Anyone who has ever seen Cirque du Soleil will surely remember the incredible acrobatics of the performers who are suspended in midair by nothing more than a piece of silk. For those of you who have yet to see such a spectacle, you need look no further than CC’s newly renovated climbing gym, where sophomore Ashley Johnson has begun to hold instructional classes in the art of aerial fabrics.

Ashley Johnson suspends herself in midair. Photo by Sam Zarky
Ashley Johnson suspends herself in midair. Photo by Sam Zarky

When Johnson’s high school math tutor first sparked her interest in aerial silks two years ago, she began to take classes at a circus company in her hometown of Tucson, Arizona. Upon arriving at CC last year as a freshman, she bought her own fabrics in order to continue practicing these artful acrobatics. Aside from being a challenging physical activity, aerial fabrics is also a great way to meet new people.

“Because I usually set up my silk outside in parks, I meet complete strangers who want to watch or try our silks – it’s great!” Johnson said.

However, in colder months, the outdoors become less than an ideal location. When Ryan Hammes, CC’s Outdoor Education Director, asked Johnson if she would hold classes in the climbing gym, she took him up on his suggestion.

“It’s great for me because I get a safe, warm place to practice, and it’s great for CC because students can now try out an awesome new activity,” Johnson said.

The first aerial fabrics class was held on Thursday, Nov. 29.  Because no prior experience is necessary for these classes, students were first introduced to the fundamentals of climbing silk by securing their feet in “foot locks.” This move involves wrapping the silk around one’s foot to provide stability as he or she climbs the silk, which is securely tied to the ceiling. This enables them to suspend themselves in mid-air.

After developing this foundational skill, students were given the chance to attempt their first wrap trick called “The Ballerina,” which is a static position that resembles the graceful pose of a dancer. The only difference is this ballet pose is suspended several feet off the ground.

Johnson teaches Mackenzi Bell in the climbing gym. Photo by Sam Zarky
Johnson teaches Mackenzi Bell in the climbing gym. Photo by Sam Zarky

Not only is aerial silks a physically demanding workout, as it requires the individual to support his or her body weight for an extended duration, it is mentally stimulating as well.

“The most challenging aspect of aerial fabrics was definitely remembering how to foot-lock in the air,” freshman Melissa Jay said after attending the first aerial fabrics class. “The ways in which you must wrap the silk around your body get confusing. Additionally, you are trying to hold up your body weight while remembering the wraps.”

Currently, Johnson is holding two classes on Thursdays, one from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and the other from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.  Classes are limited to five students and sign ups fill quickly on SUMMIT; fortunately for the student body, Johnson is hoping to offer more frequent classes in the future so that more individuals can get the opportunity to experience the unique art of aerial silks.

Bevy Reynolds

Guest Writer

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