Photo by Sydney Cromwell.
Jennifer Colvin (red aerial silk) and Ann Williams started Birmingham’s first aerial silks classes in August.
Ann Williams’ arms were trembling. She had just been through the most intense workout she’d had in years, and she wanted to do it again.
“I was having fun, and I wanted to push myself to try that skill one more time even though my abs are killing me,” Williams said, recalling her frustration. “I was like jelly, and I didn’t want to be.”
That was Williams’ first experience with aerial silks, a gymnastic discipline performed on two fabric ribbons hanging from the ceiling.
She tried it in California and wanted to do it again, but there were no aerial silk programs closer than Atlanta. As the owner of Head Over Heels Gymnastics, located at 500 Caldwell Trace, Williams knew she had a unique opportunity to start something new in Birmingham.
“I thought if I’m this hooked, surely there are going to be other people in the community that are hooked too,” Williams said.
It was risky. Williams had no idea if the aerial program would take off. She found a local instructor, Jennifer Colvin, who had experience in other aerial disciplines but not silks. They took an instructor training class in Atlanta, installed the special rigging in July and began classes in August.
“It was kind of a whirlwind — ‘OK, we’re going to do it!’” Williams recalled.
The risk paid off. Already there are five regular students in the kids class, and between seven and 10 regulars in the adult class. Colvin said people always respond with “big smiles and laughter” when they first try the silks. Williams remembers one woman’s response at the end of the first workshop: “You just made Birmingham so much cooler!”
Colvin said that people keep coming back because of the creativity and performance that comes with the silks.
“With the silks there’s so many ways to do different things or get into different positions or the same position, and it brings a lot of creativity,” Colvin said. “I think it helps a lot with confidence. I think it really helps bring a lot of confidence out in the students because it gives them an outlet.”
Her favorite part of teaching the classes is watching her students finally get the pose they’ve been working on.
“Whenever they’ve had a difficult pose or position or move that they’ve been trying to get and they actually nail it, I get so excited for them and you can just see that smile and the light up on their face. You just can’t ask for more than that,” Colvin said.
The silks are fun, but it’s still a workout. Despite their regular practice, Colvin and Williams agree they both would have difficulty staying on the silks and moving through poses for more than five minutes.
“When you get up there and you’re trying to stay on the silks for more than two minutes, you’re going to be huffing and puffing,” Colvin said.
“It’s just amazing to see how much stronger people have gotten who have been coming regularly,” Williams said.
Aerial silk routines are a workout for the arms and core, especially, but Colvin said it is low-impact on most joints. There are also ways to modify routines to suit individual capacities.
Colvin has a student with one numb hand and another with a knee injury who can’t fully straighten her leg. In both cases, the students continue to perform on the silks, just with slightly different techniques.
“That’s part of what’s interesting to me, because even though I’m in my 50s so I don’t have the flexibility I had even in my 30s, there’s certain skills that either I can’t do or they don’t look good when I do them,” Williams said. “But then there are just so many other things that it’s like ‘OK, forget that one, I’ll do this one.’”
Both Colvin and Williams want to see the aerial silks community grow in Birmingham, and perhaps get to the point of doing performances. Most frequently, Colvin said people hesitate to join the class because they think they aren’t strong enough.
“Don’t let that bother you. Strength — that’ll come later. The excitement and the joy and just the passion and creativity — bring that along with you and we’ll do the rest,” Colvin said.
Aerial Silk Classes
- WHERE: Head Over Heels Gymnastics, 500 Caldwell Trace
- HOURS: Tuesdays, 6:30-7:30 p.m. (kids age 9-15) and 7:30-9 p.m. (adults)
- COST: $25 for single class, lower rates if purchasing multiple classes
- CALL: 981-2720
- WEB: headoverheelsgyms.com