By Lisa Boushy
Do you dream of running away with the circus? How about performing death-defying acrobatic feats with Cirque du Soleil? Or perhaps you just want to feel carefree and happy like when you were a kid swinging from the monkey bars?
Now you can turn your dreams into reality (or die of muscle pain while trying) by signing up for Quinntessential Movement’s aerial arts classes. Located at Galleria Plaza, the newly established dance and fitness studio offers a number of beginner to intermediate classes in two aerial art forms: “hoop” and “silk.”
Both are gaining popularity as a form of exercise worldwide and recently I was lucky enough (or foolish enough) to try my hand at both, despite having no formal training — I don’t think a handful of ballet classes aged four or being in a gymnastics troupe at age 13 that performed routines at the local mall to Van Halen’s hit song Jump counts.
Regardless, I was both intrigued and frightened of the prospect of being suspended in the air by my own volition. Quinn McCrimmon is the owner of Quinntessential and instructs all classes; she is pure muscle and sweetness rolled into one, and I knew I would be in good hands when she offered to teach me the ropes.
She is a trained ballerina who has been dancing since she was three. She’s also an expert pole dancer and fitness instructor and teaches other unique classes at the studio like “Polerina” which blend elements of barre, Pilates and stretching techniques while using the pole for support. Quinn actually introduced pole dancing to Cayman six years ago and also offers a wide-range of pole fitness classes.
First up was the aerial hoop. Also referred to as “lyra,” it is a circular steel apparatus suspended from the ceiling that looks like a gigantic hula hoop. The goal for each student is to learn proper grips, mounts, poses, holds and spins; once the foundation is built, you can progressively move onto more challenging combinations.
Quinn climbed onto the hoop and demonstrated a number of “tricks” with such ease and fluidity that she made it look much simpler than it actually was. Next it was my turn.
I hesitantly hoisted myself up onto the hoop with the help of a chair. Quinn also had to lift my butt into the air when it stubbornly refused to finish the job on its own.
Quickly, I moved into an inverted straddle mount – meaning that I hung upside down with my legs spread eagle above my head. At least I had the comfort of knowing that a cushiony mat was ready for my face-plant should I come crashing down.
I climbed my way back into a seated position and let go of the hoop ever-so-slightly as my feet dangled below. While fretfully balancing my upper body on the hoop, I glanced at my reflection at the floor-to-ceiling mirror of the elegantly designed studio. With my furrowed brows and black outfit, I resembled an angry ching-ching bird on a wire more than a lithe aerial acrobat. If Quinn had kept me up there any longer in that position, I may have dive-bombed her head.
Things took a turn for the better, however, and soon I was doing core and strength conditioning moves from knees to chest; a one- and two-handed layback; and what is called the “man in the moon” pose, which was my favourite pose of all. It felt slightly cinematic and conjured images in my brain of 1950s showgirls.
Next up was the aerial silk demonstration. Also referred to as “ribbon,” the silks that hang from the studio’s ceiling are a vibrant shade of purple made of a semi-stretchy, durable fabric. Quinn rigs the silks in sets of two strips for more versatility.
The goal of the silk classes is to fly and suspend yourself in the air, strike fabulous poses, and spiral your body into and out of various positions – all the while using your own body strength. Quinn’s classes specifically focus on proper wraps, climbs and poses in progressively more challenging combinations.
Once again, her demonstration made it look effortless; reminiscent of a Greek goddess wrapped in a regal toga, she moved majestically through the air using her own strength (did I mention she is pure muscle?), all with a smile on her face and the pointed toes of a prima ballerina.
Next it was my turn. I was able to get into a basic stand and climb position by using a foot-lock technique that took me into a standing hip-lean position. This involved holding tight to one strip of the silk while I wrapped my leg around the bottom half twice until it formed a knot around my foot. Then using my other foot to leverage against the secured foot, I started to climb upward.
Before I knew it, I was halfway up to the ceiling! When my body began to sway back and forth without my approval, I could barely hold it together as all my muscle groups were shaking and working overtime – including some I did not know I possessed.
Somehow I managed to straddle into an inverted position in the knot and finish off with a “frog pose” – which truth be told, was the easiest but perhaps least refined pose of the day.
Mastering the aerial arts requires a high degree of muscle strength – especially upper body and core strength – power, flexibility, courage, stamina and grace. Yet, once done right, the most beautiful lines are created in a graceful, choreographic way.
I was immediately sore and felt the burn for many days afterward. It was hard work and challenging but there is something exhilarating and satisfying about accomplishing something you never thought you could achieve. Everyone starts somewhere, according to Quinn, and you get stronger by practicing and learning new moves. Her students are always laughing and smiling as they work through their challenges, and that makes it worth it for them and for her.
Plus, nothing replaces the feeling of flying in the air; it brought me back to my childhood when swinging on the monkey bars until my mom called me home for dinner was the best part of the day.
To learn more about Quintessential Movement’s classes and schedule details, visit www.qmovement.dance or email [email protected]. You can also sign up for classes using the “Q Movement” app, available in the App Store for iPhones and Google Play for Androids.