Have you ever been sat watching Saturday night TV and thought “that looks like fun, I could totally do that”. Well after watching an aerial circus trapeze performance on Britain’s Got Talent I now find myself in my running gear (you are spared the full on lycra experience) at a 2 hour taster session with Perth’s very own Adventure Circus.
Adventure Circus is an aerial acrobatics and circus inspired fitness club for ‘people who like to do things a bit differently’, set up in 2015 by the super talented Gemma Simpson who was joined not long after by her Co-Director Stephen Armour. Gemma and Stephen met when they both worked for a Glasgow based Aerial Company. It’s no surprise to hear that the career path to running a circus school is a little unconventional, and Gemma’s own background in dance, gymnastics and equestrian vaulting already sounds far more exciting than most CV’s.
Adventure Circus regularly run taster sessions which let you sample three of the most recognisable pieces of apparatus on offer; trapeze, aerial hoop and silks. Everything is done under the expert tutelage and supervision of Gemma and her team.
If, like me, you’re worried that your less than gymnastic fantastic body might not be up to the challenge, fear not. I am a 6ft’2, 15.5stone man with the flexibility of a plank of wood. Upon arrival I find another 11 intrepid participants, all swinging between nervousness and excitement.
The ‘ice-breaker’ took the form of doing a physical movement of your choice whilst introducing yourself with a moniker which everyone else would then copy. By the end of this we were hopping, jumping, curtseying and bowing to names like ‘Silly Stephen’, ‘Jumping Jo’, ‘Gorilla Gemma’ and of course myself ‘Gorgeous Graeme’. After some stretching we were well and truly warmed up and raring to go!
We split into three groups, which would alternate between the three apparatus, each with it’s own instructor while Gemma floated between the groups offering advice, guidance, and the occasional leg up. First up was the static trapeze, basically a bar set around 8ft off the ground with a rope at either end.
Trapeze instructor ‘Dangerous Darren’ demonstrated the most common way to get yourself onto the bar. Keen to get the first attempt over and done with I stride forward, quietly confident. Two hands, spring, tuck the knees, pull them through between the hands aaand… NOPE. Epic fail. I crash my shins into the bar and return pretty swiftly to earth.
After a couple of attempts Gemma suggests an alternative method which works a treat (she very kindly suggested my height, rather than the aforementioned lack of flexibility, which was the problem). There was a mixture of abilities at the session and a recurring theme during the day was that if you don’t succeed there is usually a different way to try it.
Once on the trapeze Darren took us through different exercises or ‘poses’, some which involved standing up on the bar and others hanging from it. I may not have felt the smoothest or most graceful at the time but I was pretty pleased with having managed most things.
Darren did a great job of explaining each move step by step, which made you feel fully supported and safe at all times, and the instructors are always there to give a helping hand when you need it. It became clear that trapeze is as much about technique as strength so my lack of ‘Guns’ wasn’t an issue.
Next up aerial hoop with ‘Also Jo’ (there had already been a ‘Jumping Jo’ in our name game at the start). Hoop involved a certain amount of agility, and I was determined to stuff my 6ft’2 frame into what can only be described as a ‘Hoop for a Hobbit’. Luckily the rest of my group were somewhat less vertically challenged, but we all eventually managed the ‘Man in The Moon’ pose and various others while twirling around up there quite the thing.
Last up is the Silks. These are large pieces of material which hang down from the ceiling and aerial artists perform acrobatics while hanging from the fabric, sometimes at a great height. ‘Silly Stephen’ gave us a quick demo and before I knew it I was upside down, bum in the air, legs wrapped around the silk with about as much grace as a hippopotamus ice skating. It was at this point I gained a new found respect for the artists you see doing this while making it look so easy!
All too quickly our time is up, two and a half hours has flown by. You could see the sense of achievement of everyone’s faces as they uncurled themselves back onto the mats. Excited chatter and story swapping commenced and there was a communal sigh of relief that everyone had been able to participate fully, regardless of size and fitness levels.
Gemma reckons that Adventure Circus can be ‘exercise by stealth’ as you get fitter and stronger under the guise of learning a new skill. I would agree with that, but I’ve also found it can be built into an existing training routine as in my case for obstacle racing. Above all else, these classes are FUN!
As for me well RIO 2016 might be just a bit too soon but keep an eye out on Britain’s Got Talent next year, you just might see me there.