Aerial acrobatics gaining popularity

Looking for a unique way to get in shape? This acrobatic dance form may be the perfect fit for you.


Megan MacLean, instructor for aerial silks, says that aerial silks is a fun approach to staying in shape. (Photo courtesy of Studio in Essence)

A new year brings new resolutions and one of the most popular is to shed those extra pounds. Sticking to a new year's resolution, however, is often easier said than done.

Students may not be familiar with the fitness regime now available at a Barrington Street studio in downtown Halifax. The studio offers a class called aerial silks, which can improve one's overall fitness and well being.

Aerial silks first emerged in a French Circus School in 1959. It is described as an acrobatic dance that is recently gaining popularity among young females in Halifax. Not only is it a way to improve flexibility and strength - but it is also a way to stay fit while having fun.

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Aerial silks is a great way to build upper body strength and improve overall fitness. (Photo courtesy of Studio in Essence)

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Studio in Essence is located on Barrington St. in downtown Halifax.

Megan MacLean, an instructor for the class at Studio in Essence, says interest in aerial silks continues to grow.

"Compared to when we first started, I would say that it's grown by leaps and bounds," she says. "Now I'm about to set up an instructor course to train new instructors and we've been getting so much interest that our classes are completely full."

While the class sizes are relatively small (limited to 12 participants), MacLean says they "need to open up more classes on the schedule." 

Studio in Essence is the only fitness studio in Halifax that offers aerial silks classes. The Halifax Circus and the Atlantic Cirque also offer aerial classes, but they are specialized circus schools.

MacLean describes aerial silks as being "all about grace and strength and movement," as is the case with any form of dance.

She says the reason why many students are attracted to aerial silks is because it is a unique way to improve fitness.

"This is a really fun way to be active, relieve that stress, that doesn't have that same routine of going to the gym every day."

MacLean is a Dalhousie graduate and has experienced first-hand the pressures of being a university student. She knows how important exercise is for students.

"You really need to take a break from your studies and you really need to find an outlet for the stress and pressure of university," she says. "

Practising aerial silks for the first time

Sydnie Douglass is a graduate of the Hair Design Centre School of Cosmetology and has always been fascinated with the circus. She had seen people perform aerial silks before and wanted to try it out.

"It was hands on. They didn't make us watch, they didn't make us just stand there and show us different things. We got to try it out ourselves. It was awesome."

There are many benefits to practising aerial silks. The area that it focuses on most is developing upper body strength.

"I always say to the girls when we get started, your hand strength is really something that's going to improve and if you're anything like me, by the end of this class, you're going to be the one opening all of the sticky jars in your house - not your father, not your brother, not your significant other. It's going to be you," MacLean says.

Amy Mannette, who graduated from Nova Scotia Community College in 2009, tried out aerial silks for the first time on Wednesday. She says it looked easier than it actually was.

"Trying to turn my body in the silks was a little scary," she admits.

Mannette plans to further develop her skills with an eight-week aerial silks class. She hopes one day to be able to perform the talents that she learns.

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