Featuring Erin Ball: An Overcomer

Erin Ball has been a member of AerialDancing.com since January 2012. (She is one of our original members!) At that point in time, Erin was like any other aerialist-you know-has all limbs, practices on a variety of aerial apparatuses as well as performs grounded work with yoga and acro partnering. She still does all these things minus the “has all limbs” part, but who needs those anyway?  In this article, Ryah Cooley has captured the inspiring story of overcoming. 

Written by Ryah Cooley

Most people would consider aerial dance to be a full body activity. A strained muscle or even a fabric burn in a sensitive place can put aerialists out of commission for a few days, but Erin Ball doesn’t subscribe to that kind of limiting. Continue reading “Featuring Erin Ball: An Overcomer”

4 Secrets of a Successful Studio: Suspend of Louisville, KY

Two like-minded professionals saw the same vision: opening a dedicated aerial space in their town. Meg Johnson Wallace, a University Professor, and Anne Boock Miller, a neuropsychologist, connected four years ago over their common enjoyment of the aerial arts. In March 2015, they decided to co-found Suspend, Louisville’s first and only facility dedicated exclusively to aerial arts and cirque fitness.

suspend studioSuspend opened its doors in June 2015.  For only being open about 9 months, their track record is impressive. They have a packed schedule with over 55 classes supported by 8 instructors and cater to approximately 200 students. These two owners have been busy! They joke that opening night was so good that it explains why Meg coincidentally has been pregnant for 9 months, haha! (She gave birth to a healthy baby boy Osborn Wallace Johnson March 10, 2016.)

The dynamic duo have undoubtedly stumbled found the secrets to a successfully run studio, and they’ve given me permission to share some of them with you.

Number 1: We’re Taking about Smart Leaders

It’s not that they have other careers-It’s that they are smart women! In what she jokingly calls her  “big girl job”, Meg is a professor of Philosophy, with a specialization in metaphysics.

Anne comments of Meg, “I notice that she takes a very discovery oriented approach to teaching. She encourages students to work through problems with the apparatuses, and I think that is why she is drawn most to fabric. She enjoys difficult questions that have difficult and ambiguous answers, and I see that when she performs.”

Anne’s knowledge of the brain translates to how she relates to students. She can work with anyone, of any ability, and it has had a wonderful impact on the culture of the studio. It has even influenced studio policy in indirect ways because she understands how various age groups function.

suspend-main-logoNumber 2: Intentional Choices

There was intentional design behind every decision. Let’s take the logo for example.  When they went to choose a design, it was important to them to choose a design that wasn’t feminine (which is all too easy to do when you are a female designing an inspiring logo.) If you take a look at the Suspend logo, you get the sense that this place is for adults and kids, men and women. And their deliberate choice shows in their student population. They have nearly 50% males in many of their classes. (Most studios across the country are over 90% female in aerial classes. Statistic by observation.)

This kind of intentional decision shows up in every detail of their business, to how they label classes, to the way they advertise. I wish every studio thought about their choices with as much clarity of the end goal as these women have done.

Number 3: Safety 

They spot every person on every apparatus from day one and continue their heavy support through the learning process (lightening up for advanced students when appropriate). Their safety is further bolstered with thick crash mats under every apparatus, on top of gymnastics flooring (which can be rolled back and easily moved around the room).

While I was at the studio, I got the chance to observe a beginning fabric class. Many studios may spot selectively or let people to explore on their own after they have tried on their own so that people get more time on the fabric. At Suspend, 8 students watch their classmates take their turns on one fabric so that each student can individually be guided and spotted. At first, I thought this kind of spotting was excessive because students get so little airtime, but as I kept watching the class, there was a moment where one person started slipping out of their position. The instructor was right there to catch them and everyone watching was learning more about how to move or not move.

suspendBecause Suspend is a heavy-spotting studio, as well as the other choices they have made in setting up their studio, they have attracted people who might not normally fit the mold of who takes aerial. One of my favorite students of theirs was a young girl with Cochlear implants. She was taking class with a young boy with glasses. The young boy asked her what those things on her head were, and her mom explained, “These help her to hear better just like glasses help you see better. In a way, these are like glasses for her ears.” It was such a precious moment to watch. Not only were the children enjoying class, but the parents were right in there, trading off on the hoop as well.

(Notice Anne being her usual encouraging self in the background of the photo! Photo by Kevin Spalding of FotoeWizard.)

Number 4: A Network of Support 

They have an amazing support system. Not only do Meg and Anne have each other to lean on for continual support, but they have highly supportive families supporting them. Meg’s husband is a computer guru and has given the studio support for their website. Anne’s husband is a lawyer. He has contributed his consulting skills, including helping with all the proper permits to be up to city codes, etc.

On Suspend’s website, they describe their classes: “Classes are designed to improve strength, flexibility, focus, balance, and poise in a playful and inspiring atmosphere, which encourages health and community.” These goals have been set and they are reaching them. I have witnessed first-hand the wonderful community that they are growing, and I’m excited to see what happens next for them.

For our Video Library Addition:

Anne taught me a modern dance sequence on the ground. (Note how the picture shows a very classic modern dance movement.) After we learned the sequence on the ground, we took it to the air.

This sequence is BRAINY! It’s done in palindrome style, which Anne came up with. I think of complicated things, but I wouldn’t have ever thought to do a palindrome. Read more about it in the video library. (See New Releases for March.)

Note: a Palindrome is a sequence that mirrors itself like racecar or 3245423. In this case, it’s a movement sequence.

suspend sequence.00_02_23_17.Still007


New Studio Coming to Texas!

This past month, I got to interview Anne McCarthy, who is taking a journey that many across the country are also trekking upon this decade and many more are dreaming of: opening an aerial yoga studio.   Anne is leading a team of yoga teachers as they embark on creating a place for aerial yoga in the South Texas area. Here’s a view into her journey.

Rebekah: How did you get into aerial yoga?

Anne: I started dance in high school and danced through college. In 2002, I tried yoga for the first time. In 2010, I started to study yoga more seriously. It allowed me to find stillness for the first time. After my mom passed away from brain cancer in 2012, I went to my first aerial silks class and have been practicing ever since. When I went to yoga teacher training, I began to combine the two art forms. I remember the first time I did downward facing dog in an aerial hammock. My back felt free and my heart softened. A light turned on within me and I knew that I needed to share aerial yoga in San Antonio.

R: What made you decide to open a studio?

A: I began teaching aerial yoga workshops in 2014. It was really hard to find spaces that would be safe and could accommodate aerial classes. I found one studio and we sold out every class. I knew I wanted to be able to teach more than twice a week. The only way to do that was to open a studio for myself.



R: It’s always hard to find a space for aerial. How did you go about finding the right space?

A: After looking at many spaces over the last year, I was starting to get discouraged. It is so incredibly difficult to find a place with height and an amazing ceiling.  I kept teaching a workshop series twice a week.  Then in March, things just lined up. I serve on a board for a non-profit yoga school that was starting a capital campaign. One of the other board members brought up an existing yoga studio for sale.  I had been once and remembered a big i-beam that I thought could be perfect for aerial yoga. The space had this wonderful quality to it, truly something special. There is just this amazing energy to it.    Another board member, Desiree, lived nearby and was also interested in the studio.  We met and within 3 weeks made an offer on the studio.

R: How did you go about making sure that your space is ready to handle aerial loading?

A: My aerial teachers, Julia Langenberg and Laura DiPasquale, put a huge emphasis on safety and taught me to ask lots of questions about structures. Julia put me in touch with an engineer that she had used for her aerial studio.   I had the engineer out to the studio and learned that it was a prefabricated metal building with z-purlins off the ibeam.   I learned that these metal buildings are not built to support extra weight besides the roof and the required safety factor.   I thought we were going to be able to it, until the engineer recommended a free standing structure inside the space.   Then we started the next part, trying to get it right.

From my teachers, I knew that in aerial the standard is a 10:1 safety factor and requires at least 2,000 pounds of dynamic weight per student.  With aerial yoga, I believe a lot of people think you can lower that standard.  However, in my classes, I know we swing and flip into the hammocks.  That is a lot of movement for many people all at once.   I wanted to maintain that level of safety for my students.

We ended up with an engineer that had been a performer at SeaWorld and worked for SRO Associates, a theatre production company who builds the sets and designs shows for many places.   So when we began, everyone had some understanding of the unique needs and types of dynamic movement produced by aerialists and aerial yogis.   I worked with them to come up with good spacing and layout for our studio and then had the engineer run the numbers and create the official design.   SRO has a metal shop and was able to build it off sight.   It was amazing to watch them load in 500 pound i-beams and see the structure go up.   We have 18 student hammocks and an instructor hammock.   The engineer designed it so that everyone can be swinging and flipping at the same time.  It is such a great feeling teaching in a space where I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the rigging is all held to that standard of 2,000 lbs of dynamic movement.

The following is a time-lapse video of the internal rigging being installed. (Aerial teachers everywhere share your excitement!)


R: What sorts of surprises have you encountered in the process of opening a studio?

A: It has been an amazing learning experience. I looked at spaces with wood beams and talked to engineers and knew it wasn’t possible to rig that many students safely from wood. Before this, I never would have questioned rigging off an i-beam. I thought all i-beams were created equal. I have learned that there are so many elements to look into. (When the building was designed, what safety load for the roof was included – did they just meet the basic safety requirements or go above, does it snow and add more weight to the structure.) Now that we have a freestanding rig in the space, I feel like this is a wonderful way to rig. It allows everyone to see the structure and understand what they are hanging from.

R: Tell us more about your team.

A: We have an amazing team. Besides myself, my partner Desiree Whitney is also a certified yoga teacher and did aerial yoga training this summer. The yoga school we studied at (the Esther Vexler Yoga School) focuses on Iyengar style yoga with lots of props and modifications.  So for our style of yoga, the aerial hammock is another prop and makes yoga so much fun! We also have an amazing group of traditional yoga teachers: Michelle Bowles, a yoga therapist, Debbie Pedersen, a certified Iyengar yoga instructor, Tricia Messinger, a thai massage yoga teacher, Donna Foster, a power yoga instructor, and Cathy West, a vinyasa teacher.

R: What is the name of your studio and how did you decide on the name?

A: Aerial Yoga Boerne. We really debated over several variations. Boerne is a small town 15 minutes north of San Antonio where the studio is located. We are the only full yoga studio in the area. While we have many styles of yoga, we know aerial yoga is rare and wanted to highlight it. In the end, we kept it simple to describe what we do and where we do it.


R: What do you love about the aerial arts?

A: I love the way aerial arts focuses me. When you climb the silks, it’s the only thing you can think about. I found it to be a form of mediation, keeping me fully present in every moment.  In aerial arts, you must fully focus your attention to keep you safe. I also have never had strength. Through training, I see myself become stronger.  I love that aerial arts blend together dance, strength, and grace.

R: Who are you most excited to teach?

A: I love teaching students who are new to yoga and aerial. The feeling of flipping upside down for the first time is incredible and I love sharing that with people who don’t think they can. I love watching the growth as they find strength.

R: What is one thing that’s got everybody talking about your studio?

A: Besides the fact that we have an amazing rig for 18 students?! We also have yoga rope walls, tons of props, amazing teachers, and a beautiful space. There is something special here. When you walk in, you know you are in a warm and welcoming space.
Anne, thank you so much for the interview! Aerial Yoga Boerne will have their official ribbon cutting on October 22, 2015. We wish them the best of luck. To find out more about how you can “build your yoga practice from the ground up,” visit www.aerialyogaboerne.com.

Not sure what to expect in an aerial yoga class? Watch this time-lapse of a class at Aerial Yoga Boerne:

Ways to connect with Aerial Yoga Boerne:
Instagram: @aerialyogaboerne
Twitter: @yogaboerne