Cape Fear Circus Arts Studio’s aerial arts classes offers a creative way to build strength, flexibility and courage.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus entertained guests for 146 years, and during those decades its aerial performers captivated audiences with seemingly effortless feats of sky-high athleticism. While The Greatest Show on Earth held its final performance in 2017, Cirque du Soleil has continued inspiring future generations of aerial acrobats.
Over the last decade, the popularity of aerial arts has grown exponentially, and aerial studios have opened in numerous cities around the country, bringing the benefits of circus-like acrobatics to the general public.
Cape Fear Circus Arts Studio in Wilmington is one such gym that is working to take individuals and their fitness to new heights. The studio currently offers classes in aerial silks, aerial hoop, partner acrobatics as well as flexibility sessions.
When studio owner Jamie Poletti first began, she would drive two hours just to take a one-hour class. And with that, she was hooked. Her ascension began in 2009, and she founded her studio in 2014.
Growing up, the North Carolina native was a competitive gymnast who embraced a love for floating through the air while also challenging herself. She became a certified aerial yoga instructor in early 2013 and completed her NECCA (New England Center for Circus Arts) training in August of 2015. Having graduated from college with a degree in elementary education, Poletti has always loved teaching and sharing her passion for this extraordinary activity.
“Our workouts are very therapeutic,” Poletti says. “The only prerequisite that we have is that we ask people to come with a willingness to try.”
Aerial silks (also known by a variety of other monikers including aerial contortion, ribbon and tissue) involves the person utilizing a special nylon fabric suspended from the ceiling to perform aerial acrobatics. The routines are a mix of strength and flexibility, all while the participant is seemingly floating in the air, twisting and twirling with the aid of the “silk.” Classes take students from beginner to intermediate levels at the studio.
Advanced practitioners of aerial silks often perform jaw-dropping routines that include free fall drops that can include rolling oneself into the silks, twisting and rotating before landing in a different pose. This from takes years of practice, strength, flexibility and, of course, courage (to say the least).
“It’s like a dance class but taking it up a level (or two),” Poletti says.
Unlike the silks, the aerial hoop, which resembles a hula hoop, is a rigid metal hoop suspended from the ceiling. Students can learn to perform aerial acrobatics using a single hoop. This form of aerial display has become quite popular in recent years.
“We think of this as an alternative form of fitness,” Poletti says. “Additionally, it’s a great way to improve flexibility while embracing a performing art.”
Obviously, Cape Fear Circus Arts Studio is not your typical gym, but at the same time they are dedicated to their students in a very supportive environment.
“We focus on individual performance in a very supportive, non-judgmental and nurturing atmosphere while also providing the utmost safety for our students,” Poletti says. “We want potential practitioners of this aerial art to explore their own creativity while engaging in a unique form of expression.”
So, what about safety?
“Students are allowed to progress at their level of comfort,” Poletti says. “We start people off where they may only be just six to ten inches above the floor with a mat below them as well. And if that is where their comfort zone remains, we never push anyone beyond that.”
The studio is currently open to students ages 16 and older. There’s no upper age limit as long as the person is comfortable.
“We currently have students in their sixties but have had past performers that were in their seventies,” Poletti says. “There are truly no limitations.”
Due to the nature of these artistic expressive classes, the studio limits the number of students for each session. This allows the instructor to provide a safe environment for all students.
Poletti also provides open studio time in which students can come and practice what they have previously learned in class. An instructor is available during these open times to provide that safe environment.
Just like other businesses, Cape Fear Circus Arts Studio had to adapt during the pandemic.
“Pre-COVID, two people shared a fabric,” Poletti says. “Now, each individual has their own fabric and this has limited our class size. However, we have adapted to the changing climate to continue catering to our students.”
In addition to the in-person classes, the studio also offers a few online-only classes that can be done in the privacy and safety of your own home. Current online classes include a flexibility and hoop fitness course.
While the circus may have faded into history, the aerial circus arts have emerged and made those lofty ambitions attainable for anyone.
Want to fly?
Cape Fear Circus Arts Studio
For more information, or to take your aspirations and fitness to new heights, visit capefearcircusartsstudio.com.