(noun) Movements such as stretching, toning, traction, balance, inverting, flipping, or dancing–all while suspended from a nylon sling, silks, a steel hoop, or a bar and ropes.
Good to know:
- Arrive early for time to park, read, and sign the waiver, plus go over the studio rules with your instructor.
- Wear form-fitting clothing you can stretch in (cover your armpits, midriff, and knees to protect your skin and the fabric).
- You WILL be sore after your first class, and you may have some bruising.
I was extremely excited to be invited to try some different aerial and cirque apparatuses at MAYA Movement Arts in Greenville. I have a background in ballet, and I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to get a great workout, but I was a little nervous about how many moves I’d actually be able to pull off.
Getting to the studio can be a little confusing, but I received a text from the owner, Kelly Vanleeuwen, talking me through it. I needed to drive to the side gate of the Lofts of Greenville (an old textile mill filled with apartments). The code I entered dialed Kelly’s phone, and she buzzed me in. The exposed brick, warm lighting, and high ceilings of the Lofts are welcoming (and a great Instagram backdrop!). *Note- if you are taking a dance or yoga class, the studio entrance is on the ground floor. If you’re in an aerial or cirque class, walk up to floor 1 and down the hall!
I was one of the first students to show up for my 6 PM class, so Kelly and my Lyra teacher, Chris, greeted me. I know Chris from my Clemson days, so it was nice to see a familiar face! Every teacher that I encountered and interacted with was extremely friendly and accommodating. I can tell they love what they do (not to mention the hours and hours of studying and certification training). Chris had me sign my waiver while Kelly talked through some of it, as well as studio rules. Be prepared- the waiver might make the upcoming class seem scary, but it just covers what a business needs to cover in order to protect themselves. Kelly’s top priority is safety for her students. She also had to ask some questions that could be seen as very personal (DKY: You can’t be upside-down for several hours after getting Botox at the risk of it moving, so Kelly says to wait 24 hours to take a MAYA class). I don’t have any existing injuries or physical concerns, and I didn’t get Botox the prior 24 hours, so I was good to go!
Class started with a group conditioning warm-up, including Chris, Sara (my aerial/sling dance teacher), and students from both of their classes. We started out with 20 jumping jacks, and I immediately remembered I’m not at the top of my game when it comes to fitness, so I got a little worried. We went from that to various stretches that warmed up different sets of muscles we’d be using during class. I even had to do wrist stretches, which I’ve never done before! By the end of the evening, I would realize aerial and cirque classes require a lot of arm and grip strength.
We then broke off into our separate classes, which take place right next to each other. Because I wanted to get an “inside” look at as many types of classes as I could, I had special permission to take half a Lyra class and half an aerial dance class. I started with Lyra (pronounced leer-uh) Basics. There are 4 steel (but taped) hoops hanging from the ceiling, and the bottom of the hoop is about 6 feet off the ground (don’t worry- all apparatuses have mats beneath them). Each Lyra has a name, and mine for the night was “Baby.” Since this was Lyra Basics, we started out with simple grip exercises to get used to holding our weight on the hoop. I don’t claim to have much arm strength, so I was pleasantly surprised I was able to hold myself up for several seconds.
There were two other girls in my class, and Chris was great about giving them instruction and then simplifying it for me (they had clearly taken his class before). Chris walked us through a few basic poses, then we were free to attempt them. Students at MAYA should not attempt any movements until after the instructor has finished his/her demonstration- this is for everyone’s safety. Chris was available to “spot” us during new movements, and he had very encouraging words throughout! There was one moment my hand didn’t quite grab the Lyra, and I may have uttered an expletive, but I managed to hang on! Thirty minutes in, it was time to switch to aerial dance.
Sara, my Sling 1 teacher, was kind enough to walk me through a few moves. I learned how to enter the sling and get comfortable with it taking my weight, and my favorite pose of the night was “Scorpion.” The other two women taking the class were doing more advanced movements and ended up higher in the air- I was never more than a foot or two off the ground. Out of all the apparatuses I tried, I felt most secure in the sling, so this would be a great place to start for nervous newcomers! *Note: The sling is a long strip of nylon fabric hung from a single point on the ceiling, creating a “hammock.” Silks classes are also offered at MAYA Movement Arts, but those are two separate nylon strips.
After Sling, it was time for Dance Trapeze Basics. The dance trapeze is a carbon fiber bar attached to a rope at both ends and hung at a single point. You have about 2 feet of bar to work with, and the trapeze was set about hip height for this class. By the time I got to the trapeze, my arms and grip strength were starting to give, so I struggled a bit with this apparatus. Kelly walked us through first sitting on the trapeze, then standing and “crocheting” our legs. Even though the trapeze was lower in height than the Lyra, standing on it was quite nerve-wracking. After that, it was time to try a move that requires you to step off of the bar. I’m not exactly sure how this happened, but I literally got stuck in the trapeze! Kelly was quick to literally lift me out of the rope- I never once felt in danger.
My evening ended with a few Aerial Fitness moves on the sling, taught by Katy, and I was finished for the evening. I would recommend beginners take only 1 Basics class to start out. Classes are 60 minutes long, and the second hour of my evening was tough because my body was tired. And be prepared to be SORE after these classes! I took my classes on a Wednesday, and I was still sore Saturday! I also had a couple of nasty bruises on my legs, but I knew I got a phenomenal workout. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, I surprised myself with how much I was able to pull off, and I would love to take classes at MAYA again!
For more information about MAYA Movement Arts and what classes could fit your lifestyle, visit their website here.