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The aerial arts: Using fabric as an instrument to dance in the air

The aerial arts: Using fabric as an instrument to dance in the air
Courtesy: Lily VanMiddlesworth

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Free falling in the air and landing in a hammock of fabric, spinning for minutes on end, striking a dramatic splits as you hang from the hoop with one foot– the aerial arts.

I have been playing around with the aerial arts for about 6 months now, experimenting with the silks (two fabrics that hang from the ceiling in great swathes that can be used to create graceful standstills, rollups, and dramatic drops), hammock (just like the silks except a single looped fabric), and, my personal favorite, the lyra (a hoop that hangs from the ceiling where you can twist and fall and intertwine yourself around the apparatus). With a background in gymnastics, dance, and running, I had decent upper body strength, flexibility, and stamina, all required and built up with practice and consistency in this sport.

I began at Coil Studios in Spokane, Washington, and recently found a private teacher in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho at Reform Studios. Her primary instrument is the hammock, and though she had to close her group lessons due to COVID, she will be offering classes once again for any interested parties, beginning in the coming weeks.

All apparatuses can be pretty pinchy on the skin– I often leave practice with lots of bruises and aches in muscles I didn’t even know I had, but all the hard work is worth it, because when you’re up there, all other thoughts float away. You’re a bird dancing a tango with the partner of an apparatus.

The aerial arts are challenging, beautiful, and freeing, and give you a greater awareness of your body’s space and potential. Nothing beats the feeling you get when hanging upside down from your feet hundreds of inches above the ground, twisting yourself up in the fabrics before freefalling in the air and catching yourself gracefully just above the ground, or trying a new trick over and over again until you finally get the hang of it. I hope to continue this sport throughout my life, as I get these feelings nowhere else, and someday, I hope to experiment with the trapeze, ropes, and corde lisse. For the time being, I am working on a routine to perform for my school’s upcoming musical, “Guys and Dolls” at Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy, and practicing as often as I can get my hands on an apparatus.

If you dream of a challenge, of hard work, and amazing pay off, the aerial arts might be for you as well!

This is an unedited user writing submission. The views, information, or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Best Version Media or its employees.

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