Sunday, May 19, 2013

Studio Review: Esh Aerial Arts, Cambridge MA

Esh. Trevor on the floor, students milling about.
I've done silks for many years, but on a sporadic, on-and-off basis. Most recently I had my own rig at my last place in Chicagoland, but since I moved to MA I haven't found a place to set up (nor really had time, as I was both working and studying full-time this past year). So I really hadn't been on the silks since last summer. There's not really a circus school that's conveniently-enough located to me without a car (I'll get one eventually...), so I wasn't about to start frequenting anywhere locally. And I wanted a chance to review my skills (after the better part of the year off) before showing up for open training somewhere.

The perfect opportunity presented itself in the form of a silks workshop focusing on drops. I hadn't had room to do drops at my place in Chicago (just saltos and the wimpiest slack drops you've ever seen), so it was material I needed a review on anyways. And the only prerequisite was being able to do a "star drop," or a 3/4 side rotational drop as I knew it from my beginnings at Firefly/NYCAA/Circus Warehouse, so I figured it wouldn't matter that I was rusty. Either there would be some new material I'd never learned, or it would be all review and I'd just be a rockstar.

I was confused in registering because I never got a confirmation email--Esh doesn't use Mindbody but something called Zenplanner that I've never heard of? Anyone else use this? So I wasn't totally convinced that my registration went through (long story but I once registered for a marathon and got a confirmation screen but never the emails and found out like a week before the race that my registration hadn't gone through and I was SO MAD AND SAD and had to scramble to find another race in another city to expend my 4 months of training on, the upside being that Lisbon was lovely), but I checked my bank account the night before and the $50 had been deducted from my account, so I figured all was well.

The class was yesterday afternoon, and I arrived somewhat flustered because I hadn't been able to find the entrance to the school. There was no sign, I found the address but the door was unmarked so I thought I must have the wrong entrance, and there were buzzers but only 2 were marked and none said Esh. Pacing up and down the block, I went on their website in hopes of calling the front desk for directions, but neither their website nor google listed a phone number. Fortunately a lady at another local business told me which entrance to use and the door turned out not to be locked, and I was able to finagle my way to the studio's room. It wasn't obvious though, so leave extra time!

Being used to bigger spaces like the Brooklyn Lyceum and STREB, I was surprised how small Esh was. It was 2 rooms that were pretty average-sized, but with ceilings just high enough to do big drops from. One of the rooms had a boisterous class of people doing some sort of acro-balance and laughing like they were having the time of their lives, and the other was quiet and mostly empty with a pair or two of silks released from the ceiling. I was greeted by someone who was one of the studio managers or owners or something, and by the time I finished getting dressed the other workshop participants were starting to straggle in and stretch on the floor. Everyone was quiet and not talking and I felt disappointed that the atmosphere wasn't friendlier (like pole studios, circus spaces are intimidating to visit for the first time), but things warmed up quickly once we got to introductions.
The instructor was Trevor, who had trained at New York Circus Arts Academy around the same time as me, but had gone on to the pro track at NECCA while I went on to focus on my poling. So we knew a lot of the same people and drops, and fortunately for me he was able to translate terminology into something I would understand (circus move names are even more nebulous than pole move names).

Trevor gave us a handout of the moves we may or may not have been learning (we had a list of possibilities and chose from it based on our levels and what people wanted to learn) so that we could take notes, but of course I didn't because I suck about taking notes and I think I lost the handout anyways. There were 6 participants and we released one set of silks for each, but the rule was that only 3 people could do a move at a time so that the instructor could keep an eye out. Also, the ceiling was higher on one end of the room, so for bigger drops we could only use the silks on that side anyways. So while we had 6 silks open, only 3 were usually active past warmup climbs.

Trevor's teaching template was to fully explain a move, then demo it, then answer questions about it, then let us try. We also had to check in with him before throwing a drop, and like everywhere I made him say "3-2-1" before every throw so I wouldn't chicken out.

There was a good mix of drops I knew and drops I didn't. I even volunteered to demonstrate one that he called a "New York slack drop" because of what a staple it is in the NYC circus school scene. I found the other students (who had mostly been studying a couple years) to be supportive and eager to try new things, even when they were complicated or scary-looking.

Despite being small, Esh was still a fun place to spend a weekend afternoon, and I was able to leave feeling accomplished, happy, and just the right amount of sore and tired. However, the class ended at 4:30, and the train schedules being what they are I didn't get home until after 8. Sure, that gave me some quality shopping time at Downtown Crossings while awaiting the next commuter rail, but don't expect to see me there too often.

Oh, and because I know my readership is mostly pole people: Esh sometimes has classes in swinging pole. No, I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but sounds intriguing, huh?


Esh Aerial Arts
Equipment: Didn't count everything--there were at least 6 sets of silks, some trapezes and stuff, a swinging pole...
Amenities: 2 rooms, 2 bathrooms, changing stall, some sort of changing room-type situation
Drop-in price: $30 for aerial stuff, $20 for ground stuff (the workshop was $50 for 2 hours)

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