Aerial Fitness offers Mid-Air Workout
Democrat and Chronicle
Victoria E. Freile, Staff writer
Mindy Walsh was bored with her workout routine.
In an effort to boost her upper body strength, the Webster resident registered for an aerial fitness course on a friend’s recommendation.
Soon enough, Walsh left her running efforts behind to focus on cirque skills at Aerial Arts of Rochester on Blossom Road. Two years later, she’s suspended 15 feet above the floor, her limbs wrapped in aerial silks. Walsh moves gracefully as she suddenly drops several feet toward a padded mat, a move she’s been perfecting for weeks.
“It’s a really fun way to get in shape,” said Walsh, 45. “It’s challenging, but it’s a fun challenging … getting that strength and building upon that and conquering your fears.”
Walsh is among the 150 students at Aerial Arts of Rochester, the area’s only cirque school. Owned and operated by Pittsford couple Jennifer and William D’Ovidio, the studio opened in 2010. Last month, the business moved within the ArtisanWorks building, into a 4,800-square-foot studio that more than doubled the school’s studio space.
Aerial arts challenge individuals physically and mentally, said Jennifer D’Ovidio, 31.
“Your mind and body are working hand in hand. There’s an element of magic to being free to explore each movement and creativity.”
Jennifer D’Ovidio, 31
“Your mind and body are working hand in hand,” she said. “There’s an element of magic to being free to explore each movement and creativity.”
Mastering aerial acrobatic moves is also a huge confidence-booster, Jennifer D’Ovidio said. “You realize how much you are actually capable of doing and that helps (you) grow on more than the physical level” and spreads to other aspects of life.
At Aerial Arts
The Pittsford couple opened the business in April 2010 — initially launching as a pole dancing fitness studio in Fairport. Within six months, aerial instruction was added and the studio moved to Rochester. William D’Ovidio, 35, a black belt in karate and former instructor, leads studio courses with his wife, Jennifer, a former dancer, dance teacher and cheerleading coach.
While the D’Ovidios offer ground-based classes, such as pole dancing, barre and the ever-challenging CirqueFit, William D’Ovidio said the facility’s most popular courses remain high above the padded floor.
Aerial silks — the school offers five levels of classes — and aerial yoga are among the school’s most popular courses that blend elements of Pilates, dance, traditional yoga and acrobatics. Classes typically sell out and are held weekday evenings as part of a six-week session.
The studio also offers private lessons, kids’ courses, summer camps and hosts hundreds of special events — like birthday and bachelorette parties — each year
Like many who have walked through Aerial Arts’ doors, Kimberly Eichorn of Greece “wanted to change it up.”
Already fit with seven years of karate under her (black) belt, Eichorn, 29, said two years of aerial workouts led to a slimmer, more toned body, increased flexibility and a upper body strength.
And, she said, exercising doesn’t feel like work. Mastering each move is challenging and enjoyable, Eichorn said.
“I was looking for a way to stay in shape that wasn’t the norm,” said Celeste Kidd, 32, of Rochester, who started working out at the studio shortly after it opened. “I really enjoy it. There’s nothing like being 30 feet up in the air to really focus and let go.”
Kidd, an assistant professor of cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, said her time on the silks is more than an intense workout, it’s a critical de-stresser.
“You clear your brain because you have to, since you need to focus on what you are doing in the air,” she said. “It’s a workout with puzzle solving.”
In her own city loft, Kidd installed her own aerial props — a trapeze, yoga hammock and silks — from an exposed beam. She uses them daily.
Alexa Wallace, 12, of Webster hangs from silks at Aerial Arts of Rochester, 565 Blossom Road, Suite Z, Rochester. (Photo: JEFF WITHEROW)
At least twice monthly, the studio offers an introductory sampler. Each 90-minute class is typically held Saturday mornings and includes beginner lessons on how to lift off the ground using aerial silks, yoga hammocks and aerial hoops.
Most people who come to the studio start with the sampler, said Jennifer D’Ovidio. Many realize that cirque is something they can improve upon and ultimately master, rather than watching others perform on television or a stage, she said.
Some attendees simply cross the experience off a bucket list, while others fall in love with aerial activities.
Last weekend, more than a dozen women flipped upside down, their limbs wrapped around colorful silks that dangled from the studio’s 20-plus-foot ceiling.
Friends and co-workers Sue Vadakin of Brighton and Kim Osgood of Irondequoit laughed as they wrapped long silks around their arms and legs and hoisted themselves off the ground.
Some women took to the challenge straight away, easily moving their bodies into poses and pointing their toes. Others — like me — hoisted themselves in the air, but inevitably tumbled to the floor.
Kim Eichorn of Greece stretches from a rope during open gym. (Photo: JEFF WITHEROW)
“It’s definitely very fun and something completely new,” said Osgood, 40. “It’s so different from my usual workout, running six miles. But I love a new adventure.”
Osgood had bought a Groupon that led her to the aerial workout — her favorite method to find new adventures.
“I’ll try anything,” Vadakin, 43, said after the 90-minute sample class, which included lessons on aerial silks, a steel hoop and an aerial yoga hammock. “It’s very kid-like, with all of the spinning. It reminds you of things you did as a kid.”
Adrienne Olson, 26, of Penfield found the studio four years ago.
“I came in for a sampler class,” she said. “Within minutes of learning to climb, I was up to the ceiling. I didn’t know how to get down, but I knew I loved it.”
Olson, now a member of the studio’s performance troupe, said she feels graceful and empowered as she moves amid silks while dangling more than 10 feet above the ground.
And, she said, the people at the studio have become her second family.
“I used to be so shy, but everyone is so welcoming and encouraging to anyone and everyone,” Olson said.
With assistance from several performers, Andrea Morris, 22, of Rochester said her silks skills have blossomed.
During an open gym session last weekend, Walsh showed Morris how to maneuver through a difficult skill — a controlled multi-foot drop toward the floor.
“She does it with flair and grace and I just stumble down,” Morris said as she watched Walsh flawlessly complete the move.
Morris found the studio last fall, shortly after she moved to Rochester for graduate school.
“I’m not motivated enough to sign up for a gym and just go,” said Morris. “I need to sign up for a class. I need more.”
Formerly a dancer and yoga enthusiast, Morris said she found what she had hoped for at Aerial Arts.
“I’m always learning something new here,” she said. “There’s nothing I can’t do if I don’t practice. It’s hard, but worthwhile.”
More on Aerial Arts
Where: 565 Blossom Road, Suite Z, Rochester.
Sampler: A 90-minute workshop offer a hands-on introduction to the cirque arts with aerial silks, yoga hammocks and aerial hoop. Samplers cost $25 per person and are typically held Saturday mornings from 10:30 a.m. to noon. The next available workshop is Saturday, March 14. Registration is required.
Other classes: The cirque school offers novice, intermediate and advanced classes on a number of apparatus, including aerial silks, hoop, trapeze and yoga hammocks. Class fees vary. Drop-ins available.
More info: Call (585) 201-8202 or go to aerialartsrochester.com.