Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Workout Wednesday - Beginner Silks at The Muse

I'm in New York this week for a work training and decided to take advantage of the tons of classes the city has to offer to try something completely new.

While I knew I wanted to try something new, I had no idea what kind of class I wanted to take and close to zero knowledge of New York City geography. To help narrow the field, I used GoRecess, which is kind of like the OpenTable of fitness.

It was really easy to find classes based on date and time, and to sort by type of class. The map view was also helpful, especially since I have a terrible sense of direction. After going through all the nearby options, I settled on beginner silks at The Muse Brooklyn and peer pressured my Williamsburg-based friend Sherri into coming with me.

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The Muse is a circus based community and artist collective which offers circus instruction blending physicality and creativity in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Aerial silks is a performance art where artists complete aerial acrobatics while hanging from lengths of suspended fabric. Getting all Cirque du Soleil requires mastering a variety of climbs, wraps, and poses that let you use the fabric to suspend, swing, and spin your body through the air.

The Class

I walked into The Muse with about 10 minutes until start time and no idea what to expect. Check in was easy and straightforward since we preregistered and prepaid online. The space is a converted warehouse with high ceilings that kind feels like your hipper starving artist neighbor's apartment. In addition to one large open class space with various eye beam hooks for aerial equipment and a tiny reception landing, the building also has two bathrooms/showers, cubbies for storing personal items and, oddly, a little kitchen where some of the artists were cooking dinner. After the previous class ended, the instructor hung two silks and we were ready to begin!

We got started with a quick jumping jack warm-up and then progressed stretches, some ab work, and push-ups. Nothing too unfamiliar, although we did do longer and deeper stretches than I'm used to. After the warm-up, we got to try the silks for the first time. The class was a mixture of levels, and my friend and I were the only first-timers, so our instructor Janine went back and forth between showing the three more advanced participants combinations to practice and teaching us the basics. 

During the hour-long class, we learned the simplest method for climbing the silk, as well as a more complicated method of climbing and a basic combination including a couple simple poses. We then ended with conditioning, which consisted of seated pull-ups using the silks. The class was physically very challenging for me, which is not surprising given my lack of both upper body strength and flexibility.  I could only get a couple feet up the silk, needed a lot of help from Janine to finally get the combination, and only managed about two seated pull-ups. Sherri (who can do MULTIPLE pull ups and has some rock climbing experience), did much better and was able to get farther along the progression, but still found the class physically tiring .

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Instruction: Janine gave clear instructions and was very patient. She did a good job of making us feel safe and comfortable (at least  as comfortable as possible knotted up in the air from  length of fabric). She also made sure that everyone (even me!) was able to experience some success and, with varying degrees of help, we all got to do something pretty cool for our skill level. 

Intensity: I'm not sure how many calories I burned, but this was definitely a pretty intense upper body workout and also challenged my flexibility and balance.

Cool factor: You're working to balance yourself in the air on elegant looking long pieces of fabric and can pretend to be in the circus. Some of your classmates are spinning upside down. This is a pretty big plus.


Difficulty: Silks are not easy, and it can definitely be a little discouraging to not be able to get anywhere or follow the instructor's directions.

Timing: The previous class ran a little late, and it took awhile to set up, so we started about 15 minutes late. We ended 15 minutes late as well, but I still like starting and ending on time.

Price: At $30 a class and $125 for a 5 class package, The Muse is definitely not cheap. However, Sherri tells me this is pretty reasonable considering the cost of gym memberships in NYC.

Bottom Line:

I had a lot of fun trying something so far outside of my comfort zone, got a great upper body workout, and really challenged my balance and flexibility. I don't think silks are my thing (mostly because I have trouble really enjoying things I am naturally terrible at) but I would highly recommend giving it a try to anyone who is looking for something new and cool. 


  1. Thanks so much for mentioning us - glad you were able to find a class and try something new on GoRecess!

  2. I love the site and how easy it is to find cool classes in new cities. Will definitely use it again as part of my fit travel tool box :)