Take a minute to close your eyes and imagine what it would feel like to fly through the air, with the wind blowing against your skin and the feeling of absolute freedom. Now add to that the thrill of people cheering you on, calling out your name and becoming an inspiration to many. Or imagine the excitement as you dangle from silk, using nothing but sheer strength to hold yourself up, or just knowing that you depend on someone to catch you as you flip from swing to swing in your circus act. People who participate in Aerial Arts get to experience those feelings every day, and what an experience it must be!
Acrobatics have been practiced all over the world for many, many years. As far back as 2,000 BC, people have been depicted balancing on the backs of bulls while performing different acts of acrobatics! Acrobatics has been a part of Chinese culture since the Western Han Dynasty, where it was included in village festivals. It eventually found its way into the noble courts, mainly through the 7th through 10th century. Acrobatics remains a popular sport and form of entertainment in China, where it is still practiced today and considered to be an important art form. China wasn’t the only country to partake in the acrobatic arts, though – Just like in China, acrobatics (along with juggling and other talents) were performed in the noble courts during the Middle Ages by the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
Tightrope Walking is probably one of the most popular acts at the circus. The performers are able to walk on the rope by shifting their weight over their legs and arms, which takes a lot of concentration and dedication to becoming completely in tune with your body and knowing just how you should move. There are a few different styles of Tightrope Walking. There is Tightwire, which is the act of walking on a highly tensioned wire between two points. Some performers choose to use a tool to help them balance, such as an umbrella or balance pole, while others prefer going freehand. There is also Highwire, which is exactly the same as Tightwire, only much higher. Skywalking is closely related to Highwire, except it’s done at such great heights and lengths that it’s generally performed outdoors and between things like skyscrapers, mountains or any other object the performer would like to use or possibly sees as a challenge to overcome!
The trapeze is a daring stunt. No matter if it’s Static Trapeze or Flying Trapeze, those men and women overcome any fears they might have just to entertain their loving audience while doing what makes them happiest! There are many forms of trapeze, but the most known forms are Flying Trapeze and Static Trapeze – the only real difference between the two is, with Static Trapeze, the bars and ropes stay in one place while the performers do various stunts. Flying Trapeze is where two performers act together, swinging and flipping and jumping — then are caught by the other performer. There is also something called Multiple Trapeze, which is very similar to Static Trapeze except they use two or more bars instead of the usual one.
Aerial Hoops can also be used instead of the normal bars. There are a couple different styles performers can choose from – a standard circular hoop that hangs from a rope, or a circle with a straight top that is typically used for more intricate Aerial Hoop acts. Performers can sit inside or on top of the hoop (depending on which model they use) and acts can have multiple performers, just like with Trapeze.
Back when trapeze acts were still being developed, they didn’t use a safety net like they do today – they used to lay mattresses beneath the performers in case one fell. Nowadays, performers are hooked up to a safety harness during practice until they have mastered whichever trick they are attempting. Trapeze stunts are also done closer to the ground than they were back in the early days – now, the performers act at around 20 to 40 feet in the air and above a safety net. Although it’s rare, you can still find some particularly risk-taking trapeze artists who choose not to use a safety net at all!
Closely related to the trapeze is Aerial Silk – an act where a performer climbs a special kind of fabric, generally not even “silk” at all, but rather a stretch polyester lycra – without the use of any form of safety net or harness, but with only their skills and training to protect them (along with some rosin on their hands to help them grip the fabric!). Once they’ve climbed to the desired height, they use the fabric to help them swing, fall, suspend, fly through the air and strike poses.
When it comes to Aerial Silk, the way you wrap yourself in fabric can help a lot with your tricks. The more complicated the wrap, the stronger the friction – which means that, if done correctly, you can even let go of the silk and remain held up by the fabric alone! Aerial Silk is a fascinating art form, but requires a lot of patience, grace, strength and courage to master (although, by the look of it, it’s well worth the effort!).
Similar to Aerial Silk is something called Spanish Web. The tricks and moves are very much alike, only with Spanish Web, the performer uses a rope that has been covered in cloth along with an ankle strap (that can also be attached to their wrist) that attaches to the rope. While suspended on the rope, someone called a “web setter” can spin the rope in large circles, which allows the performer to become almost completely horizontal to the rope. The Cloud Swing is like a perfect mix of Trapeze and Spanish web and is fairly new to the world of Aerial Arts. It uses a long rope that strongly resembles the rope used in Spanish Web, and the moves that are performed resemble the moves used in Trapeze. There is another version called Mexican Cloud Swing where the tricks are performed at a higher altitude.
There are numerous health benefits to Aerial Arts. Each of the different forms mentioned above have a unique way of working multiple muscle groups, resulting in a firm and toned body. Aerial Arts and acrobatics are great for both the body and mind since it helps with things such as coordination, flexibility and perception — which is why it’s recommended by doctors all over the world.
Aerial Yoga is a popular new way to get in shape. While using the same kind of fabric as Aerial Silk performers, people who participate in Aerial Yoga learn how to do variations of standard yoga moves, but while dangling in the air! It’s easy to see why this trend it catching on – you get all the same benefıts that you would with standard yoga, but with the added fun of challenging yourself to perform the moves in a whole new way. And besides, who wouldn’t want to strengthen their core and improve their flexibility midair?
Aerial Arts have come a long way. New techniques for both the art itself and the safety precautions required to do the moves are constantly improved upon, and the venues to learn Aerial Arts are much more readily available. It used to be that if you wanted to learn any type of acrobatics, you had to be born into a family that practiced the art form. Skills were taught from generation to generation and, while this is still true for many circus families, there are now many schools you can go to in order to learn whichever form of acrobatics that you’d like– giving those of us who weren’t lucky enough to be born into a circus family the opportunity to learn impressive new skills. And who knows…maybe you can start a circus family of your own right here in Eugene with BOUNCE GYMNASTICS!
BOUNCE GYMNASTICS is the only gymnastics studio in Eugene that offers training on aerial apparatus, which includes silks, trapeze, cloud swing (a thick rope that hangs like a hammock), and lyra (a ring shaped apparatus that hangs on end from the ceiling).
ADULT AERIAL YOGA CLASSES!
Aerial Yoga is an innovative program that blends the beneficial elements of traditional yoga methodology with the unique conditioning of aerial arts. A cross between a yoga class and an aerial class, Aerial Yoga is designed to incorporate the balancing and stretching components of yoga with the strengthening and exhilarating components of aerial arts. No aerial experience necessary. All levels welcome!
Circus Arts Beginning levels AGES 7-17
In this class students will explore many of the core circus arts, including aerial silks, trapeze, spanish web, cloud swing, acrobatics, hand balancing, tight rope, slack line, juggling, and moOwner/Director
Naja Rossoff has over 28 years experience teaching gymnastics from preschool ages through competitive team levels. She also teaches the beginning and intermediate level aerial circus arts as well as aerial yoga for adults. Rossoff is the only Certified Aerial Yoga instructor in Eugene who teaches classes to the public. Naja and her fantastic staff will ensure that every child and adult has a fun, safe and positive experience in every class.
CAMPS-SCHOOL’S OUT – Teen Tumbling & Trampoline – CIRCUS ARTS – Aerial Yoga – Adult Classes TEAM 2012-2013 – Open Gym Schedule – PARENT’S NIGHT OUT – Bounce Club
Naja Rossoff, Owner/Director