When most people think of aerial they likely think immediately of aerial silks. That is one of the most recognizable aerial apparatuses, and people will typically understand what you are talking about when they are mentioned. Although silks tend to be the face of traditional circus arts, there are so many other apparatuses to choose from and to train on. I’m going to break down some of the apparatuses/classes we offer at BMA, and discuss the ways in which you can choose which ones will be best for you and your goals.
As mentioned this is typically the gateway apparatus for most aerialists. It is offered at the majority of aerial studios, and some studios may require taking some intro course on silks in order to build strength and confidence in the air. Aerial silks consist of two long pieces of fabric material connected at the top of a rigging point. Ironically aerial silks are not made from a silk material, but rather a spandex or nylon material to provide give, grip, and strength. SIlks can come in many different colors and lengths, and can also have different stretch qualities to them (low, medium, or high stretch). Aerial silks, or aerial fabric, requires the student to complete a series of wraps for most moves in order to be stable and secure in the air. It is one of the apparatuses that requires the most climbing and many people love it because of the plethora of dynamic skills and drops you can perform.
Aerial hoop (lyra):
As the name suggests, aerial hoop is a large circular apparatus that can be rigged from a single point or a double point. Aerial hoops can come in many different sizes and can be either hollow or solid. People who are drawn to the hoop usually love the freedom it provides to add spinning dynamic skills, and it does not require the complicated wraps found on silks. The size hoop that is best for you will largely depend on your height, so ask your coach to try a couple different hoops to find the one you feel most comfortable in.
At BMA we focus solely on dance trapeze. A dance trapeze has the ropes connected by a single point with a metal bar attached at the bottom between the ropes. Dance trapeze is likely what you will encounter at the majority of recreational aerial studios. In addition to dance trapeze, there are other types of trapeze such as flying trapeze and static trapeze. Flying trapeze is much more specialized (the type of trapeze you likely recognize from a circus performance), and sees a flyer swing back and forth on a trapeze bar and perform release moves in which they are caught by another trapeze performer. Static trapeze is similar to dance trapeze in how it is rigged, but that bar stays static while the aerialist works around the ropes and bar. Many people gravitate towards dance trapeze because it is a good mix between a completely solid apparatus (such as lyra) and a completely fabric apparatus (such as silks). A performer can move within the ropes to create shapes and also on the bar. Dynamic skills are also prominent on dance trapeze, a fact which tends to appeal to many aerialists.
Aerial sling (hammock):
Aerial sling can be commonly confused with aerial silks because the material used for both apparatuses is the same. Sling differs from silks however, in that a sling is rigged from the end of the fabric creating a looped like hammock at the bottom. Sling also differs from silks because many of the complicated leg wraps that are common on silks are notably absent on sling. Sling is great apparatus for beginner aerialists because it does require as much grip strength and climbing is not a necessity. Aerialists that train heavily on sling are generally drawn to the apparatus because of the security it provides within the skills and because of the dynamics that can be added in with a good spin (if you like to spin sling is definitely an apparatus you should try).
Loops are probably a lesser known aerial apparatus, but have been growing in popularity over the last few years. Loops consist of two large pieces of spanset like material (spansets are the black or purple pieces of material that you generally see holding a lyra up) that are attached together via a swivel on a rigging point. Because each loop opens up (sort of like two hammocks in one apparatus) it allows for the aerialist to move their body within the loops to create shapes such as back balances, splits, and drops. Many aerialists love loops because it combines skills from other apparatuses (such as sling and straps), and also the loud snap the loops make after a drop is extremely satisfying!
Straps consist of a material similar to loops but instead of each piece opening up entirely, each strap only opens up enough for the aerialist to place their wrists inside. Aerial straps can be intimidating to the aerial beginner because the majority of straps training consists of conditioning only. Though this is true, straps is the perfect apparatus to cross train on to improve overall strength and body awareness (so beginners do not fear, sign up for that straps class and get ripped!). More advanced straps moves involve using your body strength to move yourself up the length of the straps into different shapes. Many people who train regularly on straps are drawn to because of the strength it requires, but also because you can add many dynamic moves and look like you are floating in the air.
Now that you have a brief overview of the classes/apparatuses offered at BMA (and other aerial studios), let’s chat quickly about how in the world you are supposed to pick one. First off I would like to say you do not have to pick just one. I myself dabble in many of the apparatuses listed, and enjoy translating moves between apparatuses. If you do feel the urge to choose only one or two to train on long-term it is important to consider your goals and what type of aerial moves you are drawn to. The best way to determine that is by taking intro or beginner classes for multiple apparatuses so you can get a feel for them. Once you have done that you can start narrowing it down. Do you like to climb and be high up? Then silks might be for you. Do you love spinning fast and having an apparatus beneath you? Then sling or lyra might be your best bet. Do you love strength and dynamic moves? Then go ahead and make straps your apparatus of choice! All in all choosing an aerial apparatus is highly personal and may take some trial and error. Whatever you decide, know that we are here to help you along your journey and make you the best aerialist you can be!
With so much love,