The biggest challenge for me was just swinging my feet over my head into the pike! I just did not have the core strength to do it, and I always needed assistance. However, Dustin, who apparently may have a future in the circus, had no problems at all getting into the pike position! The biggest challenge for him was pointing his toes and trying to be graceful, ha! But seriously, he must have a much stronger core than me, even though I am the one who does all this yoga and barre. What the heck? All he really does for strength is rock climbing, but apparently, that is enough, because he was able to do nearly every move she demonstrated, and I was the one who struggled!
By Jess in Minneapolis
Have you ever been to a Cirque du Soleil show? I have seen a few of them: a traveling show in Minneapolis, and a couple different ones in Las Vegas. I was always impressed by the aerial performers. I knew that the moves they were doing just had to be challenging, but I had no idea just how challenging.
Let’s just say that I will have a greater appreciation for those performers the next time I see Cirque du Soleil, because last Thursday night, I actually tried to do some of those moves myself!
I purchased a Groupon for two aerial fitness classes at The Stomping Ground.
None of my girlfriends seemed all that interested in joining, so lucky Dustin was “coerced” into joining me.
I bought him the same Groupon (2 classes for $25, a $50 value) He grumbled quite a bit as the class approached…”Why do I let you convince me to do these things?” He grumbled all the way downtown to the lofted studio where the class was held. I told him to just try the one class, and if he really hated it, he wouldn’t have to use the second class that was part of the Groupon. He agreed. What a sport.
We arrived at the studio a little late, and waited outside in the below 0 temperatures, calling the numbers listed on the door to get access (be sure to have your phone handy if you go here!) No one was picking up the phone, and I was getting a little worried, and a lot cold. Fortunately, someone who lived in the building arrived and let us in. (Apparently, he was one of the instructors who lived there)
We quickly ran up the stairs, threw off our coats and shoes, and joined the two other girls in the class on the stretching mats. (There were only four of us total in the class)
We spent the first 15 minutes stretching, and I started to look around and wonder what we were in for… The space was full of character- exposed brick and dimmed lighting.
There were two “lyra”, or large metal hoops hanging from the ceiling with thick mats underneath, and then three “tissu” ropes hanging on the other side of the room. Tissu is the French word for the material used for these “ropes”. It’s not silk- the instructor explained that silk wouldn’t work as it has no “grip:. You would slide right off of silk! I’m not sure exactly what tissu is, but it felt like a heavy but smooth material with some “give,” like spandex.
There were mirrors on two sides of the space, and then curtains on the other sides, blocking off what appeared to be living quarters for some of the instructors.
We finished stretching, and the instructor told us we’d start the evening’s class on the lyra. Fun!
She had us test the lyra to get a feel for how heavy they were, and then we did a few little exercises with it to warm up our upper body.
Our instructor for the night was a very slim woman, probably in her mid-20s. She said she had been practicing aerial performance for about three years, and she was really quite good at it. She would demonstrate each move for us, and she made it look so easy and graceful…and then one of us would give it a try, and it would be way harder than expected!
First, we learned how to swing our legs up over our heads into an upside down “pike” position.
From there we would swing our legs up over the lyra until we were hanging from our knees.
Then, with one big core lift, we’d swing up to sitting position inside the circle of the lyra. Once in the sitting position, we tried balancing, by letting go of first one, then two hands.
The instructor showed us a few other moves, like turning to the side, lying prone with our legs on one side of the lyra, and our upper body on the other. Then we’d lean way back and let go, holding on with just our legs. Crazy, but so fun!
By the end of our lyra work, I could tell my muscles were going to be sore the next day. Every time we tried a move, I would definitely feel like I was working, and there was some sweat dripping! It was an interesting type of workout, but I love switching it up like this (and I’m really grateful Dustin joined me!)
We spent nearly the whole class on the lyra, with only 10 minutes or so to try the tissu. I didn’t really mind though, as the lyra was really fun and challenging.
With the tissu, we only had time for some quick instruction on climbing. You would wrap the tissu around one leg, and then sort of “stand” on the wrapped foot, as you pulled yourself up the rope to the top, rewrapping your foot as you went. Again, Dustin zipped right up to the top. I think SOME of his circus prowess had to do with upper body though, not just core! I struggled to climb at all! To be honest, by that point, my muscles were pretty tired, and I was ready to head to Black Sheep for some post-circus pizza and a Surly beer….!
When the class ended, I had a feeling Dustin had actually enjoyed it, even after all his complaining. And I was right– he was willing to admit that he did enjoy himself after all. He will be joining me next week for our second session. Can I say, I told you so?
I won’t be quitting my day job yet to join the circus, but the class was more fun than I expected, and definitely more fun than DUSTIN expected. I highly suggest that you give it a try, I think you’ll have a good time.
The Stomping Ground is located in the Coldside Building, at 110 North 3rd St downtown Minneapolis.
From their website, “we support the performance arts community of acrobatics, aerialists, dancers, fire dancers, object manipulators, etc., by offering an inspirational environment where trying new things and refining your talents is strongly encouraged through weekly classes and open gym/skill shares. The Stomping Ground has 600 sq. ft. of hardwood floors and 13 ft. high ceilings with mirrors lining 20 ft. x 8 ft. of walls. We have 4 aerial rig points with 3 tissu, 2 lyras, a sling, 2 poles and a plethora of object manipulation props. An audio jack hook up is available to plug into the sound system and purified drinking water for hydration.”
“The Right Fit” for Aerial Fitness:
The website instructed us to wear fitted tops, with yoga pants or footless leggings. Dustin joked that he doesn’t exactly have those in his wardrobe… Most of his running pants have zippers at the bottom, which were not allowed as they could tear the equipment. He went with some longer athletic shorts and a t-shirt, but he had to keep tucking his shirt into his shorts lest it drape over his head when he went upside down (which we did a lot!) and the teacher gave him a bit of hard time for wearing shorts. For the next class, he will definitely wear pants. I just wore a pair of Athleta leggings and an Athleta tank. You could wear socks on the lyra, but not on the tissu.
What to Bring: I brought a water bottle, but that was it.
Who should try it? Anyone! Male or female. I’m sure it’s easier if you have some previous dance or gymnastics experience, but Dustin and I have neither, and we still managed to have a good time.
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