OK. So in my advanced age (and without any discernible talents), being a performer in Cirque du Soleil is not even a remote possibility. But last week I started taking aerial silk classes (also known as aerial fabric acrobatics) and I think had I found this a decade (or three) ago, maybe I could have joined a small traveling circus. I’ve seen professional dancers and acrobats do these types of aerial performances (see Cirque video) but I never thought I’d be doing a version of that myself, especially in a foreign country!
It was Monday morning and I was on facebook when I noticed a posting on one of the private Buenos Aires groups I am part of (thanks C!) An American woman living here posted that she was going to an aerial silk class the next day and asked if anyone was interested in joining her. I don’t know what came over me, but without thinking about it too much I messaged her and said I would go. After I pressed “send” I got a bit nervous about what I’d just committed to do, but I thought I’d be adventurous and try something new.
I walk several miles and do my asana practice everyday, but I’ve been feeling sluggish and mushy lately (my discovery of Argentine ice cream probably has a lot to do with it). I wanted to find a fun way to get some exercise into my life and maybe learn something unusual, and this aerial silks class seemed to fit the bill. So on Tuesday morning at 11AM I walked into a cavernous gym in Las Cañitas for my first lesson. My teacher, Barbi, is about my height but made of 100% lean muscle and probably half my age (see the photo below, she is the cute blonde in blue). You could tell she was a bundle of energy and I liked her right away. She asked me if I had any experience or knew what this was about; I answered “no” and “no.” She flashed a big smile at me and said not to worry. I smiled back because I decided to relax and not worry. I was going to have fun.
So this is how these classes go. The two hour class is divided in two parts- the first hour is an intense series of cardio, push ups, ab work, and stretching. Now that I’ve taken the class three times I can say it’s gotten a bit easier but on my first day, that one hour seemed to go on forever. I was tired even before the main event unfolded… in the second hour. In this gym, they have these long strips of fabric that hang from the ceiling. Based on your level, we split up into groups and climb up these silks to do various “tricks” like flipping up side down, twisting, balancing, recoiling and tumbling down, etc. My first class I didn’t do any tricks at all- it was just about trying to climb up that darn piece of fabric. My weak core and upper body really showed their true colors, and I felt a bit pathetic for a few minutes. It didn’t help that this gorgeous toothpick of a porteña named Martina (if Barbi is half my age, Martina is probably third my age) who claimed to be a beginner, climbed straight up the tela, flipped herself over and around, and did all the tricks right away. I tried to convince her to move down to the harder (stretchier) silks where more advanced students were practicing, but she wouldn’t budge! As I talked to her I put the word “beginner” in quotation marks, making those gestures with my fingers as we would do in the States- I doubt that they do that here but oh well, that’s what I did and she probably thought I was a bit nuts. Martina was sweet though, and tried to give me little tips about what would make it easier. But nothing helped me because my mind and body didn’t process what was happening. It’s fantastic that I’m making new connections between my brain and my muscles, and building new muscle memories. I love that!
But as you could have guessed, I didn’t love my muscles the day after. I drank a ton of water and stretched like crazy when I got home, but for a few days after my first class my arms felt like they were filled with lead. It was a good thing that I had a visitor from NYC and I couldn’t make it to the next class. I don’t think I could have gone anyway.
Well, this week I went to my second and third aerial silk classes. And I can only chuckle and laugh, because I feel as if I’m getting worse! I felt good on Tuesday but on Thursday I could barely climb. I think my muscles were not fully recovered from the Tuesday class and I felt drained really early on. My body is probably still not used to certain types of movements (for example, in my yoga asana practice there is a lot of pushing but not a lot of pulling ) and instructions in Spanish don’t always sink into my brain instantaneously. Heck, I think instructions in English wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to me when I’m barely hanging onto these fabrics. But all that didn’t matter. On Thursday I got to share the fun with three of my friends who loved the class and had a fantastic time. Except for K, who is returning to San Francisco soon, the other two are retuning next week to keep practicing. So with a bit of luck (thanks to T, who introduced me to this) I found a creative way to exercise, learn something totally new, I get to do it with friends, and learn more verbs and body parts in Spanish at the same time! All around good stuff.
By the way, with some help from my friends I did manage to hang upside down without using my hands or feet. It felt GREAT. Let’s see what happens next week!