Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Aerial Silks Body Work

The first time I saw an aerial silks performance was Mam Smith in the American Repertory Theatre’s production of Wings of Desire.  I was mesmerized by her graceful fluid movements and the bold simplicity of a single, strong body meeting simple, flowing fabric to create a sort of high-flying physical poetry. If you’ve never heard of aerial silks, you’ve probably seen it associated with Cirque du Soleil or other sensory-assaulting performances. 

I prefer the quiet performances such as this one.
[Two things about this performer: I’m curious as to why she’s wearing a bra and panties to perform in front of an audience.  Well, maybe if you can move like her, you can wear whatever you want. Secondly, I can’t help but think of Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie. She was a fascinating heroine, and possibly part of why I like this performance so much. Not to be confused with any of this, however, is the fact that this post is about me and my body, such as it is.]

About a month ago when my burlesque class sharing friend asked if anyone was interested in joining her in an aerial silks class, I was quite intrigued.  When I found out it was about a mile from my house, my waffling over the decision ended. In fact, you might say, I was pushed right over the edge. Last night, my friend, my daughter, and I started our aerial silks class. 
First, let me state that in no way did I expect, do I expect, have I ever expected to be able to do anything remotely close to what that young woman does in the video above.  So given that, and the fact that I was one of the two out of the five in the class who did not make it to the top of the silks by the end of the night, I am quite satisfied with my first foray into fabric flying.
Sadly, after a few successful but brief attempts at basic silk climbing, what I would have considered my strong limbs became more like noodle-ly appendages. Rather than risk getting hurt from fatigue, I opted out of some of the more adventurous poses. I need serious work not only in the pull-up department, but also in the back stretching, leg stretching, and folding-my-body-in-half department (yes, there is a folding-my-body-in-half department, and apparently, mine has been left unstaffed for years).  My daughter, the dancer, can totally fold in half, but still needs major arm, shoulder, and lat work.  She and I dragged in the rear of the class (ba da bum), but we’re committed to getting better because it's so damn cool.
My friend, who is my age (we topped off the age bracket in the class), was able to make it to the top of the silk, try some of the harder poses and easily conquered the mid-air foot lock. Perhaps it was the double helix tattoo surrounding her biceps brachii or having just come from tae kwon do class, but wherever she got the inspirational power – she did it!  She is one kick-ass chick. 
I, on the other hand, managed the foot lock from a standing position because my arms were too tired by that point to be relied upon for the necessary mid-air support.  From that position I attempted two of the four poses which required my back to be so arched that I feared it would snap in half causing the base of my skull to bounce off of my heels possibly slowed only by the structure of my skin and a cumbersome organ or two. It didn’t – this time.
In addition to the expected pains of trying to teach an old body new tricks, my fingers ached from grabbing the silks (desperation will do that), my foot turned white (think foot-lock position = tourniquet), and I discovered previously unused muscles that must have insertion points somewhere in the middle of my ribcage (internal obliques?).  After having been ignored for so long, these muscles revolted by delivering a sharp pain at least twice during the “hang with your shoulders engaged, not dislocated” portion of the evening.
While I’ve been making efforts in the past ten years to improve the way my body works in general, I’m going to continue to experiment with what I can train it to do.  I’m not interested in winning races, or stuffing a ball down someone’s throat. Being able to move with strength and grace is my continued motivation. Having fun, creating a little physical art, or simply working toward being at the greatest of ease with my body is my inspiration.

Aerial silks provides an opportunity for me to satisfy all three of these conditions.


I'll be sure to update you with any breakthroughs (hopefully not breaks). 

In the meantime, remember to include in your 4th of July activities some ruminations on why and what it means to celebrate Independence Day in America.

I'll talk to y'all in a week!

Update: The woman in the first video is probably wearing the bra and panties as a costume. Her performance is called "The Abandoned Bride," and both performers have on what we affectionately refer to in this house as nude-tards.

4 comments:

Cheryl said...

I admire your persistence and determination. Keep it up. I took a hiatus from scheduled physical activity for about a month; I'm back now and determined to get strong again. We will.
And, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie was fantastic. LOVE her character and the actor who portrayed her.

Fiddler said...

Looks like fun! My own monkeys would probably enjoy it,too--or at least the oldest one would.

Love the Tarzan sound effect--nice touch.

Lynne said...

Of course you must mean the Monkey Trunks video! It's late.
;)

Lynne said...

Sorry about the delay in comment approval, Cheryl. I didn't see it until today.

I managed 1.5 pull-ups IN A ROW over the weekend and am determined to take some pictures tomorrow night! Stay tuned . . .