So I somehow came across BAM Academy a while back. I think it came up in my search for Ninja gyms. While they don’t do any ninja warrior training that I know of, they do have a huge parkour space, which is where the association probably came from. In looking up their classes, I found a lot of really neat stuff. Besides lots of parkour classes, they have tricking classes (I honestly don’t really know what that is), stunt work classes (are you an actor that needs to learn to fake take a punch and fall?), light saber classes (yes, it’s just what you think it is), and aerial classes.
I’ve seen enough America’s Got Talent to have a small understanding of what aerial is, and it always looks like so much fun, so I knew I had to try it. Life got in the way of me getting up there until Wednesday night. It was a fairly significant drive, about an hour and 20, but man, did it turn out to be worth it. I’m hooked!
So when I got there, Reuben got me all signed in. I had to sign a waiver saying if I broke my neck I wouldn’t sue them (I’ve signed a lot of waivers these past few months, should that make me re-evaluate my activities??). ‘Aerial’ wasn’t one of the options on the waivers, but he said to circle ‘circus arts’. Being the dork that I am, I said, “Oh, I always wanted to join the circus!’ His obligatory chuckle immediately told me I was not the first one to make that joke.
I was there a few minutes early, so he showed me inside the gym, and where to wait for class. It’s a pretty neat place. They had every shape you could think of, made out of plywood, set up in multiple parkour courses. For the aerial class, they had 2 silks and what I was calling a hoop. I have now learned it’s a lyra.
There was a junior high-ish girls’ class finishing up, so I sat and watched. The teacher, Gigi, came over to say hi and I introduced myself. She asked if I had taken an aerial class before. ‘Nope’, I said, ‘first time’. She asked if I had any experience with any similar disciplines, like dance. ‘No’, I answered, almost apologetically. She then asked me if I had done any rock climbling, since that was actually applicable. ‘I took a rock climbing class once!’. It didn’t seem to impress her. Had I thought about it, I would have offered that I had also taken a couple gymnastics classes, but I didn’t think about it at the time. I couldn’t get a feel for her right away, and I didn’t want her to dread having a total newbie in class. She didn’t ask if I had happened to have been training for American Ninja Warrior for the past few months, so I didn’t offer that information either. At the time, I didn’t know that it would be that applicable. Turns out, it totally was.So there were 3 of us in class. One of the other girls was probably mid 20’s? It seemed she had been taking classes a while because she seemed to know Gigi on a personal basis, they chatted a lot using aerial lingo, and she was working on more advanced skills. And the other lady was actually older than me! I think this was the first time I have walked into one of these brand new experiences the last few months and not been the oldest. I was so excited to see gray hair! She was probably late 40’s or early 50’s?
Anyway, to make a long story not quite so long, Gigi started me out with the basics, and seemed genuinely impressed with how well I was doing. She told me she couldn’t believe it was my first class, and that I was a natural (she probably tells all the newbies that). And I overheard her and one of the students comment on how I was able to just hang there on the silks while trying to get my feet situated. She taught me 2 different climbs (classic and Russian, I think?), a couple of footlocks, I did an inverted tuck hang into a handstand, the superhero pose which is butchered in the picture below, wrist locks, and some other things I’m probably forgetting. Every time I did a move and she said ‘when you’re more advanced, you can do…’, I immediately had to try it. I wanted to do that thing where you’re all bound up at the ceiling and then you unwrap yourself and plummet to the ground, stopping only inches from death, but apparently they don’t teach that on night one. Go figure.
I’ll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I was able to do, too. It was all grip strength and upper arm strength. All the stuff I’ve been working on at home. Hanging on those silks was just like the towel dead hangs I’ve been practicing. Had I gone to this class 3 or 4 months ago, I would not have been able to do any of it. I would probably have had a totally different experience and left feeling very defeated. So I do think I was probably more capable than the average first-timer, which is a pretty foreign feeling for me. But I didn’t ever tell her I had been training upper body at home. I just let her think I was a born aerialist off the street for the first time.
After class was over, I said, “I have a silly question. Can I do one of the things you taught me in class and will you take my picture? My kids will think it’s pretty cool.” (Spoiler alert: my kids were totally unimpressed). She laughed and said that wasn’t actually a silly question, everyone asks. So we did.
Anyone who reads this that is an actual aerialist is probably shuddering at my form. But I thought it was pretty cool. And just a little bit painful. And it turns out, aerial is more of a ‘thing’ than I thought it was, and she told me about several other places I could go that might actually be a little closer to me. And a couple of them have a huge variety of circus arts classes to take, including the silks, lyra, trapeze, rope, handstands, hand balancing, flexibility and contortion. Um yes please, take my money. Sign me up for all of it!
And then I drove an hour home, with visions of being in Cirque du Soleil someday.