Julia Siedlanowska

Photo courtesy of OneFlameintheFire/
Flickr Creative Commons

New Westminister (CUP) — Three months ago I discovered a fantastic and fun way to work out, and I haven’t been able to stop since. Aerial silks require strength, flexibility, and endurance. After my first class, my muscles were hurting for days, but there was something about the activity that had me excited week after week.

Two years ago, my instructor, Svetlana Mitsuko Delous, experienced a similar pull to the craft.

“I actually hated silks for the longest time,” Delous says. “They require a lot of upper-body strength, and coming from a dance background, arms weren’t my strongest point.”

Originally specializing in trapeze and aerial hoop, Delous wanted to expand her circus skill set.

“It wasn’t until I started performing and meeting other professional aerialists that I noticed that although most aerialists have one or two types of apparatus they specialize on,” she says. “Most high-level aerialists are able to perform on aerial silks rather well, even if it is not their specialty.”

As with any activity, your positive impressions of it largely rely on a good instructor.

“I love introducing people to circus and all it has to offer. I love watching students succeed and get excited over new accomplishments,” says Delous.

“With silks in particular I like being able to relate to any student that is having a hard time learning a skill at first, because I definitely started out that way when I first tried. I try to be very encouraging and let my students know of my own experience and that it is indeed possible to get skills if you don’t give up.”

I know that in my experience, such encouragement has been welcomed wholeheartedly.

“Silks gets very fun once you know how to work with the fabric,” Delous says, “and the hard work definitely pays off with some adrenaline-packed drops or gorgeous static skills that are embellished by the way the fabric flows around the aerialist.”

Last week, Delous guided me through my very first bungee—a move as terrifying as it sounds. After climbing up the silk (about 20 feet off the ground), you bind your feet and let go. The effect is that you hang upside down as if from a bungee cord. After a lot of shaking and screaming, I found that I was still alive when I let go (a success in itself), although it didn’t get any less scary the second time around.

“Honestly, any circus discipline requires dedication to push past the initial stages where everything seems hard and impossible, in order to move on to exciting tricks, dynamic skills, and drops. But once you have persevered and stayed in class, you can officially say you have one of the coolest hobbies around,” says Delous. “And as a bonus, it’s an amazing fitness and conditioning tool without having to do repetitive exercises at the gym.”

Although my classes are at Circus West in Vancouver, Delous also teaches at The Circus Lab Inc. in Langley, a school she co-founded and now co-owns.

“Working at Circus West has been an awesome experience from the start, as their atmosphere is incredibly supportive to both staff and students. Their learning space is also amazing because it is surrounded by arena-style seating. You always feel like you are in the centre ring of a circus, even when you are just training.”