With our studio expansion in full swing, we can’t wait to open up downstairs. Having more space means we are able to offer more classes, more time slots and most excitingly, a new apparatus!
So what exactly is sling anyway? Aerial sling, also called aerial hammock or loop, is a long piece of stretchy fabric, with the ends looped together and rigged to the ceiling like a hammock. It’s very similar to aerial silks, however the loop of fabric allows you to sit in the sling, much like you sit in a lyra or a swing. The fabric is strong, smooth and lightweight, and is stretchy along the cross-grain (stretching across the width, not up and down. This allows the aerialist to perform wraps and tricks using the sling like a rope, or by cocooning themselves inside the fabric. The aerial sling can be static, swinging or spinning, and they come in all sorts of different lengths, depending on the ceiling height of the performing space and how far the aerialist wants to be off the ground.
The nature of the sling means that it combines both the skills used in trapeze or lyra, and the skills used in silks. Spins, hangs, wraps and drops will all feature in sling classes and routines! Sling takes a lot of strength and control, as well as a good memory for the different wraps and motions to acheive the moves. All this can feel pretty overwhelming, so here are a few tips to get you feeling ready to give sling a go!
Words and photography by Eva Devore, additional photography by Etienne Reynaud
You’re going to be working hard in your classes, so it’s normal to get hot and sweaty! Because the sling is a fabric apparatus, the fabric can get dirty and trap odours very easily. Make sure you bring along a sweat towel, and deoderant, to stay as dry as possible and preserve the slings for other classes!
You will also want to bring along a water bottle to take into class, as well as some socks to help you spin and slide on the floor (and prevent your toes snagging on the sling!) If you need to cover any piercings, sports tape or band-aids will be useful to cover these up.
If you’ve signed up to a Vixenettes class, don’t forget your heels!
As the sling is fabric, it’s crucial not to wear anything that can snag or tear the apparatus. Buckles and hooks on clothing can tear the fabric, and this makes the sling very unsafe for yourself and other students to use!
The best thing to wear for sling is a soft bodysuit with stockings (no garter belt!), a catsuit, or a sports top and leggings. You will want your back and legs to be covered. If you are wearing a normal bra, make sure to cover it with a fitted top or bodysuit. Outfits should not include any rhinestones, studs or anything that can snag. Jewellry can also be a snagging hazard, so it’s best not to wear it. Any body piercings that can’t be removed should be covered with sports tape or a band-aid. Sharp nails are also a no-no!
Learning a new apparatus is always going to be a bit tricky but here is what you can expect from your first class.
If you’ve never done any aerials or pole before, you will find sling quite challenging. Because the fabric moves around, unlike a solid lyra or pole, you need to ensure you are actively engaging your muscles to hold yourself in the apparatus. In this way, sling is a lot closer to pole, as you need to hold on, and wrap yourself around the fabric.
However, sling also shares some similarities with lyra and trapeze, as the loop of fabric means you can sit in the sling quite easily, or stand, or even flip upside down! Students will find going upside down is much, much easier in a sling than it is on the pole or lyra.
Wrists and grip strength are going to be really useful when starting on the sling. As you have to actively hold on to the apparatus and lift yourself, a strong grip is going to help you, especially as the fabric isn’t stable, like a pole or a lyra is. Working on your grip strength, wrist strength and wrist flexbility will give you a head start!
Its important to always warm up your hands and wrists before you do any aerial work. Wrist circles and rotations are really helpful, as are gentle stretches through the hands.
Your lyra and pole training will help to really develop that grip strength, but there are a number of things you can do at home, too. Try squeezing a tennis ball or stress ball, or crumpling up sheets of newspaper one-handed. Check out this video for some hand warm-up exercises for circus and aerial skills.
Being able to lift your own body weight is crucial for advancing in all aerial arts, and sling is no exception. To be able to move into more advanced positions, execute tricks and even to get into the shorter sling, you will need to be able to lift your bodyweight. Much like an invert in pole, or a hox mount or flip mount in lyra, getting up into the sling requires strength and muscle engagement.
You can work on these skills in preparation for starting your sling lessons. Using a lyra, a pull-up bar, or even the monkey bars at your local playground, practice engaging your shoulders with a “shoulder shrug.” Hang from the bar with a relaxed shoulder, and then actively engage your shoulders, pulling them away from your ears. Practicing your inverts will also help!
Having so much to learn can feel really daunting, so get yourself inspired by seeing what some of the talented aerialists out there are doing. Instagram is full of amazing artists who continue to push boundaries of strength and stamina, and create beautiful shapes and flowing routines. Some of our favourite sling artists to check out on Instagram include @justine.rickard, @violets_aerialsully, @jendoll.la and @megan.loreen.
You can also take a peek at our routines for our debut sling Mini Term. Our beautiful Babydolls routine was choreographed by the amazingly talented Maddie Belle, while Katia has creating a stunningly flowing routine for our Pearls. If getting down, dirty and sexy is more your style, the smoking Miss Dahlia has you covered with her Velvet Vixenettes choreography!