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Pole, Silks, or Hoop: How to Choose An Apparatus

Updated: Apr 21

Today we take on the age-old riddle: which apparatus should I start my aerial journey on? The short answer is that we have curriculum for total beginners on any and all apparatuses; so, if you are mesmerized with one apparatus in particular, that is the one we recommend you move forward with. Still uncertain? Let’s take a closer look:

Pole: Once used almost exclusively in night clubs by exotic dancers, pole has grown over the past decade to include infinitely more styles of dance and acrobatics. The momentum for this apparatus has caused fitness facilities to latch onto it as a fun and unique exercise modality; and taken it all the way to stages of renowned circus shows such as Cirque Du Soleil. I personally felt that the success of pole classes in our relatively small, rural community lied in keeping the style of dance clean and lyrical, but I still love rocking out in my 7” heels from time to time.

  • The upside of pole: It may take a few practices before you feel it, but a committed pole practice is guaranteed to awaken the goddess within you. One of our high-level pole students Sandi F. says of pole “Start on pole! I love pole because it’s very versatile. You can do tricks on it up high, down low (low flows), dance around it and with it. There are some many things you can do with the pole!”

  • The downside of pole: Pole requires skin contact, so having to don short shorts can be a deterrent for some. We recognize this intimidation factor, so the good news is that we keep this class limited to women only; where you will be in the good company of like-minded women working to embrace what their momma gave them. Come as you are; there is no judgment here.

  • No pain, no gain: A common place to grip the pole is up high in between your thighs where there are oh-so-many nerve endings. Similar to wearing ski boots the first few weeks of ski season, this feels less than spectacular for the first few weeks (until the skin gets stronger), but then goes away.

Aerial Hoop: Known in circus circles as “lyras,” aerial hoops are yet another tool for dancing in the air (“levitating,” if you will). One of our student/performers Brooke K. says she thinks of aerial hoop as “the gateway drug of apparatuses because it is a great introduction to expressing yourself and gaining strength and confidence in the aerial arts.” Preach it, Brooke! Also, aerial hoop is one of the easiest apparatuses for working with a partner (in non-COVID years, since we are currently practicing social distancing).

  • No pain, no gain: There is a fair amount of hanging from the backs of the knees in aerial hoop, so the first few weeks of your practice, it is normal for the backs of the knees to bark at you. You can help protect the skin by wearing a thick pair of leggings.

Aerial Fabric – Aerial Fabric actually encompasses two types of apparatuses:

  1. Aerial Hammock is a type of silk fabric that is rigged so there is a loop at the bottom. Being able to stand on the loop and work with your body weight to execute picture worthy poses is a fast track to unlocking your body’s potential. One of our performers, Terri S., says of aerial hammock: “Hammock is a great apparatus for folks that want to see some sort of progress in a short amount of time. I have seen folks share a private lesson on aerial hammock and had a fairly long sequence down by the end of the hour.”

  2. Aerial Silks is the same type of fabric as an aerial hammock, but it is rigged so there are two long ribbons without a loop at the bottom. There is a bit of a learning curve before you can use the silks as two straight ribbon because (without the loop to stand on) you are holding your body weight on with your hands much of the time. So, our beginner’s curriculum in a silks class includes tying a knot in the silks and teaching skills much like what you would learn in an aerial hammock class. Personally, aerial silks are my absolute favorite apparatus because I love the adrenaline rushes that comes along with the big “drops.”

  • Both aerial hammock and aerial silks are big builders of cognitive function, because you have to memorize all the ways to wrap the fabric around the body. My memory should be good until I am 100 years old at this point!

  • No pain, no gain: Like pole and hoop, aerial fabric can be a bit uncomfortable in the beginning when the foot, thighs, etc., get tied up in the fabric. This goes away as the skin gets accustomed to it.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing an apparatus to start on. Feel free to reach out to us for a current status on our classes. For example, during our COVID-era and with fabric being harder to disinfect, the fabric classes are harder to get into since you have to book the classes / reserve a silk for yourself for the entire month. On the flip side, some times during the year, we are able to offer separate levels of certain classes, so it is can be really nice to start in a beginners only class if/when they are available. And, we always love the month-long series (i.e. currently lowFlow and aerial silks) because you get a lot of repetition with the same participants each week, which really helps to commit the skills to memory and get to know the other amazing women in our community.

When in doubt, feel free to give all the apparatuses a try and decide for yourself! Aerial arts (on all apparatuses) are a great opportunity for growth and strength. We are here to help you when you are ready to explore a deeper connection with what your body is capable of, so don't wait to get booked for a class, or give us a shout immediately!

Authored by Mindy Cochran. Mindy is the founder of Kalispell’s Levitation Nation Aerial Studio, where the catch phrase “fitness is fun” is embodied alongside a culture of movement & women empowerment. Mindy is also a columnist for "Montana Woman Magazine." Her column "The Real Levitation Experience" shares expertise for elevating health & wellness that she has acquired through her certifications as a personal trainer, nutrition coach, and life coach. For more about Mindy, please visit:

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