Fabric management! We’ve been calling this HR for silks in class at my studio. A unique challenge in aerial silks is the need to manage your apparatus! Other apparatuses like hoop, corde lisse, and trapeze are much simpler in this regard. Silks…silks is special…
It’s typical for students to fight with the fabric a bit, figuring out how to get it to behave properly.
There is a LOT of nuance in this subject, and it can get very nitty gritty. Let’s keep it simple and consider a few helpful tips and habits to make fabric management a wild success.
- Clear your workspace: Get in the habit of setting up your silks for the skill you are working on. If you’re working with split fabrics, separate the tails and send one in each direction so you’re not standing on or stepping over fabric. If you’re working with closed fabric, gather the tails together and send them off to the side that makes sense for your skill. E.g., hip key on the right, tails flow to the right. Opposite hook starting with the right hook, fabrics to the left. Your teacher will love you for this.
- Use your eyes – look carefully: It’s not unusual, when fabric gets caught on a body part, that a student will start kicking or flailing aggressively to get it off. Instead, look at what is caught and where. Often, a slight rotation or other adjustment of the body part is all it takes to untangle – no violence necessary.
- Slow down when reaching for fabric: We all know how annoying it is when you’ve only grabbed an edge of the fabric when you really want the whole thing. Try setting a goal in an aerial training session to be very mindful each time you reach for the fabric. Often the struggle comes in when we reach too quickly (often because we are panicking as we transition). Your position should feel sufficiently secure such that you can make this reach. If not, inquire more into what’s wrong with your starting point. If you can’t move with control even with the assistance of grip aid, this move is above your level! Ask for a modification.
- Separating your poles: Ah yes, the dreaded separating your poles. This is a very technical thing that can fully be resolved with practice. I think it’s easier to understand by watching, so watch this free video here to learn more.
- High reaches: This is tricky because it’s skill dependent, but I want to explain the basic theory of it. If you stand at the silk and grab it at chest level so your elbow is bent, see how far you can push it in all directions. Then, reach the hand up overhead as high as you can, and see how much you can push the fabric around. Much less the second way – so you can create stability and reduce unwanted movements with high reaches, assuming they are compatible with the skill you are working on.
- Spray it down: Fabric is slippery? Welcome to my life. I run a studio in a desert climate. It’s nothing like when I trained one block from the ocean. Rosin is awesome, but water is much cheaper and doesn’t cause buildup. We spritz our fabrics and hands throughout class. No, they do not mold (they dry in minutes). Yes, you CAN overdo it – there is a point of saturation at which the fabric becomes more slippery.
- The deepest nooks: In general, place fabric as deep into your hips and knees as possible. All the way into the crook of the knee, and all the way up the inner thigh. There will be exceptions for various wraps, but generally we are trying to snuggle into these wonderful nooks!
- Avoid the knee: Your knee is not game. Don’t put wraps on it. Wrap above and below, not on. Your little bones and tendons will thank you.
- Daisy chain at the end of class: Tying your silks up into a daisy chain keeps them off the floor where they be a trip hazard and can collect dust, bugs, and whatever else is hanging around the studio these days. It looks nice and tidy once chained!
- Wash your silks: Our face gets pretty close to the silks in training, so, you’ll probably be aware of when this is needed. Wash your silks monthly or as needed. Throw in a front-loading washer (or one with no central agitator) with regular detergent and wash cold. It’s usually just made of polyester/nylon, which are very sturdy fabrics so it’s safe to wash them. Machine drying can cause damage, so hang dry instead, spreading out the fabric so it can dry faster.
Learning how to manage fabric is an essential part of training aerial silks. Take time to develop good habits and get clear on how you can navigate its nuances. Fabric is completely manageable once you get to know how it responds to your movements!