Sunday, December 21, 2014

Studio Review: TSNY Boston

I've always known people who trained and/or taught at the unscalably-named Trapeze School of New York (which today exists in many cities, so it confuses people in Illinois when you tell them you're going to Trapeze School of New York in Chicago). I'd never been, partially because it's expensive and partially because they specialize in flying trapeze, which I've always declared I would never touch with a 20-foot pole. It's not a fear of heights or anything, I just have delicate shoulders that like to dislocate themselves and the dead hang used in trapeze is the worst thing I can do to them. But when I mentioned to one of my coworkers that I was an aerialist, she insisted that we try flying trapeze together.

TSNY Boston was locally famous for being located inside Jordan's Furniture in a North Shore suburb. Even people who knew nothing about circus knew about the trapeze school inside the furniture store. It would actually have been a very convenient location for me if I'd had a car, but I don't, so I never went. Just within the last few months, TSNY Boston has moved out of the furniture store and into a location right next to North Station, which is absolutely perfect for me--the train line I live and work on goes straight there!

I had sticker shock looking at the class prices--$50-60 plus a $20 registration fee--but luckily they had just started a LivingSocial deal, so we were able to get in for much less.

Here's what I was expecting the first class to be like: A lot of time warming up and doing practice exercises on the floor, practice some positions on a static trapeze, and towards the last half of class start trying simple swings from your hands or knees.

Here's what the first class was actually like: the teachers gave us some simple instructions on how to take off, they demo a sequence with multiple steps in it, and they say "Who's first?"

Fortunately we had some brave people so I was not first. I really wanted to watch the little routine a few more times before attempting it. Everyone in the class that day was a beginner (the joys of running a Living Social deal), and most people didn't get the sequence on the first try. But it's OK because you're in a harness being belayed by the instructors and the net you land into is insanely bouncy.

The routine was: Jump off, then tuck your legs in and hook your knees on the trapeze, then let go with your hands, then put your hands back on, then unhook your legs and straighten back out, then let go and fall into the net on your butt. The important thing was you had to do each thing exactly when the instructor said to do it, and they're yelling up commands while they're belaying you and the belay is making noise and the room is echoey and the instructors have accents so it can be hard to understand what they're yelling.

So um, it's really scary! And I'm not afraid of heights or anything, but you have to climb this giant foreboding ladder and then wait for them to hook you in, and there are so many things to remember, and the whole, like, "hey you're really high up, jump!" thing. I've never done skydiving or bungee jumping or anything like that.

The other thing we learned was kicking your legs back and forth to gain momentum to do a backflip off the trapeze. It was hard to get the timing of the kicking right, but the backflip itself was pretty easy (at least in the harness with the help from the belay).

So I got everything right, but after the first hour I was like, "OK I did it, mission accomplished, time to go home!" Except it's a 2-hour class. Except EXCEPT, as I was going up to do my 4th or 5th turn, one of the instructors did something to the rig and they examined it and determined they needed to work on it, so they cancelled the rest of class and had us reschedule. They said it was a totally abnormal thing to happen, and that the rig had been fine while we were using it so we were always safe, but I wasn't worried about it. Like I said, I was ready for a break anyways! And that meant we got to come back for free.

So my friend and I did come back a couple weeks later and I think I benefited from the time off in between, because it seemed easier and less scary the second time. We repeated the same sequences from the first class, and ended with a catch, which you can see in the video up top. Not bad for one and a half lessons, huh?

As for TSNY Boston's other classes, I don't know much. They had a trampoline class going on while we were there, but I never saw their other apparatuses out. I know they have silks and lyra and stuff. No pole, alas, but I'm not even sure where they'd put one considering how high the ceilings are. But anyways, there are tons of places in Boston where you can learn silks and lyra but not very many where you can learn flying trapeze. And this place was very well-organized--corporate, even--which I think is what you want when you are defying death. No brown M&Ms, right?

TSNY Boston, Boston MA
Equipment: Flying trapeze rig, static trapeze to practice moves on, trampoline, other sundry aerial equipment that I did not see
Amenities: Large reception area with couches, merch, on-site photographer (you can purchase a flash drive of your photos), locker rooms
Drop-in price: $50-60 for a 2-hour flying trapeze class plus $20 1-time registration fee

Video (of me!) by Theresa Racicot

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Studio Review/Pippi goes climbing: Metrorock, Newburyport MA

This is kind of a studio/gym review and kind of a diary of going climbing for my first time. Like, it's my first time so I have nothing to compare it to, but I still thought you'd like to know about it!

There's a lot of people where I work on the North Shore of MA who go to this climbing gym in Newburyport. One of those people is a good friend of mine who started taking pole from me. So I agreed that since she tried pole, I should try climbing. Now that a series of performances, teaching engagements, and other physical activities are behind me, I finally made the trek up.

The gym is Metrorock Newburyport, and I'm lucky enough that my friend had a guess pass so I could get in free.

Metrorock Newburyport is conveniently located right next to the commuter rail, but I caught a ride with my friend. She warned me as we were getting out of the car that Saturday is a big birthday party day there, so the place might be swarming with children (ugh), but it looks like we just missed the party and it was pretty quiet.

Metrorock is in a huge warehouse-like space, which is an environment that will be familiar to many aerialists (more those that train in circus schools than those that train in pole studios, which tend to be smaller). The first thing that struck me was how colorful it was. The grips sticking out from the walls were color-coded, creating a kind of whimsical atmosphere.

My friend told me to wear yoga pants or leggings and layered tops since it can get cold, so I wore my Bad Kitty pants, SuperShag 2014 Competition tank top (I was a pole cleaner), and my awesome Intrigue Fitness hoodie that I can't believe is holding up considering how much I wear it. So I was all decked out in pole gear and pigtails, representing! I had to rent a pair of shoes from the counter, which were kind of like slim-fit sneakers. I found them perfectly comfortable (they make you get a size up from street shoe).

So my friend Judy walked me through some of the basics: some of the grippy things are good handholds and some are good footholds, worry about moving your feet before moving your hands, try to hang with your arms straight rather than flexing and wearing out your biceps.

The coolest thing is that the different courses you can do are color coded like hiking trails. Like, if you want to do an easy climb, follow the yellow; if you want to do a harder climb in the same area, follow the green. Each course was labeled with a level, although there were a few different numbering schemes (competition style and something else), so doing a 120 in one part of the room is easier than doing a 3 in another part.

We started with "bouldering," which is the lower walls that you do without a harness. I kind of assumed this whole thing would be really easy for me since I am an aerialist, but I started at the easiest course (a 50) just to get my bearings. IT WAS HARD! Your forearms get exhausted right away; it was like doing silks for the first time. It's totally not obvious figuring out where to put your hands and feet, and there's nothing holding you up except your tenuous grip on a red blob sticking out of the wall. And there's all this fancy footwork like hopping to replace one foot on a grip with your other foot, and pivoting against the wall. I made it to the top and back on my first try, but it was pretty exhausting and it was basically the bunny slope.

My second course (I think it was a 70) was a little harder and took me two tries, but I did get complimented on my hoodie by a lady my friend knew. You never know how strangers are going to take pole dancing apparel!

So we did several paths, and I got most of them. There was one I bailed on just because one of the reaches was putting my shoulder in a compromised position.

After about an hour of that, Judy suggested trying the auto-belay, which is where you are in a harness and the line is controlled mechanically (as opposed to a person belaying you, which we weren't allowed to do because I didn't have the training). I was happy when she told me that bouldering was more difficult than belay, so we had already gotten the hard part out of the way.

I rented a harness. Putting it on reminded me of putting on Bodybinds; it was kind of a similar shape with a belt and garters.

Again, I did the easiest courses. It was a little easier with the belay, kind of like doing an assisted pull-up. I never really jumped down and let it take my full weight, which is probably something I should have tried and gotten used to.

I think I got through 2 paths successfully and bailed on the 3rd. My blood sugar was getting low and my hands were starting to hurt from the rough grips. (Again, kind of like your first silks class.) Overall we were climbing for an hour and a half, which I think is pretty respectable for a first try!

I can see how climbing appeals to thinking types. Like silks, there is a lot of strategizing and thinking ahead and trying to mentally picture how to make something work. Aside from it being really exhausting on the forearms, and definitely getting your heart rate up, I didn't feel like I was working my other muscle groups especially hard. My arms and legs were never tired and as of right now nothing is sore (my hands are a a little raw). I think it is something other aerialists should try, though, because it's a completely different way of using the exact same skills. Climb, keep your balance, calculate how to execute something, preferably in advance but maybe while hanging on by a pinky. Embrace heights. Scare your mom.

Metrorock, Newburyport MA
Equipment: Bouldering walls, belay walls, auto-belay, I saw a chinup bar in the back... Shoes ($5) and harnesses ($3) for rent
Amenities: Bathrooms/locker rooms, reception area with merch and snacks, area to change shoes with storage cubbies
Drop-in rate: $20

Photos (of me!) by Judy Erkmann