Embrace Your Inner Child With Westchester Circus Arts (and Get a Killer Workout, Too)
Fly to new heights at this Tarrytown-based fitness program.
Photos by Dave Zucker
It’s time you run away with the circus. We’re not suggesting you quit your corporate job, renounce your possessions, and move cross-country to join a troupe. But we are encouraging you to check out Tarrytown-based Westchester Circus Arts.
Westchester Circus Arts (WCA) was founded by experienced aerialist Hilary Sweeney in 2012 to help involve the local community in the art. After several years in an Ardsley location, Sweeney moved the organization this year to its current Tarrytown spot, inside the Shames JCC on Hudson.
Sweeney says the relocation placed WCA in the center of a lively community. “Our move was intentional and strategic and went beyond facility needs. Circus is not just a fitness program. Circus builds community. This is very much in line with the mission of the JCC. In order for our program to survive and thrive, it is essential for us to be in a warm and supportive environment that supports the arts and recognizes our value. Since the JCC opened its doors to us, we were met with sold out classes.”
WCA offers popular classes for children and teens, summer camp, and school break camp. But, if you think that juggling (and swinging on colorful silks) is solely for kids, you are wrong. WCA offers an aerial silks class and lyra and static trapeze class for adults, to encourage even the most mature grownup to embrace their inner child. Directors Sweeney and Carlo Pellegrini will help build your confidence as you scale the silks, move on the trapeze, and maneuver the lyra. All classes are engaging and appropriate for beginners, to which our editors can attest. With no circus experience, we popped into the Shames JCC on Hudson to learn more about the art whilst walking the tight rope, juggled, and climbing up the trapeze bar.
Sweeney points out, “Circus is not a one-size fits all program. You do not have to be strong, flexible, or a certain body type to give this a try.” She says the most common sentiment individuals share is that they are interested but hesitate, saying that they will sign up after getting in better shape, explaining that if they can’t do a pull-up, how could they do trapeze? Sweeney’s response: “We will get you there! We will help you achieve your goals in a safe, accessible, and super fun way. Our teachers are trained to bring out confidence in students that they didn't even know they had.”
In addition to the satisfaction that comes with finally mastering a specific move on the silks or lyra, the circus also provides life skills. Sweeney says the art encourages you to “take center ring in your own life and arms you with confidence.
Whether you are learning to climb the silks, or to hang by your knees on a trapeze bar, there is no option to hide in the back of the class. Our nurturing coaches will arm you with the skills to succeed. Additionally, you will get a total body workout that is rooted in body weight exercises that build long, lean muscles and flexibility.”
Classes are offers in packages. Sweeney explains: “Students who benefit the most from our program are those who enter with committed mindset. Although doing a trial or drop-in on class may be fun for students, it does not set them up to reach their full potential.” She continues, “By taking away the drop-in or trial class offering, we are broadcasting to our students that we have confidence in them and that our program is accessible to all levels.
Every beginner student is in the same boat and embarks on the journey together. Strong relationships tend to build between students as they learn together, fail together, and then ultimately achieve amazing feats they never thought possible. Such potential can only be reached with an element of time and commitment.”
While WCA doesn’t offer trial classes, the organization does offer team-building events, and corporate and personal parties. (Think traditional boring, breakout sessions being replaced by balancing on the tightwire (2.5 feet off the ground), juggling multiple priorities by spinning plates, establishing trust through partner-balancing, and reaching to new heights on aerial silks.) Or skip Vegas and host your bachelorette or birthday party at WCA.
Sweeney says,“My hope for all our students is that they allow themselves a chance to discover what they can do. So often, we resort to the negative tape loop inside our minds that says ‘we can’t’ before we even try. The power of self-confidence can drive you to accomplish feats you never thought possible, and feats come in all shapes in sizes. It may be achieving your first climb, or having the courage to express a new side of yourself. It could be anything that is meaningful to you and stretches you to grow.”
Though our Westchester Magazine staffers probably won’t be performing at Cirque du Soleil any time soon, we left WCA with smiles (and sore limbs), and able to say “I ran away with circus (albeit for an afternoon).”
For more information about WCA’s next session of weekly aerial silks classes beginning on November 26 and November 28, click here.