Tired of Zumba and Pilates? It’s never too late to run away to the circus or at least to a circus school to learn trapeze says high-flying ANNIE DAVIES
My Aerial Home, School of Aerial Dance and Circus, welcomes beginners.
And you don’t have to be a daring young man or woman to fly through the air with the greatest of ease. Most of the school’s 250 or so students are women over 40. Several of them, including some of the men, are in their 50s and show no signs of being grounded any time soon.
Based in a bright, airy warehouse in South Sydenham, South London, My Aerial Home offers daytime and evening classes in a range of circus and aerial skills, from trapeze to tumbling to hula hoop. You can even learn fire breathing and stilt walking.
The brain child of Amanda Miles, 49, a former dancer and television producer, My Aerial Home caters for both professional performers wanting to hone old skills and develop new ones, and complete newcomers for whom climbing a rope is a major challenge.
Students range from an undertaker to a vet’s assistant, from accountants to healthworkers.
Amanda took up trapeze about 20 years ago when she was looking for an alternative means of keeping fit and was hooked immediately.
Seven years ago she decided to turn her hobby into a business.
“It was a perfect storm,” she explains. “There was the recession, I was getting older and work in television was becoming more and more difficult to find. So I decided to start My Aerial Home. I’d been to stage school, I’d taught yoga. So I thought, why not give it a go?”
She’s done rather more than give it a go. From a rented space in a school in Beckenham with three trapezes, two of them borrowed. My Aerial Home has grown into one of the best known circus and aerial schools in the capital with visiting teachers from companies around the world, including Cirque du Soleil.
Given that health and safety is of paramount importance, it helps that she is married to a builder who can rig up the hoops, ropes and trapezes. When you’re spinning around over 10 feet off the floor, it helps to know that the equipment has been installed by someone who knows what they’re doing.
Former pupils have gone on to careers in the business, working in theatre, film and commercials. One was plastered on the sides of dozens of London buses last year in an ad for Harrods. Another went off to Las Vegas and married a magician.
But if you don’t see yourself on stage in a sequined leotard, learning trapeze or rope work can still offer a lot.
Jonathan Gordon, 55, who works in market research, has been with My Aerial Home from the very beginning.
“I’m fitter and I’m stronger,” says Jonathan, who goes to rope and trapeze classes weekly. “It’s literally top to toe. You learn a lot
about yourself. And what’s really nice about it is the sense of camaraderie. People are keen to share what they know. It’s not all
Amanda agrees about the advantages.
“It’s a great way to keep fit,” she enthuses. “It’s aerobic. Tt builds physical strength and it boosts confidence. You get braver and that bravery spills over into the rest of your life.
“A trapeze session is an all round physical work out, a holiday for the brain,” she explains. “You can’t think about the other stresses of your life when you’re concentrating on hanging upside down from your ankles.”
My Aerial Home has even run a special course for people suffering with depression, in order to help them back into the workplace. They’ve had a blind student and taught wheelchair users.
Almost anyone can have a go, although you do need to have a certain level of fitness. You can’t just get off the sofa after 20 years of wielding nothing heavier than the TV remote and expect to start flying through the air. As with any other form of new physical exercise, it is a good idea to take a doctor’s advice.
Once you’re cleared for take off getting started is easy. You don’t need to shell out on a lot of expensive equipment either. All you need is a T-shirt, leggings or sweatpants, and bare feet.
What you will need though, is patience and determination.
“You have to be in it for the long haul,” warns Jonathan.
“Learning trapeze can be slow and tough. And you need to be comfortable with the idea of hanging upside down in mid-air. Some people are quite surprised when they have to do it. But even when you’re only a metre or so off the ground it can be quite alarming.”
Once you’ve built up your upper body strength on the trapeze, you may want to progress to more advanced work on ropes and silks. And that’s when you really start flying.
For more information, visit www.myaerialhome.co.uk /020 8464 9939/07770 431448. A half-hour taster session costs £10 to see if you fancy living the high life