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Credit: David Baxter

I started taking aerial silks classes earlier this year. Like many of us, I first realized that these things existed when Cirque du Soleil hit the American stage, sometime in the late 90s. I figured that these were all Eastern European and Asian wonderkind who had been training in this type of thing since they were born, and that this type of stuff was closed off to anyone over the age of 10. And also over 5’10 and 150#. And since I was over 6 feet tall and built like a defensive lineman, well, let’s just say that the image of me hoisting myself up into the air to spin on silks like some sort of delicate spider seemed ludicrous.

Yet, somehow, I ended up walking into the studio at Espana-Streb, wondering if I was crazy or about to suffer some massive injuries. Either that, or seriously wound my pride. The studios, like any studio I’ve been in, can be a little intimidating, at first, especially to a beginner. You don’t know anyone, and you’re going out of your comfort zone, and the people in the class before you LOOK normal, but are flying through the air (or, in other versions of this story, you walk into a dance studio and everyone’s 19, and super bendy, and doing fifty million turns and leaps). But, you know what? That’s what we do in life, and that’s how we grow. Well, sometimes.

Credit: David Baxter
Credit: David Baxter

Full disclosure, I haven’t taken any of those “Beginner” silks classes. Yet. I might. Aerial Arts has one, but it quickly filled up every time I looked at it. And many of the studios have classes, during the day, during the week, which is a bit hard for those of us with 9-5 jobs. So, I’ve been taking the open silks classes at both Streb, and The Muse, on those days that the classes at Streb were cancelled or otherwise pre-empted, which can be a thing. If no one’s signed up for the Sunday open silks at the Muse, they go ahead and cancel it, so you can’t really just “drop in.” At least, from what I’ve found. I, personally, have enjoyed the open level stuff, because 1) it gives me a chance to rest 2) I get to watch some other students do some amazing stuff and 3) you get to chat a bit. Not that you should really be doing that much socializing in class, mind you. Just that it’s nice to see someone drop from the ceiling, and then give you all the praise in the world for just being able to stand on a giant knot without falling over (it’s hard).

The teachers have, so far, been pretty universally amazing. I’m partial to Streb, mainly due to Bobby Hegdlin-Taylor (he came HIGHLY recommended by multiple people), but it’s also in Williamsburg (and around the corner from Vanessa’s Dumplings!!!), and easier to get to. I mean, it’s still a bit of a walk. The Muse, which was also highly recommended, is further out in Bushwick, and has a VERY different vibe. At Streb, there’s been, at best, one other class going on, but the place is covered in literature regarding their local performance group, which performs on site. At the Muse, someone’s always getting ready for something, so it has more of a backstage circus vibe. For the past two weeks, there’s been some workshop involving live music and rope choreography, or people practicing on the lyra (a big, suspended hoop), as well as a troupe of acrobats practicing stands and partnering. The Muse has an open work-out deal, if you’ve been doing this for a while, though you do have to be approved for that.

Credit: David Baxter
Credit: David Baxter

Hanging from the ceiling is becoming the new thing.  My gym has signs up for anti gravity yoga, and I see a bunch of new, fancy workouts revolving around hammocks and those TRX suspension cords. I say, why not go full out. Give aerial silks a try. You’ll be ahead of the curve, for one. I come out of the classes feeling muscles I never knew I had. And it’s a very open and accepting group. It’s scary, but so many things are. I’m a big guy, and while it’s not easy, it’s been VERY rewarding, and I can’t wait to go back.

For more information on classes at Espana-Streb, please visit their webpage.

For more information on classes at The Muse, please visit their webpage.