Jan 30, 2015
Inside Brooklyn Airspace, Williamsburg’s New Aerial Gym
If you just walked into Brooklyn Airspace off the street, you might think that the Williamsburg space was an ordinary yoga or dance studio. There’s a large open space with a rack for coats and young women with impossibly honed leg muscles and colorful leggings milling about. But poke a little further into the back, and you’ll see four enormous lengths of fabric string from the floor to the ceiling where students and professionals hang from the rafters, practicing their aerial technique. That’s because Brooklyn Airspace isn’t just any fitness studio. It’s one where dance technique combines with the kinds of tricks you see in Cirque du Soleil, where professional aerialists and the just plain curious can try their hand at stunts that are more often seen at a circus than a gym.
The space, which opened just two weeks ago, is the brainchild of partners Jennifer Kovacs, Kyla Ernst-Alper, and Shalva Wise. Kovacs is a longtime aerialist, currently an in-house aerialist at The Box and formerly the resident at the Galapagos Art Space. She’s taught dance and aerial technique to years—n fact, that’s the way that she met Ernst-Alper and Wise, who were students in one of her classes. She has a following in the aerial world, so much so that her very first class at the Space was jam-packed.
“Aerial is a circus thing, and right now it’s gotten very popular,” Kovacs said. “People see it on television or see a show and want to try it out.” That’s what Brooklyn Airspace hopes to let people do, Kovacs told me, provide an accessible place for beginners to climb the silks as well as a space for pros to practice. But it’s not just classes in the air: You can also take instruction in Ballet, Modern Dance, or Pilates. There’s a ground-oriented class called Flex Fit which combines circus technique with dance conditioning to improve strength and flexibility. There’s also instruction in German Wheel, a circus technique that involves, well, gymnastic stunts done in an enormous wheel.
It looks like pretty extreme stuff, but Kovacs assures me that it’s the kind of thing that you can get into fairly quickly. “You have to learn two things fairly quickly, and the first is how to work with the fabric,” Kovacs said, indicating the long sheets of Nylon hung from floor to ceiling. The second is gaining enough upper body strength to hoist yourself up the silks. “I find it comes fairly quickly,” Kovacs said. In advanced classes, she teaches things like drops, climbs, and various mid-air poses.
Ernst-Alper noted that Airspace is unique in that it provides enough height for professionals to practice their acts from many feet up. “We wanted to have a system where you could book the space for an hour and know that you could practice, without worrying that it would be too crowded, where you would be guaranteed time on the apparatus,” Ernst-Alper noted. “It’s hard to find space like that in New York City, so launching this has been a real dream. We wanted to provide something for the aerial community.”
Brooklyn Airspace operates in the Immersive Gallery on Bedford Avenue from Monday to Thursday, and offers thirty different classes a week. As one student, fresh off the German Wheel, said to me, “It looks intimidating. But it gets addictive fast.”
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