Flight of Fancy

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AIRBORNE EXERCISES HELP BOOST FLEXIBILITY AND AGILITY

Did you ever dream of running away and joining the circus when you were a kid? If the idea of flying through the air with the greatest of ease on a trapeze still appeals to your sense of adventure, then aerial arts may be for you. And there’s a place in Bluffton where you can make that dream a reality.

Aerial Elements is located in the Riptide MMA gym on Persimmon Street. It is owned and operated by Lorrie Lancaster and Michelle Boniface, local teachers and aerial enthusiasts.

aerial02What do aerial acrobatics entail? Think the twirling, soaring performers of Cirque du Soleil, who hang from ribbons to do tricks in the air. But the graceful sky-high act has moved beyond the stage.

“You can do it for conditioning and to build up core skills,” Lancaster said. “It originated from circus performing, and now it’s evolved into what’s known as aerial dance. People approach it both ways.”

Aerial routines offer the chance to improve core strength and flexibility. They also encourage mental agility.

“You have to know technique and remember it,” Boniface said. “It’s very challenging.”

Lancaster and Boniface have been teaching classes in Bluffton since September 2016. They decided to start teaching off island after the school on Hilton Head where they were teaching and performing closed its doors.

“There were a lot of students who wouldn’t have any place to train anymore,” Boniface said. “We were hoping to get some new students as well.”

Now, the pair offers classes for children and adults on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Private, one-on-one lessons also are available. Children’s classes are geared toward tweens and teenagers; the skill level required by the routines isn’t suitable for younger students. The Wednesday night classes are particularly well-suited for first-timers, Boniface and Lancaster said.

aerial03“We offer an aerial fitness class on Wednesday nights,” Lancaster said. “It’s a great way to get familiar and comfortable with the silks and get good core and upper-body conditioning while increasing mobility and flexibility. It offers a great change of pace for anybody looking for something different in terms of a workout.”

Beginners shouldn’t be nervous about trying the “silks” — the ribbons the acrobats use to lift themselves into the air. No one is expected to be performing tricks right off the bat, and even if your feet never leave the ground you’ll still get all the health benefits.

“The average person who starts this will be starting from a more advanced place than I was when I started,” Lancaster said. “I don’t want to tell you how old I am, but I started this in middle age. I couldn’t even do a pull-up. I’ve seen people do it without limbs. I have seen people in their 70s start doing it. You don’t have to be intimidated.”

Boniface said she was attracted to aerial because it was a form of exercise that was outside the box and outside her comfort zone.

“I like aerial because it’s a mixture of physical fitness, mental fitness and creativity,” she said. “For me, the performances get me to step outside my box.”

aerial04In addition to teaching and running aerial classes, Lancaster is also a clinical esthetician. She learned about the exercise at a health fair she was working.

“I was at my booth and talking to a dietitian and asked her how she was so fit,” she said. “She told me she was a gymnastics teacher. I told her I would love to do gymnastics for adults, and she mentioned an adult aerial class she was coaching. I went and loved it.:

Six years later, Lancaster is teaching her own classes, and she and Boniface are both certified as teachers and trainers for beginner and intermediates. They offer classes in packages or on a class-by-class basis. For more information about Aerial Elements, go to www.aerialelements.co.