In the hot seat: Adelene / @ade_adedancesg, aerial arts instructor at and founder of Adedance Fitness who’s been dancing since she was six (and regrets going to business school because her dad thought dancing was not a proper job)
So… what exactly is aerial arts?
Whenever people ask me what aerial arts is, I ask them to think of Circque de Soileil. Have a better idea now? Aerial arts is basically a form of artistic fitness where artists dance and perform acrobatics while hanging from equipment suspended from the ceiling.
There are a few common types of aerial arts classes.
Some classes use aerial silks, which is essentially a long piece of (yup, you guessed it) silk cloth suspended from the ceiling that students perform on.
The second type, which uses aerial hoops, is slightly easier because the hoop is suspended lower to the ground (those afraid of heights, take note!) Think of a gigantic metal hula hoop hanging from the ceiling. Students mount this hoop and then perform around it.
Finally, aerial pole dancing makes use of a pole that is hanging from the ceiling rather than attached to the floor like in regular pole dancing classes. This class is more popular among regular pole dancers who already have foundation in regular pole dancing.
Did dancing on the floor go out of style? Why do you have to take it up in the air?
Dancing on the floor and dancing in the air is vastly different. Dancing in the air generally requires more strength and mobility. For instance, just because you can do a split on the ground does not necessarily mean you will be able to do it in the air. A split on the ground is a passive split that is held in place by the ground and mostly only requires passive flexibility. Holding a split in the air, on the other hand, requires both strength in your quads and hip flexors in the front leg to pull it forward and strength in your glutes and hamstrings in your back leg to pull it back.
Doesn’t that mean you have to be insanely strong to do aerial arts? So it’s not beginner-friendly?
Nope! Aerial arts is suitable for beginners between the ages of 7 and 70. If you have any prior injuries, consult your doctor and the instructor before enrolling for a class - this goes for any other sport you want to try, not just aerial arts.
Aerial arts does require a lot of strength - core and back strength in particular. Many beginners who first come in lack both.
Common fitness misconception #1:
Having abs or a six-pack doesn’t mean that you have core strength.
Common fitness misconception #2:
many people who think they have strong backs don’t actually do. They have merely been using other muscles like their arm muscles to compensate when doing back exercises like pulling and climbing. Back muscles like the lats are notoriously difficult to activate.
What can I expect from my first aerial arts class?
This is how every aerial arts class goes regardless of level:
It should start with a proper warm-up routine.
This is usually followed by plenty of conditioning work like push-ups, pull-ups and core exercises to strengthen the different muscle groups and make you strong enough to perform in the air.
You will then start working with the equipment like the silks, hoops or poles, depending on your class. If you’re just starting out, don’t expect to be suspended high in the air or do crazy tricks. In fact, for classes that use aerial silks, beginners start out by learning how to tie their silks. In this Instagram era, I have many students who come in for their first class thinking they’re going to take lots of pretty photos of themselves doing cool things in the air without realising that they don’t even have the strength to climb up the silks. That’s why conditioning is so important.
It should end with a proper cool down routine. Never skip cooling down!
Finally - the question that’s on everybody’s minds: it looks like it’s pretty high up in the air. Is it scary? Is it dangerous?
You may feel scared at first when you’re not used to it yet. That’s natural. But confidence in the air will come with confidence in your skills. If you put hard work into conditioning and practice regularly, you will eventually start feeling less scared and more confident moving in the air.
As for whether it’s dangerous, getting injured during aerial arts is easily avoidable as long as you:
Find a professional instructor and listen to them. A good instructor should not push you to do things you are not physically or mentally ready for, but adequately prepare you to make those moves.
Work hard at your conditioning exercises and practice regularly - but don’t overdo it.
Do not attempt moves you are not ready for.
Religiously warm-up and cool down properly.
And yes, there are very soft, very comfortable paddings all over the floor to cushion any falls.
Anything else I should know before my first aerial arts class?
Don’t worry about footwear! Shoes are not required in aerial arts.
Come in long tights that cover your knee pits to minimise friction between your skin and the apparatus you are working with.
Fuel yourself with a light meal before class, as you would before going for any other high-intensity workout. In other words - don’t show up after going for a buffet.
Expect redness and bruising from the apparatus, especially the hoop. This is normal, especially if you bruise easily.
Dizziness and nausea is a legitimate concern, but most beginners don’t start spinning in their first class. If you’re worried about feeling dizzy or nauseous in subsequent classes, let your instructor know and they can advise you accordingly (some prescribe taking regular breaks, some recommend taking sea sickness pills, etc.)