Aerial Silks Brings Renewed Excitement to the Climbing Gym

Colorado College students are always excited about new activities on campus, but there’s been a special buzz surrounding the aerial silks classes offered in the climbing gym. The classes, which teach students how to maneuver themselves on fabric hanging from the ceiling, have filled up immediately, with students on the waitlist every week.

Photo by Daniel Sarché

First-year Brett Wilsey “had done aerial silks one time before at a convention in Denver” and “fell in love with it.” Once she heard about the silks class from the Outdoor Recreation Committee mailing list, she decided to give the free opportunity a try. Wilsey explained that during the sessions, three instructors start by teaching the moves on a mat on the ground, and then later coach the students through those moves in the air. “They were very helpful and made me excited to come back,” Wilsey said.

Ankita Sharma, also a first-year, described how the silks class “involves strength and flexibility in similar ways” to dance, an activity in which she and Wilsey both participate. “I think the silks class can improve my strength, balance and endurance, which can be helpful for numerous activities,” Wilsey, who’s been on both the dance team and an intramural hockey team during her time at CC, added. “It was harder than I expected, which makes me want to get stronger!”

Junior Riley Hutchings, one of the class instructors, was introduced to aerial silks in high school when she took a two-day comprehensive course. “When I got to CC, I started regularly attending the free classes and fell in love with aerial silks,” Hutchings said. Junior Naomi Tsai, one of the other instructors, “had never heard of aerial silks” before she came to CC, but was encouraged by Hutchings to try one of the classes during FYE. “After attending my first class, I was absolutely hooked,” Tsai said. “I liked the way it combined different disciplines, and the way it was physically and mentally challenging. I attended every class I could after that.”

Like Wilsey and Sharma, both Hutchings and Tsai emphasized the benefits they’ve noticed in other parts of their life as a result of working with the silks. “I climb, and aerial silks is great cross-training,” Hutchings said. “Aerial silks is a great way for me to stay in shape with a busy schedule,” Tsai added. “[It] challenges me to better develop my strength and flexibility.”

Since the instructor for the intermediate classes is off campus for Block 5, the only class being offered at the moment is a beginning class held once a week. “Right now, we have three instructors co-teaching the beginner class,” said Tsai. “There are two sets of aerial silks in the gym, so we will split up the class between silks and instructors. Because the class is held in the climbing gym, we have to do all classes before the gym opens for climbing hours.” Once the intermediate instructor is back, they will start having both beginner and intermediate classes once a week. “We might be able to start offering more than one beginner class per week as well,” Tsai said.

Tsai’s favorite part of teaching is the end of the class. “I get to see how far everyone has come in just an hour of doing aerial silks,” she said. “Everyone is tired because they’ve been working hard, but they’re always so happy because of what they’ve accomplished that day.”

“A lot of people are scared they are not strong enough to try aerial silks, but anyone can,” Hutchings explained. “There are modifications to everything we teach to make the moves easier, and we want people of all strength levels to come try it out.”

Although it’s been hard to get into the classes this block, even with a waitlist, new opportunities to try aerial silks will open up during Block 6 in response to the high demand. The classes have been received extremely well by the CC community, so the instructors hope to share their love of silks with more students. “Watching someone’s face light up when they figure out a new move or finally get something they’ve been working on is extremely rewarding as an instructor,” Tsai said.

For new information on upcoming aerial silks classes, check the Outdoor Education tab on Summit.

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