a collage of aerialists on different apparatuses

Flight Plan

We hosted a whole slew of Intro to Aerials classes this week and welcomed over one hundred new students to our Austin circus school! If you were one of them, you got the chance to test out some of our most popular apparatuses, including silks, hammock, trapeze, and lyra. While you may have found your favorite right off the bat, many new students need help narrowing it down. We’ve already examined each of these circus favorites in depth in other blog posts, but let’s take a look at some of the factors that lead students to choose one over the other. Keep the following questions in mind when signing up for your next series class.

Hard or Soft?

We generally break our offerings into two categories: hard metal apparatuses, such as the lyra and trapeze (and pole!), and softer fabric apparatuses, like silks and hammock (also rope and straps!). On a hard apparatus, you move your body around the metal bar (as it’s not going to move around you), while on a soft apparatus, you manipulate the fabric in various ways to wrap it around your body. Different bodies prefer different sensations — some students find sitting on the trapeze to be excruciating, while others don’t mind that, but hate the way the silks cinch around their bones in a footlock. There are also mental preferences — it can be challenging for some to (almost literally) wrap their brain around the many steps involved in setting up a drop on fabric, but no problem to remember exactly how their body moves through space for an equally complex lyra skill. You might also take into account the minor irritations associated with each category — hard metal advocates are more likely to sport bruises (aka, badges of honor) when learning a new skill, while fabric fans are prone to burns on improperly covered skin.

Vertical or Horizontal?

Another way we differentiate between apparatuses is dividing them by their orientation. Is it a thing you climb (silks, rope, pole) or a thing you sit or stand on (trapeze, lyra, hammock)? Don’t be fooled — both will build your upper body strength like crazy, but the foundational skills will vary based on your choice. For example, there’s no real way to train your front balance on pole, but it’s a very big deal on every horizontal apparatus. Likewise, you don’t do a lot of climbing on the lyra, but your training will stall out quick if you don’t master this skill early on in rope class. Even a universal skill, such as inversions, uses slightly different muscles depending on what you’re hanging from. Are your hands close together, at slightly different heights, pulling on the vertical silks? Or are they hip-width and perfectly aligned on a horizontal bar? Again, you might find your brain and/or body leading you down one path or the other, depending on your preferences.

Choose Your Own Adventure

While we hope this guide has been helpful to you as you select a first apparatus for your aerial journey, you by no means have to limit yourself. Many students at our Austin circus school pride themselves on being “poly-aerial”. You might spend months cultivating a deep, undying love for the trapeze, only to try out a beginning silks workshop on a whim and discover a hidden passion for all things vertical! We encourage you not to tie yourself down. In the words of one of our favorite Pixar films, “Never stop exploring!”

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