Swinging from a flying trapeze might sound like an act reserved only for daredevil acrobats, but learning this classic circus technique is made simple at Texas Circus and Aerial studio. The school’s new Cypress studio is home to Houston’s first outdoor flying trapeze open to the public and perhaps the only place you can learn to swing, flip and contort like a professional acrobatic without joining the circus. Students can climb to the top of the trapeze, hook up to a harness and experience being caught mid-air in the same way one might see during a jaw-dropping acrobatic performance at Cirque du Soleil.
“It really is incredible to support these girls, men and women as they achieve things they never thought possible,” says Kenali Kendrick, who co-owns Texas Circus and Aerial.
Kenali runs the studio alongside fellow aerialist Andrea Quintero. Together the two women have pioneered circus arts training in Houston by making what was once an exclusive art form accessible to families and kids–no fancy costumes required. The school teaches safe techniques and proper ways to perform on different aerial apparatuses such as silks, hoop, bungee, and trapeze. They also offer classes for aerial yoga, dance and hand balancing. Their performance
ARTISTS OF THE AIR
Kenali and Andrea began training in other performing arts before becoming aerialists–a term which describes acrobats who perform exclusively while suspended in the air. Ten years ago, Kenali was a cheer and gymnastics coach when she took her first aerial arts class. She never looked back. Andrea, a former dancer, trained at an aerial arts and yoga school in her native Venezuela before becoming a coach. The two met at an aerial arts studio in Fulshear where Kenali worked as a program director and Andrea coached. Not long after, the studio abruptly closed when the owner’s wife died suddenly. With no place to continue their art, studio members were distraught and begged Kenali and Andrea to create a new studio. On a leap of faith, the two women found a new location within a week and opened Texas Circus and Aerial’s first location in Katy in July 2019. Six months later, the pandemic hit and made operating the gym incredibly difficult. Two two pressed on, however, and made plans to open their Cypress studio, complete with enough property to house the flying trapeze. The studio opened last August, and in January debuted its much-anticipated flying trapeze. Classes were immediately sold out.
STRENGTH AND GRACE
The lure of aerial performance comes perhaps from the mix of strength and grace it takes to perform suspended in the air. Aerialists must be physically strong enough to support their own body weight yet creative and flexible enough to contort into a host of aesthetically pleasing shapes. Both Kenali and Andrea stress, however, that no experience is needed to start learning and immediately performing basic skills. The flying trapeze is open to people without any previous training. And in aerial silks–the studio’s most popular class– first-time students can learn how to hang upside down during their first session.
“Even a complete beginner with no athletic background or dance background can walk in and be completely astonished with themselves because of what they’re able to do when their mind and body is working together in that kind of situation,” Kenali says.
Aerial art is not only fun to learn and watch, but it makes for a great workout and confidence booster. Staying or getting fit, in fact, is a big reason why most of their students practice at the studio. Many of the movements engage the body’s core muscles yet are easier on the joints than weight-bearing fitness routines. And with so much spinning, flipping and stretching during aerial art routines, it’s easy to forget how much you’re moving your body.
“You don’t feel like you’re working out,” Andrea says. “You’re just having so much fun until the next day when your body is sore.”
The mental health benefits are quite real as well. As students lose weight, gain flexibility and strength, they grow more confident, more focused and able to attempt more daring techniques.
“When you’re doing it you’re unable to focus on anything else,” Kenali says. “It truly is an escape from anything else that could possibly be happening in your mind.”
PERFORMERS AT HEART
Although many Texas Circus and Aerial students are beginners aiming to get a creative workout, the studio also trains aspiring professionals. Young performers can audition for their junior performance team and prepare for entering a more advanced circus arts program such as the New England Center for Circus Arts. Kenali and Andrea also choreograph, produce and create a professional showcase called Fenyx which features dancing acts, magicians and more. Whether you’re dreaming of joining the circus or just want to experience something new, the team of instructors at Texas Circus and Aerial can help you reach your goals.
“We’re accessible to everybody,” Kenali says. “We can help you be just as successful as you want to be.”