Hello, my name is Helena. In my free time, I enjoy practicing aerial silks. Now, you might ask, “why would you consider this defying gravity?” Well, gravity is almost always used when doing silks. When you do drops, you are using gravity in every way. But there are some cases where you wrap yourself in something I call a friction wrap. This is where you wrap yourself in a way where most people think you would just fall. No knots and nothing exactly holding you. But in real life, you are creating so much friction on the fabric that it almost gives up. There are so many places that there is such a massive amount of friction that it can hold your entire body weight up. This sounds and feels almost like you are defying gravity.
Take a “hip key” for example. In this wrap, you are essentially just wrapping yourself for the fabric to go in then out of your thighs while you hold yourself up on the fabric using your grip. When you simply look at the wrap, it looks like you just have a fabric going behind your first leg, then through your legs, then on top of your second leg, but in reality, the friction that is being put on the fabric when it goes around your leg makes you not move and it feels like you are sitting down sideways. There are a lot of more intricate wraps and even drops that rely solely upon the friction created on the fabric when you do these wraps correctly. There is even a drop called the waterfall drop where you have zero knots or anything to hold you. In this drop, you fall forward simply relying on the fact that you wrapped each fabric three times around each leg.
Now, although it might sound like it, the aerial silks don’t rely fully on friction and gravity to help you. A lot of it is also strength and grip. To get into many of these wraps, you have to hold yourself up and even do movements by holding yourself by gripping onto the fabrics and staying there for several seconds. For example, for the “hip key”, you have to hang on the fabric using the grip of your hands and do a windmill movement with your legs to be able to get into it. When you are learning these movements, you are essentially hanging on to the silks for dear life hoping you can finish the leg movements and wraps before your grip gives out and you fall to the floor. Obviously, when you get the hang of the aerial silks, you have a very good grip from doing so many exercises to engage your grip. This is a way gravity works against you.
In conclusion, I hope that after reading some of my explanations and watching my video, you have a greater understanding and respect for the ways that gravity can work against you, but it can also be a great help when you use it correctly in the aerial silks. I hope this inspires more amazement in the art of aerial silks and other forms of circus arts and performing, and shows how complicated and precise that the aerial silks are, and the performers have to be while performing it!
This article originally appeared on InnovaSpace: https://innovaspace.org/blog/defying-gravity
Photo of Amy LaVan, taken during a vaudeville theatre performance, early 1900’s. Perhaps the first recorded aerial silks performer?