico City, they learned that Madonna had already put Toronto on a short list of 12 cities she’d considered a priority for expansion based on her success touring here.

Toronto is now home to the eighth Hard Candy, after locations in Rome, Sydney, Santiago, Mexico City, Moscow, St Petersburg, Russia and Berlin.

While Madonna won’t be at the club’s opening day, Marcoux says a Madonna event is expected soon but wouldn’t provide details. Based on previous Hard Candy openings, it seems Madonna tends to make an appearance at her clubs about a month after they’ve opened – two weeks ago, she taught a dance class at the Berlin Hard Candy Fitness.

Hard Candy Fitness opens officially in Toronto on Oct 31 at noon, with an all-day open house where members and non-members alike will be free to check out the location and take group exercise classes, with a cocktail party at night. The club is located at 382 Yonge St, 4th floor.