With a slew of superhero movies hitting theaters every summer, kids’ imaginations get a chance to run wild with the possibility of superpowers. Sure, x-ray vision and web-slinging sound cool, but usually at the top of the superhuman ability wish list is the classic feat: flying.
While kids may beg for a suit like Wonderwoman or a cape like Superman, the next-best option for kids wanting to take to the skies is summer camp at Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance Studio. The Boulder nonprofit specializes in all things aerial, and last year it celebrated its 30th anniversary. Since 2010, it’s offered week-long camps throughout the summer for kids 5-18 at all levels.
At camp, kids learn a variety of new skills throughout the week. Activities can range from trapeze to aerial fabric and aerial sling. Kids also learn dance, improvisation, beginning acrobatics and some circus skills like juggling, hoop dancing, spinning plates and more.
While the folks over at Cirque du Soleil make swinging through the air look like an effortless task, aerialists will tell you that it’s anything but. Climbing, spinning and making shapes with fabrics all require strength and fitness. Kids improve their flexibility and coordination all while getting a workout that’s entertaining.
“The great part about it for kids is that it’s so fun you don’t realize you’re doing a bunch of pull ups in a row,” says Laura Burgamy, coordinator at Frequent Flyers. “It takes a lot of energy to get your hips over your head into a hanging position or even just holding on to a trapeze bar.
But don’t think the campers are all required to enroll with a certain level of strength. Burgamy stresses the camp is open to all levels.
“You don’t have to be super physically fit to be successful in aerial camp. There’s all sorts of things low to the ground. We tie knots in fabric that become accessible to whatever physical level the kids might be in that week,” she says. “There’s a mix of ability, and aerial is really easy to be accessible to all levels of fitness and to challenge the kids who are maybe rock climbers.”
Some of the aerial stunts can seem intimidating for campers, and Burgamy loves to see when kids push their boundaries and attain a new physical achievement.
“There’s always some, ‘I don’t think I can do that,’ and then a lot of celebration when indeed they can do a forward roll or climb the fabric,” Burgamy says. “Most kids, whether physically strong or not, can climb the fabric once we teach them the most efficient way to do it.”
Besides the physical improvements, trying new activities makes kids more adventurous and confident. They also learn how to take risks. And importantly, they get to do that in an environment with a well-trained support team.
“We provide what we call ‘safe risk-taking.’ They have the opportunity to safely take risks such as hanging upside down or climbing above their head height, which can be really scary,” Burgamy says. “But of course they’re totally safe. Many of our teachers have been teaching for years. Some of our teachers have been there for two decades.”
Undoubtedly, Burgamy’s favorite part of camp is watching kids grow.
“The most memorable moments are when kids overcome challenges with these skills that at first seem impossible and then by the end of the week they’re able to do the skill and do it well,” she says.
Campers spend the week learning and improving their techniques, and, at the end of the week, they have a chance to perform everything they learned and put on a themed performance for friends and families. This gives kids the opportunity to stretch their creative muscles and also work together to create a show. Burgamy loves seeing what kids come up with. In the past she’s seen themes like underwater, shipwrecked, an art museum and fairies versus ninjas.
“When building the show, there’s room for kids to show off their strengths and be challenged,” she says. “Every student gets a moment to shine.”