I find it fascinating that part of what makes a dancer great is the fact that they make whatever complex, intricate thing they’re doing look like any average Joe (or Jill) could do it. They make their movements seem as natural as breathing. And yet, when Average Joe/Jill does try to do it reality quickly dashes those illusions! The really miraculous thing is that somehow, while Joe/Jill is getting that big ol’ wake up call, an addiction kicks in. So even though we realize that we’re no Baryshnikov or Pavlova we can’t help but keep working and aspiring to reach those heights even though we know we’ll probably never get there.
So… why am I rambling on about all of this? Well, just because even if you are a dancer you can easily fall into that trap of, oh, that looks fun, how hard can it be, I’ll just give it a try, because in my head I can totally see myself doing that!!!
The subject at hand? Aerials.
Not the System of a Down song. And not the mermaid. No, what I’m talking about is hanging out in the air suspended by some sort of gigantic scarf tied to the ceiling twirling and flipping around in the air like the love child of Tarzan and Darcey Bussell.
About a year ago I had read about a place down in (well, near) Big City that was teaching aerial arts in some old warehouse. It talked about the growing interest in aerials due to things like the popularity of Cirque du Soleil and Pink’s appearance at the Grammy Awards where she sang while suspended from giant silks. I had heard of aerial arts before and saw some performances on video and always thought it looked super-cool. Definitely put it on my List of Things To Try…. Someday.
A couple weeks ago I was chatting with a friend and she said, “gee, we should really go try that!” Actually, her comment was more along the lines of, “We should go do pole dancing or take aerial ballet or something!” I told her I’d take her pole dancing for her birthday forever ago, but we never got around to it, and sadly the pole dancing studio has now closed. Oh, c’mon people, did you think that she and I were going to go pole dancing at amateur night or something?! We are classy ladies! We would only gyrate on poles in establishments of good repute! So, since pole dancing was out, I decided to look up that aerial place I’d read about all those months ago. And, whaddya know, they offer teaser classes (yeah, somehow that sounds like they should be the ones offering pole dancing!)! So I signed my friend and I up and for the following week or two we would send texts back and forth of, “Ooh, so excited! Can’t wait! Want to fly!!!”
Finally, the day we were to go airborne arrived. We met up and drove down to Suburb of Big City, thankfully giving ourselves a good 45 minutes of wiggle room seeing as SBC was having some street festival that shut down one of the main arteries through the city that we were supposed to cross. Even though I briefly lived in SBC I rarely drove much there and had no idea how to get us where we needed to be. So finally (finally!) we found a parking spot… it was even legal and everything (I was all set to park in resident parking and just pay the ticket if it came to it). Walked to the studio… which was down an industrial looking street with a little driveway and a sign taped to the door to identify it. Sketchy! But really, what else would you expect of such a place? Made our way up to the gym and were greeted by a tiny little woman with the most amazing guns I’ve ever seen… Michelle Obama, eat your heart out! She cheerfully greeted us and pointed us towards the locker room where we met a few other newbies. We hung out before class eying the silks and the trapezes hanging from the ceiling wondering if this was going to raise all sorts of bad elementary school gym class memories.
After a few minutes of arm circles and introductions we headed over to the equipment. First up we tried to just climb the silks. Yeah, all those gym class fears? Hello! I suck just as much as I ever did. I think if I could have gotten the foot hold right I might have been able to make some progress, but it just wasn’t going to happen that day. Then we practiced inversions on the silks, i.e. flipping upside down and hooking your legs around the silks to hang up there. With a little assistance I was able to get up there, but pretty rapidly started descending (upside down) towards the floor. Think I got some silk burns on my feet.
Okay… so my visions — which included me hanging somewhere up near the rafters doing death-defying drops and whatever — were totally dashed. You can’t do much if you can’t even get off the mat!
But then we moved on to the trapeze. First up was just getting ourselves up into a sitting position on the trapeze. Looked complicated. But… it wasn’t… it was totally fun and totally déjà-vu-ish… like, something that probably every little kid does at some point on the monkey bars in the playground: hold on to the trapeze with both hands, swing feet up and use your feet to grab on, slide your legs down so that the trapeze is in the crook of your knees, hang upside down for a few, then move your arms up the rope until you can pull your body up so that your butt is on the trapeze…. reverse to get down. Totally renewed my faith that there may be a teeny shred of hope for me in the aerial world! We did this again, but this time once we got up into a sitting position we held on with just one hand and tipped the same hip as hand up and leaned back with the upper body. Was a lot harder getting that hip up than I thought (you end up with the rope you’re not holding on to supporting the front of your body). But felt awesome once I figured it out. From there we moved on to the aerial hoop to do some spins and a big silk that is suspended like a giant sling that you can flip up on to hang out on your front and spin around like Superman.
And then, just like that, it was over… What!?! No more flying? I want to fly more!!! More, more, more!!! Of course, at that point my arms were like, lady, are you nuts, we ain’t gonna do that no more, in fact, we ain’t gonna do anything anymore, we quit! Attempting to get dressed afterwards was pretty amusing. What was even more amusing is that we had made dinner plans with another friend at a hibachi place back homewards and ended up getting there early, so decided to get drinks at the bar. Which was all well and good until we tried to bring said drinks to our mouths. Uhhh… maybe I can just leave the drink on the bar and lean over and slurp… is that rude? My friend may have possibly broken her martini glass while trying to break her chopsticks apart… kind of funny watching her try to explain to our fellow patrons that she wasn’t snookered, just had really weak arms because she spent her afternoon hanging on a trapeze… yeah, because saying stuff like that makes you sound totally respectable. Yup.
Yeah… so I definitely want to try aerials again. The bummer is that to do anything cool you need to build upper body strength, preferably by doing aerials. And this place is an hour away from home, nearly two hours from work, so… I suppose I won’t be moving on to the death-defying drops anytime soon. But damn, it was fun.
(Trying to move today? Not fun… my entire upper body has seized. Hahaha.)