Miguel Chornus-Goldstein Â?helps Lizzi Meisman during a beginning low trapeze class at the Dairy Center For The Arts
Miguel Chornus-Goldstein Â?helps Lizzi Meisman during a beginning low trapeze class at the Dairy Center For The Arts

Workout of the Week

Frequent Flyers, Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-245-8272, www.frequentflyers.org

Instructors: Class was taught by Lynda White, who has a master’s in dance from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and Andrea Moon, who has a Ph.D. in theater.

Nancy Smith, of Lafayette, is the founder and artistic director. Smith has been dancing professionally for 30 years and started in aerial dance in 1987.

“It was the perfect marriage of my love of dance and spinning until I get dizzy and fall down,” she says. “I spent a lot of time climbing trees, swinging and spinning. When I discovered there was a way to blend my art form — dance — with that motion, it changed my whole approach to what I was doing in life.”

What is the workout? Beginning/intermediate low-flying trapeze, which teaches the building blocks on how to aerial fly. Students learn aerial vocabulary and work on flexibility, balance, strength and creativity.

Smith describes is at “recess for adults.” It builds upper body and core strength, while emphasizing grace and beauty, flow and improv.

What does it cost? $22 per class, and you must sign up for an entire session. There are four to eight sessions per workshop.

Who does it? Class is open to all body types and abilities, age 10 and older. Teachers have taught overweight participants, a woman with no arms and people with arthritis.

“It’s about getting the experience of being in your body, finding some things you can do successfully and building the strength as you go,” Smith says. “We believe everyone can be successful learning this art form, work at their own level and do things they didn’t think they could do.”

Each class has a maximum of 18 participants of all ages, men and women. An estimated 5,000 people have taken trapeze classes in the studio’s 21 years.

When: The next beginner’s series begins May 2. Frequent Flyers will have classes running through June, too. Each class lasts 1½ hours.

Level:The class is beginner/intermediate, but it is not physically easy. It challenges you, not only your strength, but it also pushes your boundaries of what your body is used to doing. It can be a real mental hurdle to hang upside down by your knees and swing.

The class teaches the basic vocabulary and a progression of movements that build on strength. The material gets more difficult as the moves get more difficult — one-handed, on the ropes — and as you learn to do the moves with motions — spinning, swinging or both.

Format: Warm up in an opening circle. Then teach new vocabulary, such as monkey, sitting vine and lion in the tree.

“You start learning the words. Then as you progress, you put them together into sentences and paragraphs,” Smith says.

A portion of each class involves circling and swinging. Later, classes incorporate partner work and improv.

Equipment:Low-flying trapeze, a trapeze connected by a rope to the ceiling at one point. The bar is 5 feet off the ground, and there are no nets or pads. In more advanced classes, participants move beyond the trapeze onto things such as fabric, bungee, rope and harness and Spanish web.

What to wear: Comfortable clothes that you can go upside down in, no shoes. Bring water — “And your inner child, your sense of adventure,” Smith says.

Muscles worked:Your upper body, shoulders, arms and forearms and core. Oh, the core. Oh, oh.

Plus, there are health benefits with being upside down. It increases blood flow to tissues in the upper body, can help your eyes and hair and keep fluids moving properly through the inner ear. For young people, being upside down can help with brain development, and as we get older, it helps combat things that happen with age, including the loss of balance.

One new move:Lion in the tree. Sit on the bar. Hold on to it with both hands and swing one leg behind the bar, so you are sort of straddling it. Whatever leg went behind is the side you will recline toward. Put that shoulder in front of the elbow and the rope. With one leg behind and one shoulder in front, lie across the bar. Oh, and don’t fall!

Actually, although this pose feels strange, especially with your shoulder in front of the rope, it is surprisingly secure.

What’s different: Unlike a circus-based class, the moves taught are not a rigid set of tricks. In circus, if you don’t have the strength, you can’t do it. Here, the teaching method and varied approaches work around everyone’s physical needs. It’s like the difference between gymnastics and modern dance.

Unlike other exercise or dance classes, aerial takes your body through a whole range of motions — 360 degrees. Working against gravity moving from upside down positions builds strength.

This aerial dance class is different than other aerial classes because it follows Smith’s unique teaching methodology. Other aerial classes teach more from the inside-out, and don’t name the vocabulary. Smith’s methodology offers a linear progression with clear movements from the ground-up, literally.

What I loved:I have been doing different workouts every week for almost two years. I have done some crazy stuff. But this class was not only the most fun class I have ever taken, it was also one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life.

Like Smith, I am a tree-climber, hanger-upside-downer, spinner kind of girl. I try to dedicate time every night to stand on my head. I have never had an excuse to legitimately combine and practice these random interests. Until now. I am so happy I could just, well, spin.

What I didn’t like: Not having a trapeze bar at home to practice on, because by the time the second class rolled around, I forgot a lot.

Inspiration for class: Smith began developing her teaching method after the Colorado Dance Festival asked her to teach a class 20 years ago.

How I felt after the class:Elated. My abs were exhausted.

How I felt later:Like my life might end if I did not go back to the remaining four classes in this series.

Know of any interesting workouts? Tell us about them so we can check them out: heckela@dailycamera.com or 303-473-1359.

— Reported by Aimee Heckel.

VIDEO: LOW FLYING TRAPEZE