Cirque Du Soleil Style Aerial Dance Gains Popularity In Phoenix Area

Published: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 4:22pm
Updated: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 7:59pm
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(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
Instructor Taylor Henderson demonstrates a move on silks.
(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
Student Caitlyn McMaster stretches in aerial yoga.
(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
Aerialists use both lyras (metal hoops) and silks (hanging fabric).

There’s a new form of “dancercise” sweeping the Valley that’s guaranteed to leave you hanging.

The art of aerial dance isn't for everyone. But studios around the Valley are making it available to anyone, and you don't even have to run away and join the circus. Picture a room of people, mostly women, grasping long sheets of fabric hanging 12 feet above the floor. They’re clambering up and then rappelling downward with cat-like ease the way star athletes would in a high school gym.

Monique Dorsey and her husband Jeff run Vertical Fix in Tempe, which offers this unique form of workout.

“This actually used to be an old cheer and tumble gym. So, it’s great. It’s hard to find good ceilings in Phoenix for this kind of stuff. It’s great conditioning,” she said.

She points to two young women scaling the rope and climbing to the top. It is part art, part dance and a lot of pain.

"(It takes) a lot of dedication. A high tolerance for pain and a lot of bravery to be up in the air like that,” Dorsey said.

Aerial dance is catching on because of it’s ability to combine dance, art and exercise. It’s been featured as a top fitness trend for 2015 by AOL, Men’s Fitness, and even has appeared on the Today Show.

Aerial yoga has even caught on, in which many of the poses are done hanging from a hammock or silk. If it seems similar to describing a circus act, that's because it is. Popularity of this sport can be linked to shows like Cirque du Soleil and similar high-flying shows.

Caitlyn McMaster, 24, is one of the students, but isn’t training for the Big Top.

“I’m not training to be in the circus. I’m just doing it for me. But, I do think it’s catching on because even when I began coming here just a few months, the studio has exploded since then,” she said.

But it’s certainly not with the greatest of ease. And there aren’t many men to be found. Thomas Park is an experienced hiker and climber, and even he has trouble getting a handle on the long silks extending from the ceiling.

“The hardest thing is grip strength. I came from a rock climbing background; I had climbed for 12 years, so I had really good grip strength, but even with that, silks were really, really hard,” he said.

For those interested in giving it a shot, it’s all in the legs and feet. That is, if you can figure out how to wrap those feet and legs around the silks and begin your upward climb.

Then, it’s good luck getting down.

So be warned. It’s not for everyone, but for those seeking a challenging, high-flying workout or maybe even planning on a career in Cirque du Soleil, this is for you.

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