My Cirque du Soleil Moment

I tried out the most elegant of aerobic exercises: aerial silks

Jade Buchanan-Moh

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Aerial silks is a graceful, nearly transcendental art form — except when I do it. On March 16, I took my first Introduction to Aerial Silks class at Emerald City Trapeze. As soon as I entered the building, the environment was welcoming and friendly.

Olivia Poolos
As part of my adventure at Emerald City Trapeze, I tried upside-down swan. If you like acrobatics and want to have upper-body strength, aerial silks is for you.

In the main room, people swung on trapezes, flinging themselves through the air only to be caught moments later. Watching with bated breath, I was incredibly grateful that I’d signed up for aerial silks and not something that required me to tempt fatal injury to such an extent.

I expected the overall experience to be relatively daunting, but what I couldn’t have predicted was the copious amount of conditioning. We began our warm-up with a few stretches, thankfully with both feet planted firmly on the ground, before moving on to our workout — 50 jumping jacks, 25 burpees and 15 of the workout god’s worst creation: a push-up jumping jack combination. My limbs were shaking before I even made contact with the silks.

We began with a few basic skills that were simple enough to grasp, such as single and double footlocks, which is essentially how to properly wrap your feet in the fabric in order to secure yourself. From there, we progressed to more difficult tricks.

The figurehead involves wrapping one foot in the silks while holding on with your hands above your head, bending your free leg at the knee and leaning forward to create a bow-like shape with your body facing outwards. 

We learned a second trick that involved bending over sideways and letting go with your hands, relying on the silks’ positioning by your hip to prevent traumatic brain injury. Once I overcame my (extremely valid) fear of falling out of the silks and landing straight on my head, I actually had a great time.

The instructor, Ethan, was enthusiastic and full of humor, which came in handy when you inevitably accidentally turn yourself into a mid-air fleshy pretzel.

At the end of class, he warned me to drink plenty of water, since I’d be sore the next day. I killed the rest of my Nalgene and went on with my typical Saturday, not thinking much of it. I figured, what could an hour and 30 minutes of aerial silks have on four days of 12-hour volleyball camp?

As it turns out, I am a naive fool who should’ve heeded Ethan’s wise warning. The next morning, I woke up cheery and feeling great — until I had to sit up. Every ounce of my upper body ached like an old person’s fake hip before a rainstorm, and I hit an all-time low when I discovered that my shoulders and biceps were so tight that I couldn’t lift my arms above my head.

Despite this fact and the onset of my upper body immobility, this aerial silks class was extremely entertaining and an interesting way to get in some exercise. The overall experience was akin to being tangled in two giant fruit roll ups but in a good way. 10/10 would do again.