A Montana Sisterhood
Updated: 7 hours ago
The Levitation Nation Aerial Studio in Kalispell, MT opened its doors in February 2015, offering aerial fitness to the Flathead Valley. At Levitation Nation, certified instructors and aerial performers teach unique classes on pole fitness, aerial silks, and aerial hoop, and the catch phrase “fitness is fun” is embodied alongside a culture of movement and healthy living. Participants of classes have been known to speak of the community of people there who “lift each other up,” and how they have “accomplished things they never thought they would be capable of.”
The studio’s founder Mindy Cochran got her start in fitness teaching Zumba© and shortly thereafter she expanded on her love of dance to create a fun and energetic hip hop class called Dance Nation. Meanwhile, Mindy had started practicing aerial arts and took classes whenever she traveled, even learning from performers from the world renowned Cirque Du Soleil. Mindy says many people fall in love with aerials right from the start and that she definitely did. She says “I love the way the aerial arts blends fitness with dance and choreography, art and aesthetics, yoga and movement.”
Mindy goes on to say: “People who have never been to an aerial class are often curious on the structure of an aerial class. While the classes are all a little different, the bulk of each class is learning new aerial skills but we also integrate cardio, strength training, and flexibility work (stretching). Learning acrobatics is achievable for all fitness levels and total beginners because we have progressions for everyone. I myself started at age 33 with no experience what-so-ever. For the aerial hoop class, we hang hoops at a variety of heights, so there is success executing picture-worthy poses from very first day. For aerial silks, we start beginners out by tying a knot in the bottom so they have a place to stand while learning body positioning. As the student gets stronger, we take the knot out.”
The advanced level silks classes are taught by Mindy out of the Flathead Gymnastics Academy. Mindy says “I love teaching at the Flathead Gymnastics Academy because the owners are passionate not only about teaching movement skills, but they also focus on nurturing social skills, work ethic, and discipline in their gymnasts. I think classes at both the studio and the gymnastics academy empower participants because they get stronger and also because the instructors are so great at fostering creativity and self-expression.”
The studio’s most popular classes are PoleFit and Cirque for Teens/Pre-teens, so it’s no surprise that ladies night’s out/bachelorette pole parties and cirque parties for kids are also a huge hit there. The black-light glow parties are their most recent party addition.
A glance at the reviews page on the Levitation Nation website (www.levitationnation.org) makes it clear that students are equally passionate about acrobatics. One review states: “Levitation Nation is…like being part of a sisterhood. What Mindy has created is amazing…She has given us passion and ignited fires within all of us.”
Mindy says “I am just working to better myself and it is inspiring to be around the studio’s instructors, friends and clients who are working to do the same.” Mindy is a certified personal trainer and her fitness philosophy is that fitness should be fun but she knows fitness is also about friendship, community, and personal development. In 2018, Mindy had bilateral ACL reconstructions to repair knee injuries from the Spartan Race and snowboarding. She says: “As an avid snowboarder, dancer and acrobat; pulling myself out of my athletics for surgeries was met with deep waves of depression. But I used the down-time to get certified as a life coach because I felt the coaching tools would help me better help my clients.” Mindy finished her “year of surgeries” in a search to help others facing hard times of their own. She offered a free studio membership to everyone nominated for a “pick-me-up.”
Mindy holds titles as first place soloist for Montana’s first ever pole competition and also ambassador for Dragonfly Brand (an international sportswear line). Meredith Reed and Shelby McGrady (instructors from the studio) hold titles in the Pole Sport Organization’s Regional Competitions as well. Many of the studio’s students and instructors love to perform, so Mindy formalized the Levitation Nation Aerial Performance Troupe in 2016. The troupe is now known for their mesmerizing aerial acts which they have performed at music festivals and circus shows throughout the northwest United States. Locally, you can catch their acts at events/venues such as The Firebrand’s Whitefish Winter Carnival Celebration, The Princess Ball, and Casey’s Bar in Whitefish.
Mindy says “Aerial fitness feel more like playtime than any other workout. With just a little work up front to learn some basic skills, you will be amazed at how movement starts to unfold. Most of our classes are open for walk-in but we occasionally run workshops that require pre-registration. You can always find a current schedule of classes on our website. We definitely encourage everyone to explore this wonderful world with us! And for those Montana women who have been a part of the studio in any way, large or small, we are incredibly and eternally grateful for your support in creating such an amazing place to meet other like-minded women here in Flathead County!”