Exercise reaches new heights with Samadhi Hawaii
Text by Rebecca Pike | Images by Jonas Maon
First noted in Europe in the 19th century, the art of aerial dance was long practiced only by cirque performers and in tiny pockets of dance communities. Moving from awe-inspiring climbs to gasp-inducing drops, an aerial performer suspends from a long, strong “silk,” today made of a synthetic blend rated to hold the weight and impact of a falling body. (What is the physics formula for a 100-plus-pound package dropping 30 feet?) The silk is rigged to a scaffold, ceiling, or even tree. The resulting performances, which have taken place from the 1880s to contemporary times, is graceful, nail-biting, and a bit mind-bending.
Today, the tricks of the trade are entering the mainstream. Most major cities have at least one studio offering classes on dancing with aerial silks (some are even insisting on practicing yoga while wrapped in the things). In Honolulu, the studio is Samadhi Hawaii in Our Kaka‘ako. Renowned for its elaborate aerial shows, especially in outdoor spaces with silks hung from high trees, the company is also an established teaching studio.
“My theory is, ‘Come and hang with us,’” says Samadhi owner and bona fide sprite Andrea Torres. “There is no prerequisite to learning.” The Cooke Street studio, which opened in 2005, now offers around 30 classes per week for kids and adults.
Most of the regulars here are dancers, but Samadhi also has a strong following of folks who are looking for a new and different form of exercise. “It’s way more fun than the gym and very physical,” says exercise physiologist and Samadhi regular Reggie Palma. “I’m a lot stronger and more muscular than I was, and I’m a better professional because of what I’ve learned to do with my body.”
With a continual sway broken only by climbs and drops, the dancer appears to be taking flight—a dreamy, fairy fantasy-like effect—and may spend quite a bit of time horizontal or even upside-down. When choreographing, says Danielle Cohen, who has been performing aerial dance since 2008 and is now a founding member of the aerial burlesque dance troupe Volary, the trick is to achieve the movement and drama that you want while always considering the grip the dancer must maintain on the silk. If it’s not being grasped with hands, it’s wrapped securely around a limb or extremity. “So you’re somewhat restrained,” says Cohen. “But little hurdles help find new paths.”
Samadhi Hawaii is located on the 2nd floor of 330 Cooke St. in Boca Hawaii. For more information, visit samadhihawaii.com.