Written by Linda Leiva | Photography by Nicole Rand
Like Peter Pan, the child in all of us often wishes to fly and twirl in the sky. That inner child may be perhaps a bit of a circus performer, or maybe even a Cirque du Soleil wannabe. AerialJade is the Neverland to bring out artistic movement in those who want to try.
Aerial art is a tool
The founder of AerialJade, Danielle Hirsh, hopes to find a community of people interested in art, athleticism, self-expression, and confidence building. Hirsh believes in the hunger for art and self-expression and blends the two here in LA with aerial arts. Her website states it is “a hub of artistic expression with circus at it’s core!”
“I want to bring out the art in people. I want to bring healing where healing is needed,” says Hirsh. “It healed me,” she recalls. “Half of my family had breast cancer, I had depression and dealt with drugs, and the world could have lost me. (Aerial) ignited all my art inside of me, and my life pivoted.”
Hirsh flourished in Corporate America, yet feeling unfulfilled, she swent to Florida and attended Orlando Circus School, where she learned the art of aerial performing. She already had a background in art, in winning Little Miss Maine in 1988 and 1989, and a performer’s heart. For her, what came together was the inner artist, physics, mental discipline, self-awareness, and strength. Aerial “woke up” the artist in her.
“Art is a tool of hope, a tool to cope if you will,” says Hirsh. “I see (aerial) performing as art first, not just exercise. Most of my students are in the health field, they are the real healers, and they are attracted to this art form. I heal healers!” she says enthusiastically. “We’ve come to a point in society where we have to invest in ourselves.”
“This is not for weight loss, but I can promise muscle growth and confidence. Some students consider this a ‘girls’ night out,’ and others see the benefit of connecting with their own bodies,” says Hirsh. Folks of all body types can participate in this experience if they are willing to learn.
Training, business, and art collide
Hirsh began AerialJade and holds classes at Pelletier’s School of Karate. She has private lessons and some group sessions in which the students encourage each other. These lessons are recorded to highlight their work and growth, and the students often share their videos of progress. Lessons begin at $25.00 for a 60 to 90-minute class. Classes for school-age children haven’t started, but are planned for the future.
Hirsh recruited and trained by the cast of cirque du soleil, is a performance athlete/artist. Her showcases reveal her skill, and that of some of her advanced students, as well as live painting and art shows. In addition, she has continued her training as an instructor through Jill Franklin, a world-renowned aerialist from Los Angeles.
Showcases Hirsh has hosted have been held on Park Street in Lewiston and another at Vista of Maine Vineyard & Cidery Wedding Barn in Greene. Held at sunset, the latter venue highlighted the art of aerial grace and expression. She is planning more showcases the Vista and in New York.
“The art and exercise are a delicate cross-fit training,” Hirsh says. Though the moves are somewhat ballerina-like and graceful, they do require considerable strength and control in the body’s core, legs, and arms.
The two primary pieces of equipment are the Lyra and silks. The Lyra is essentially a hoop suspended by a carabiner from at least a ten-foot-high ceiling. On this apparatus, the aerial artist can demonstrate a stag or gazelle (for whom Hirsh’s daughter, Jaselle, is named) or an upside-down position with legs looking much like a stag in motion or hanging from one’s ankles, for example. The silks suspended from the ceiling require a great deal of strength, more so than climbing ropes, because the silks tend to give a little. Hirsh explains that at 120 pounds, she puts 1,300 pounds of pressure on the silks.
Once the climbing begins, the performer can then wrap legs and feet around the silks to form loops to hang, wrap around the body to sit, and turn upside down, all while flying in the air with proper form. Usually, all of this is done to music that inspires her students.
Only the best
Hirsh is currently awaiting an order of more equipment being built in Hawaii, the same equipment built for Cirque du Soleil. Safety is of great importance to her; hence, she requires the best equipment. She also has rules about training. The proper form and moves are designed to keep artists safe.
Her business background supports her two-year plan to create more certified teachers. She is also looking to expand the number of showcases to bring together the community, such as in-store openings, Boys and Girls Club, celebrations, and partnerships with other local and Maine-based businesses. She adds, “I’m a Mainer, so I want to keep it here.”
Hirsh’s goal is to train others so aerial can spread. To network her business, she is a member of the Synergy Chapter of Business Network International. There is also a global board for aerial training.
Reflecting upon her success, Hirsh states, “With success comes greater responsibilities. (It’s the) small triumphs to see this in Maine, to create stages to support art in the fitness community.” And regarding her earlier comment about healing, “A community does not heal until adults come, heal, and grow. It affects their siblings and families.” Working with partners, she hopes to create a traveling circus school here in Maine.
All in all, according to Hirsh, aerial art can bring this warrior person out of you. We stand up and shout (about our success). Can you imagine bellowing, ‘I can fly, I can fly!’?