Month: March 2017

Aerial Fitness Slay Session at Skylab Studios: Review

Aerial Fitness Slay Session at Skylab Studios: Review

When I was about 9 years old I used to hang upside down from the stairs leading up to the first floor of our house.

They were the sort that had gaps in between each step, and if you walked underneath (where our kitchen was) you could use them as monkey bars and slot your legs through the gaps. I used to spend a long time just dangling upside down, or trying to move myself from step to step.

I hadn’t thought about that in a long time. That is, until last weekend – when I went to try my hand at aerial acrobatics.

When I was invited to the event by the wonderful community, Bloggers that Slay– a one hour class that combined aerial skills with fitness -there was no doubt in my mind that this was an event I would bend over backwards (literally) to attend.

Which is how I found myself tentatively walking up the stairs to Skylab studios, just off a side road right in the centre of Camden Town last Saturday.

Unsurprisingly, my inner monkey-child was in heaven.

London Aerial Fitness Class Review

First Impressions:

Very exciting, if a little daunting. Skylab studios is clearly signposted and have made brilliant use of a small space. It’s homely and inviting, and not intimidating in the slightest. We all chatted for a while on some brightly coloured sofas whilst the previous session finished off. I don’t remember for the life of me what we talked about, because it’s hard not to be distracted when there are very professional-looking aerialists twirling away into splits over above your head. They’re regulars, we were told. And no, that’s not what we’d be doing.

What we did do:

It was a fast paced class, with Astra, the teacher, taking us through a warm up and some floor based body conditioning. The rest of the time was then divided into hammocks, silks and hoops. We learned the basic poses on the floor – tuck, pike, straddle and needle. All of which will be familiar if you’ve done any sort of gymnastics, trampolining or cheerleading.

We started with the hammocks- think of two silks ropes joined at the bottom to make a loop. This was the easiest of all three techniques because the hammock supports the majority of your bodyweight. Still, it was useful to work with this first, and allow yourself to get used to the feeling of tipping upside down!

Silks and hoops were a little bit harder. They both require some upper body strength, as well as quite a strong grip. You spend your time essentially practicing the positions that were taught on the floor at the beginning of the class. It sounds like it could get repetitive, but honestly it takes so much time to get it perfect (or even get it at all!) that the hour just rushed by. Plus the satisfaction that you get from achieving a particular pose or move is so satisfying that it’s worth the effort that it takes to get there!

London Aerial Fitness Class Review

Verdict:

Astra was very patient, and excellent at explaining the exercises and their progressions. I think it definitely helps if you have some sort of dance or gymnastics experience, as aerial skills require that consciousness of where your body is in space. A little bit of upper body and lots of core strength are essential. Don’t worry if you’re not used to strength training though- beginner aerial skills are more about static holds than big movements. You can generally get the basics even if you can’t do loads of push ups and pull ups! Plus there’s a knack to holding the silks that takes the strain off your grip.

I wish the class had been longer. I used to spend hours hanging upside down from the stairs, so I easily could have spent the whole afternoon practicing aerial. I reckon “all round” classes where you try a little bit of everything should be at least two hours.

Nonetheless, it was a great way to spend my Saturday. There’s something so brilliantly childlike about hanging upside down and swinging from the ceiling. It’s tough and tiring but totally worth it- although if you’re anything like me then aerial addiction is a very real side effect. I’ll be back!

London Aerial Fitness Class Review

If you fancy trying out your monkey skills (which I’d definitely recommend at least once!) you can find more information here.

Dancer: Documentary Review

Dancer: Documentary Review

The first time someone showed me the video of Sergei Polunin dancing to Hozier’s Take Me to Church on YouTube, I was pretty sick of dance.

Not something you’ll hear me say often. However, at that point in time I was in my final year of University, halfway through my dissertation and had come to associate the majority of contemporary dance choreography with essays, a stuffy room in Roehampton library and the taste of stale Jaeger. I never wanted to see another piece of dance again- even if it was directed by David LaChapelle.

Obviously, I watched the entire thing about 5 times in a row, without stopping.

It’s a brilliant piece. Superb choreography (by Jade Hale Christofi) that brilliantly shows Polunin’s personality, as well as his artistry. That’s no surprise – Polunin and Christofi are best friends, who met and lived together throughout their studies at the Royal Ballet School in Covent Garden. There are probably few people that know him better.

I wish I could have watched Dogwoof’s documentary on Sergei Polunin’s life at least one more time. Unfortunately when you’re in the cinema, viewing a live screening from the London Palladium, it’s a little bit more tricky than simply pressing replay on your laptop.

Any documentary on Polunin would be worth a watch if only for the mesmerizing clips where you get to see him dance. Steven Cantor’s Dancer, however, is much more than that.

Four years of filming, plus a host of home videos show the journey that Polunin took from becoming a young boy at a local dance school in a small village in Ukraine, to an adolescent superstar, youngest ever principal with London’s Royal Ballet.

You also get some perspective on how and why Polunin, at 22 years old, suddenly quit the position that most ballet dancers would give their right arm for. The media backlash that followed this catastrophe branded Polunin as the “Bad Boy” of ballet. News coverage of drug abuse, wild parties and not to mention the endless tattoos, made Polunin a household name far more than his pirouettes had. Finally, thanks to Dancer, we get to see a different perspective.

It’s a well made and engaging documentary. Interviews with family and friends are insightful, but sensitive and it is interesting to learn about the paths that Polunin took after he broke his chains with the Royal Ballet. The whole thing seems to lead up to the social-media sensation that was Take Me To Church, which seems like an apt climax for a film exploring self-expression, freedom and the constraints of the ballet industry.
I would have liked a more in-depth look into Polunin’s time studying at the Royal Ballet School. The importance of mental health support for young dancers is a recurring theme, and was highlighted in the post-show Q&A by Polunin himself- it is something that he is clearly very passionate about promoting. However I feel like the actual day-to-day life of young ballet students in such a high pressure environment, as well as Polunin’s own psychological struggles, although talked about, were not explored.

The post-show Q&A felt uncomfortable and unstructured. Polunin came across as humble, funny and well-mannered and I enjoyed hearing him speak about his new venture, Project Polunin. It’s a collaborative initiative aiming to create new work for ballet by working with contemporary artists and musicians for stage and screen. It would’ve been nice to hear more questions on that, rather than find out which tattoo was his favourite (to which, he wittily responded; “do you have a favourite finger?”).

The documentary, though, is interesting, funny and heartfelt. It instigates a much needed investigation into the pressures placed upon young dancers, whilst also taking a step towards streamlining the world of ballet into mainstream popular culture- film in particular. Hopefully we’ll see more of Polunin on our screens in the near future.

A review of Steven Cantor's incredible documentary on the life of Sergei Polunin.

Big Gains and Little Wins: How to Make a PT’s Day

Big Gains and Little Wins: How to Make a PT’s Day

A client said something to me the other week that, honestly, made my day.

“You’ve just made me realise what my body is capable of”.

It wasn’t a dramatic statement at all. It was said nonchalantly- in passing, almost. She probably thought it was quite insignificant.

The thing is, it’s the tiny things like that, that make me realise why I started this whole thing in the first place. Little bursts of “yes” that come up like butterflies in the stomach, making you thankful for the work, the decisions and the path that led you to where you are now.

We’d just finished a massive upper body session. This client had the most impressive pump going on in her arms and shoulders. Like, the definition was spectacular. She’s struggled with losing weight in the past, and until recently would never have dreamed of touching a dumbbell in the gym. She said that she was always too intimidated by the copious amounts of testosterone that often linger in the bench-section.  

The progress has been psychological as well as physical. In many ways this has been the more rewarding aspect of her transformation.

PT’s and Fitness Instructors go through their fair share of sh*t. Unsociable hours, endless travel, free-trial clients who don’t show up without bothering even to send a simple text so that you can go home and have some food. Rude clients in classes who roll up 10 minutes late and then complain if you don’t show them enough attention.

Considering this, I personally know very few PT’s that ever, truly and consistently complain about their job. Certainly not to the same extent as I know office workers do. Why? Because there are those little moments that make it all worthwhile.

I’ve heard stereotypes of Personal Trainers as being ‘superficial’ and ‘self-obsessed’. In actual fact, I think the complete opposite is true.

Any decent trainer will care about each and every one of their clients’ overall well being – not just the size of their muscles. And how can we be self-obsessed if we devote our whole careers to helping other people achieve their goals, often sacrificing our own training time or social life in the meantime.

So when a client says something as simple as;

“You’ve helped”

“I’m so happy with my progress”

“Thank you”
Well, I can’t speak for anybody else, but it certainly makes my day.

It's always the little things that make your hard-work worthwhile