By Kailey Fisicaro

The Bulletin

Mostly in leotards and leggings, local would-be aerialists flocked to a Central Oregon Aerial Arts beginners class Saturday to try their hands at “flying.”

Aerial arts is a form of acrobatics performed on “silks,” strong fabrics that hang like ropes from a ceiling (think Cirque du Soleil).

In the beginners class, instructor Kendall Knowles taught students with a range of abilities; some have been doing the activity for a year or two, while others came for their first time Saturday.

Anthony Wyke, 29, of Bend, and his daughter, Zoe Wyke, 10, were two who had never tried aerial arts before. Knowles showed them the first step in learning how to climb the silks, a “foot lock.”

“Over and under, yep,” Knowles said, watching Zoe wrap her foot in the silk fabric suspended from the ceiling. The point is to wrap the foot just tight enough to have a shelf from which to push off of and climb.

Zoe’s dad looked on, encouraging her.

“There you go, you got it,” Wyke said, smiling as his daughter figured out how to maneuver up the silks a couple feet off the ground.

In another corner of Get a Move On Studio, where Central Oregon Aerial Arts holds its Bend classes, a couple more experienced sisters practiced their poses even higher.

Avani Murray, 7, and her sister Cadence Kruse, 10, of Bend, each climbed her own silks; the two started at the program about a year ago. Every once in a while, the girls referred to small notebooks, which COAA manager Lauren Fletcher pointed out are like a playbook for poses students are learning.

Sierra Schreinerwood, 15, of Bend, helped guide Avani. Sierra, a freshman at Summit High School, has been doing aerial arts for a couple of years; in November, she was chosen to perform in one of Central Oregon Aerial Arts’ troupes.

Sierra said when she’s teaching she likes to demonstrate a pose, then walk through it slowly step by the step with students before letting them try.

“It’s a lot of remembering what to do,” Sierra said, adding once you get a feel for how you can move your body on the silks, it starts to come more naturally.

Several sets of silks hung around the studio so a number of the 15 or so students could practice at once; Sierra said silks have different degrees of stretchiness, and the more give a fabric has, the more difficult it can be to perform on. But stretchier silks can also make poses and “drops,” when a performer slides down, look more graceful.

As Avani slid off the silks and onto the foam pad beneath for a break, she rubbed a sticky substance onto her palms. It helps with grip, she explained.

“If you fall it could burn,” Avani said, demonstrating with her hands like she was sliding down a fire pole. The special grip prevents that from happening.

Like a lot of sports or activities, aerial arts can create some beginner’s aches and pains.

“This hurts,” Avani said as she adjusted her pose, hanging on the silks. Sierra asked Avani how it hurt, but the 7-year-old couldn’t describe it exactly. The discomfort wasn’t enough for her to hop down — she wanted to push through.

“You know how to not make something hurt in aerial?” Sierra said, encouraging Avani. “You do it a bunch of times.”

Back in the center of the studio, nearing the end of their first session, Wyke and his daughter were already learning a pose called “Superman,” where performers lean forward, allowing their arms to stretch back in a flying position.

“You’re totally fine, I’m spotting you,” Knowles said to Zoe as she became reluctant. With reassurance, Zoe fell easier into the pose.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325,

kfisicaro@bendbulletin.com

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