Aerial Arts and Pole Dancing 3 the first trapeze. In the mid- 1800s, a young French gymnast named Jules Léotard (1838– 1870) rigged two separate tra- pezes over a swimming pool and jumped from one to the other this was the invention of what is now known as the fly- ing trapeze. Over time, circus performers used the design for rigging ropes to hold other equipment, such as fabric, straps, hoops, hammocks, webs, and poles. The popularity of modern circus performances, such as Cirque du Soleil, helped foster a greater public apprecia- tion for the health and fitness benefits of the aerial arts, prompting incorporation of the disciplines into wellness rou- tines, the creation of aerial arts studios, and the development of organizations dedicated to the circus arts. The need for professional aerial arts practitioners has increased in the last decade, as have the number of schools that offer training in the circus arts. According to a Circus Census conducted in 2010, there were about 250 schools focused on teaching circus arts, and 25 percent of those schools were opened between 2000 and 2010. University dance departments have also recognized the interest in the aerial arts, and multiple academic institutions now offer aerial training as part of their curriculum. HEALTH BENEFITS AND RISKS There is great variety in the types of activities performed in the aerial arts, and health benefits depend on the rigged device used, whether the device is flying versus static, and the focus of the exercise. In general, the aerial arts allow for upper body development, strengthening of the core, and lower body stability. There is also the benefit of spinal decompression, improved joint flexibility, and better postural alignment. From a mental perspective, the aerial arts offer a unique approach to fitness that is considered fun yet challenging. The aerial arts have their roots in the circus and utilize a wide variety of suspended apparatuses. They can be a fun way to build strength and flexibility for individuals who do not enjoy going to the gym. (Katarzyna Bialasiewicz|
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