Something In The Air

In preparation for the inaugural Festival of Aerial Arts, our intrepid correspondent learns the ropes of a new fitness movement

By Abby Koenig June 26, 2013

Festival of Aerial Arts
June 28-30, July 12-14 and July 26-28
Prices vary; check website
1824 Spring Street #124

He flies through the air with the greatest of ease, that daring young man on the flying trapeze.

Daring? Indeed. With ease? Not so sure about that.

In anticipation of VauLt Houston’s inaugural Festival of Aerial Arts, which takes flight this weekend, a non-aerialist (me) decided to try her hand at the aerial arts, and I must say it was a blast—a challenging blast.

VauLt/GYROTONIC Houston is the brainchild of owner and director Amy Ell, who opened a studio in 2007 to train Houstonians in the aerial arts. On just about any day of the week, you’ll find risk-taking, circus-loving, exercise-seeking students filing into the company’s digs in the Spring Street Studios. 

The VauLt festival runs for three weekends and will feature instructors from the US, Canada and the UK training students in advanced aerial techniques. This is the first time such a festival will occur in this region of the country;  the US is a relative newcomer to the world of aerial arts. The classes offered during the festival have names like “Cyr Wheel,” “Counter Weight Harness” and “String Theory.”

Our intrepid correspondent

Other than seeing Cirque du Soleil once, I know nothing about the aerial arts, so I asked if I could come by the studio and have someone show me the ropes (as it were). My adventure was led by Emily, a regular teacher at VauLt. I run, do yoga, and like to think that I’m in fairly good shape, but when I hit those dangling red silk ropes and was asked to pull myself up, I was aghast at how hard it was. Doing aerial exercises requires serious biceps.

The VauLt studio has several silk ropes that are used for a variety of aerial workouts, such as the corde lisse, a technique that involves hanging vertically from the ropes. In addition to the ropes, there’s an area with hanging hoops that are also used for core strength and circus-type tricks, as well as single- and double-point trapeze.

Emily was incredibly forgiving of my complete lack of strength as we worked on the silk ropes; I even managed, with her help, to get myself up in a knot and swing. Despite the difficulty, it was a thrilling experience.

Readers interested in learning more should attend the festival, which will offer classes for every skill level, from novice to advanced. Friday and Saturday nights during the festival will feature aerial performances by the instructors; you may spot Emily performing her corde lisse routine.

Aside from using muscles you never knew you had, there’s something beautifully creative about the aerial approach to fitness. Emily said she began taking classes with VauLt three years ago for the workout, but that it’s the artistic side that keeps her coming back. 

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