Hanging silks, trapezes, and rings. If it sounds like something you would see in a circus, that's because it is. In 2009, circus fitness came to the Somerville area, and aerial classes at AirCraft Aerial Arts are helping students get airborne.
Besides other benefits, says Director Jill Maio, they're a great confidence builder: "Aerial classes are an amazing way to build strength and flexibility while having fun. Climbing ropes and silks, inverting in the air, pulling oneself up and over a bar: these things increase confidence like nothing else. In addition, aerial arts foster mental focus and bring you fully in the moment with mind and body."
Classes range from beginners to advanced, so students don't need any particular preparation for classes, says Maio: "No particular training is required to begin classes in aerial arts. We start low, and start with very basic skills. People with gymnastics, dance or climbing backgrounds will often progress faster than those who don't, but all a beginner needs to do is to make sure she can hold her own body weight. If you can do five push-ups and ten sit-ups, you can come to a one-time taster class and see how you like it!"
The studio is conveniently located in Somerville, MA. With twenty foot ceilings and streamers of brilliantly colored silk fabrics, hanging hoops and trapezes, it resembles a circus set. For students who need some conditioning before beginning aerial classes, ground classes offer lessons in flexibility, contortion, and partner acrobatics. Class sizes are small, and ground classes are capped at eight students, and aerial classes at seven.
"Taster" classes introduce beginners to all AirCraft arts. Private lessons can be tailored for individuals or take in birthday parties, bachelorette parties and even corporate retreats. Workshops with guest artists bring new discipline and fresh perspectives and have focussed on topics such as Aerial Straps, Partner Acrobatics, Handstands, Fabric and Rope drops, Wheeldowns/Windmills, Shoulder Health, and Performance Development.
Some students might go on to become performers or circus artists, but for most, it's an exciting way to stay fit and to do something completely different from their daily routines. Two annual performances, with appropriate choreography, showcase student skills for family and friends. Instructors from AirCraft Aerial Arts are highly trained professionals, some even who have trained alongside Cirque du Soleil performers and other leading groups. They have performed at the 2014 US Figure Skating Championships and other events.
Students interviewed for a Boston Globe article put something of the feeling and the spectacle into words:
"It's a bit of an adrenaline rush. I just have a ridiculously stressful life right now, and the only time when my brain shuts off is when I'm doing aerials. It's a break.''
"I always used to think of myself as someone who wasn't very outgoing or athletic, but the self-pacing of aerials is perfect for me.''
"I can't think of a better way to spend my Sunday afternoon.''
"I just love it. It's the closest thing to flying.''