It's been awhile since I’ve taken any sort of group class; I’m more of a do-it-yourself kind of gal. But once I heard about Arielle Arts and their Beginner Adult Class in aerial tissue, I was intrigued.
It was a warm Monday night when I stepped into a large building set back from Route 2. I arrived early to watch the class before me, Youth High Flyers. It was a beginner to intermediate class featuring 10-14 year old girls and boys, and boy were they impressive. Strong, fearless and beautiful, these kids moved up and down the aerial tissue with the greatest of ease, easily hoisting themselves upward and onward. Some were posing on the tissue near the mats on the ground, others were near the ceiling, fearless of how high they were off the ground. I thought to myself, “If they could do it, so could I.”
I did some light stretching and then was guided, with my five other classmates, to one of the mats with an aerial tissue poised in the center, hanging from the ceiling. I was directed to the white one that had very little stretch in the fabric. The fabric is a very special nylon blend, the majority being silk. It is drop rated up to 2,000 pounds, and before it is sold to the public, it is thoroughly tested to ensure it doesn’t tear or rip. As an aerialist becomes more advanced, you will want more stretch in the fabric to distribute the weight as you perform more drops and other techniques.
The first move I did was to stand in between the two strands of tissue, wrap each around my wrist in a lock and perform a pull-up. Whew! I still had it. For the next move, I lifted myself up again, and swung my lower body upward to get one of my feet to touch the tissue above my hands. This gave me the ability to push the rest of my body upside down into an inversion. With my instructor Ana Poirier’s help, I was able to stay inverted for five seconds and find the balance point. It was exhilarating. Inversions are a basic move that every aerialist has in their repertoire, and eventually can be performed at any height.
After this, the whole group stepped off the mats and came together for a 15 minute stretch session. During this time we focused on making sure that our back and shoulders were warmed up properly and that our three splits were stretched out: right, center and left. Ana expertly guided us through stretches and helped us pinpoint the individual areas in each of our bodies that required the most warming up. She’s also the head coach, under owner Amanda Cortellesso, for the entire gym. Before coming to Arielle Arts, she did an intensive training program at the New England Center for Circus Arts. “That was my training before I came to be a full time teacher. It gave me the confidence to know that I do all my skills correctly and have good form,” she explains. “The rest of my training I’ve gotten from Amanda. She’s been amazing as far as helping me perfect my form and become a better teacher.”
After stretching and returning to our mats, the group was guided based on their abilities. Some had been coming for weeks, their bodies strong and able to perform lifts, locks and beautiful poses. Others, like myself, had only come to one or two classes and were still working on the basics.
The next basic technique I learned was the double foot lock, a move that enables you to stand on the strands of tissue safely and be able to perform other moves from there. After practicing wrapping the tissue around each of my feet and finally standing on both of them successfully off the ground, Ana instructed me on how to do a single foot lock. I wrapped both strands of tissue around one foot, reached high above my head to grab onto each strand, hoisted myself up and stood on one foot. It turns out that even though I am right handed, I seem to be left-footed, meaning that my left is my dominant foot. Once in the air, standing on my left foot, I drew my right knee forward, in between the two strands, wiggled my shoulders in front of the tissue, arched my back and pushed my left foot backwards. I successfully completed a forward arch.
I’ve always been in awe of aerialists in Cirque du Soliel who gracefully pose, arch and flip on long silk strands attached to the ceiling, never thinking that it was something I could ever do, until now.
3377 South County Trail