Learn aerial skills from Buffalo Aerial Dance

By Lauren Kirchmyer

Facebook is a great way to network and learn about events and activities happening in the community. This social networking site is how I was introduced to Buffalo Aerial Dance.

A girl I danced with this summer posted photos of her hanging from the ceiling from silks (fabric) and a lyra (a circle). I’ve always found people performing on those apparatuses entertaining to watch and wanted to try learning for myself, so I asked for more information. My friend said she was taking classes at Buffalo Aerial Dance – located in Alt Theatre on the third floor of the Pierce Arrow Building in Buffalo – and highly suggested I give it a try.

I sent out an email to the group shortly thereafter. Their founder, Erica Cope, quickly responded, saying she would love to have me come try the aerial sampler class on Saturday, Sept. 26.

Cope, who grew up in Buffalo, moved to Seattle, Wash. for college and took her first aerial class while out there. When she moved back to the Queen City – to work on her graduate degree in comparative literature – she met a few local residents who too loved aerial work. They practiced their skills at the Alt Theatre and decided to put on a few shows together.

“A lot of people came to the show and asked us when we would be doing classes,” Cope said. “I was just doing it all to practice, it let me get away from the stress from school. I never had any intention of trying to open a school.”

But the email requests for classes kept coming in. Upon earning her graduate degree, Cope attended a teacher training program for aerial work and began offering lessons once a week. Now there are four instructors and about eight classes offered each week including ariel yoga, aerial sampler, circus fundamentals and teen aerial.

Before taking class and seeing what silk work was all about, I observed Cope working one-on-one with newcomer Paige Rider. The pair stretched and did some ab exercises before working on the silks. Rider was taught how to wrap the silk around her foot, climb up the silk, as well as how to perform tricks such as a sit, tip and lunge.

“Wow, this takes a lot of strength,” Rider said, but she left class with a smile on her face.

Buffalo Aerial Dance 1

Then it was my turn. The sampler class consisted of me, Cope and six others. Only me and one of the other participants were brand new to aerial work. I’ve been dancing since I was three years old and enjoy going to the gym from time to time, but even though I’m physically active, class was a lot more exhausting than I could have imagined.

Our class also began with stretching and abs, not a problem. Then we moved onto the silks and were asked to climb up the silk to the ceiling then come back down. The first time I held onto the silks was a great wake up call – I knew my arms would be exhausted at the end of class. It takes a large amount of strength to hold yourself up on silks. For every trick we learned, I noticed you have to pull your body up using the muscles in your arms and back, and many of the tricks include a lot of ab strength.

Buffalo Aerial Dance 3

What I found interesting was how aerial work has similar qualities to dance. It’s highly athletic, the pre-class workout is set up similarly and some of the terminology and technique is the same. However, unlike ballet where many of the steps have the same name no matter where in the world you are, the names for tricks in aerial work change up based on what style you trained in.

The other thing I learned, which can be said for anything you try, is you won’t be great your first day of class. “Give yourself time, it doesn’t happen in a day,” Cope said a few times to the class’ participants.

When I returned home from class, I raved about the new things I learned to my mom and dad, then quickly found my bed to take a nap. My body was tired! For about two days after, my arms and abs were sore, but any time I felt the soreness I was reminded of the new skills I learned in class. I’m now hooked and can’t wait to go back and learn more.

If you too would like to learn and give aerial work a try, visit Buffalo Aerial Dance’s website or Facebook page.

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