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Aerial Performing Arts

Updated on July 7, 2014

Explore A New Form Of Fitness - Aerial Performing Arts

The aerial arts - fabrics, hoop, trapeze, pole and many more - were first popularized by Cirque Du Soliel. Rather than being simply gymnastic in nature, Cirque Du Soliel brought in an element of grace, flow and dance and that brought in a certain beauty to these high flying performing arts. All forms of aerial dance or performing arts involve a great deal of strength, flexibility and courage as climbing, twisting, dropping and contorting is all part of the fun!

Since all of these dance/exercise forms are fairly new, they are still being developed and their limits are still being pushed. And, now these forms are all available to the public to explore as part of a dance and fitness program and although it takes time and training, anyone can do it. If you are looking for something super fun and different to add to your regular exercise routine or just want to give yourself a new challenge, give one of these a try. Who knows, a few years down the road you may find yourself like me, hooked!

Photo source: Nina Reed Photography

Aerial Fabirc

Aerial fabric, also known as aerial silks, tissues or ribbon is performed hanging from fabrics suspended in the air. The fabric is wrapped around various body parts to hold the performer and also to allow the performer to control the height they perform at. Fabric can be let out or climbed up to fly through the air, swing or drop down dramatically.

In aerial fabric there are three main moves to master. All other moves are just variations of these three - the wrap, the climb and the drop. Some wraps allow for a lot of friction which can hold the performer in the air with no hands or if the wrap is around the feet, upside down by the feet only. Drops often involve rolling towards the ground and may include a bit of free fall.

Aerial fabric takes a tremendous amount of strength and flexibility. Many gyms are now offering basic aerial fabric classes as well as aerial yoga which is similar but more grounded.

Aerial Fabrics Intermediate Performance - Graceful and elegant, yet very strong performance.

I choose this performance, by an intermediate class, to show that it this kind of exercise does not have to be for circus performers only.

An excellent example of an intermediate class performance in aerial fabrics

Lyra (Aerial Hoop)

Lyra, cerceau or aerial hoop is an aerial form of dance/exercise that involves a large hoop resembling a hula hoop that is suspended in the air. The hoop can swim and spin. Core and upper body strength are needed to get your body up and into the hoop and once there you need to work on balance to stay there. Aside from being in the air, lyra or aerial hoop has very little in common with aerial silks. As long as they have some core strength to start with, many people find hoop easier. If you have the strength to hang on, all of the moves are just a different orientation of your body with relation to the hoop. When first learning aerial fabrics, its possible to wrap the silks around you incorrectly and end up a tangled mess, not so in hoop!

This image above is of Cori Woolfe a performer based in Vancouver. Visit her page at cirque vancouver

An Aerial Hoop Performance

Here a friend of mine, Nina Reed, performs an aerial hoop routine to the Little Mermaid

Aerial Hoop is beautiful to watch and very athletic to perform. Nina does an excellent job in this performance

If you are not ready for a class yet, here are a few things to help you get started at home


Most people think if the circus when they hear the word trapeze, but the trapeze isn't just for circus performers only. Like all of the aerial performing arts, trapeze is growing in popularity as a new form of exercise or as fun ways to challenge yourself.

The trapeze is a bar hung by ropes that either swings through the air or remains static. While practicing the static trapeze, the bar and ropes on the sides can be climbed, hung from, or dropped from. If you have a decent amount of strength, you can expect to be able to climb the trapeze bar and do a few tricks even on your first try. The trick is to make it look graceful and effortless. A swinging trapeze uses momentum to get the apparatus to fly through the air. A dance trapeze is what you might find if you take a class, this kind of trapeze swivels at a single point.

I live in Colorado and here we are fortunate that there are a few places to try all of the aerial performing arts. One such place is the Imperial Flyers where you can try trapeze at one of their many open houses. Check it out here: Imperial flyers

Acro pole

Acrobatic pole dance is an art form involving creative dance movement and acrobatic gymnastic performance. It is becoming an increasingly popular form of fitness practiced by people of all ages, body sizes and types. Many gyms now offer pole dance fitness classes and new pole dance studios are cropping up everywhere.

Acrobatic pole dance involves a great deal of strength, fitness, felxibillity and endurance. Athletic moves such as climbs, spins, and body inversions using the limbs to grip are all part of the fun.

I started pole dance classes about 2 years ago and have been hooked ever since. Pole has helped build confidence in myself and my body, it has helped me start to erase old stories that have played over and over in my mind about my body image. It has given me strength and flexibility and it has put me in touch with other strong skilled women who have become my friends and have inspired me to reach for more in my life. I love the challenge both mentally and physically.

Going to a class is the best way to learn pole, meet other fun people and learn proper technique, but having a pole at home is the best way to practice and its well worth the investment. You will also need grip which is very helpful in learning the harder moves.

Find the accessories you need for acro pole here

Basic yoga clothing such as tank tops and shorts are all you need for basic acro pole fitness.

AscenDance - - A Rock Climbing/Dance Combo

AscenDance is a dance company that specializes in a unique form of aerial movement - dance across a climbing wall. As a rock climber, yoga instructor and pole dancer, AscenDance struck me as something I would love to try though I still have not made it to a class at this time. I wanted to include it here so you can get another idea of what is out there as far as aerial fitness. The AscenDance company was featured on America's Got Talent in 2010. Check out their website and you will find it pretty impressive indeed.

This photo was taken by Chuck Fryberger and more can be found at

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