‘One spray of resin and suddenly, I was gripping like a kitten climbing a leg’

Dominique McMullan is challenging herself to do something different every week: this week, aerial acrobatics

After 14 attempts, I climbed 10ft off the floor, and felt like I could pretty much sell out a Vegas show.

After 14 attempts, I climbed 10ft off the floor, and felt like I could pretty much sell out a Vegas show.

 

This week I tried aerial acrobatics. Aerial acrobatics is what they do in Cirque du Soleil, or as my husband calls it, fancy swinging around from the curtains. It’s graceful and beautiful, and like most of these things, much harder than it looks.

I joined a beginners’ class in Dublin and from the get-go felt out of place. I was under the impression I was reasonably fit; but the warm-up involved lots of star jumps, planks and exercises that left me wobbly. It had been a long day and the circle of serious-faced strangers doing silent star jumps made me giggly; my sweaty grinning may have come off as strange.

Through a gap in the door you could see the space with the silks (that’s the proper name for the fancy curtains). There was a double-height ceiling with huge churchy windows that looked down over Exchequer Street and from high in the rafters hung long, colourful strips of fabric. It was quite beautiful.

Once warmed up (ie wrecked and red-faced) it was time to start on the silks. I buddied up with another complete beginner, a woman I had already met at a different beginners’ class (that one was for hip-hop – I may be developing a problem).

Climbing involves wrapping the silk around one foot, and clamping on to it with the other.

All around us, women immediately began levitating, climbing up fabric like elegant ballet-dancing monkeys. “I thought this was meant to be a beginners’ class?” my buddy said, looking scared. I knew how she felt.

After some more stretching and faffing around, we attempted our first climb. Climbing involves wrapping the silk around one foot, and clamping on to it with the other, while pulling yourself up by your arms and letting the silk pass between your feet. It sounds complicated because it is.

My considerably sweaty hands were having a lubricating effect on the fabric and making everything much more difficult. How in god’s name did everyone else look so limber?

The Cirque de Soleil secret? Resin. A little spray of the stuff on my hands and suddenly, I was gripping like a kitten climbing a leg.

After 14 attempts, I climbed 10ft off the floor, and felt like I could pretty much sell out a Vegas show. That wasn’t so hard.

Two days later and everywhere hurts, apart from my ego, which is ready to pirouette up another silk at a moment’s notice. Don’t forget the resin.

See aerialcirque.org

  • Do you have suggestions for what Dominique should try next? Email your ideas to dmcmullan@irishtimes.com
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