Performing circus tricks is the latest fitness craze hitting the North West

Maria Stutt on the Aerial Hoop

Maria Stutt on the Aerial Hoop - Credit: Archant

Rebekka O’Grady might just run away with the circus after unleashing her inner acrobat on a trip to Cloud Aerial Arts in Manchester

Maria Stutt providing an aerial demonstration

Maria Stutt providing an aerial demonstration - Credit: Archant

It’s difficult to not be inspired by the recent Olympic sporting achievements of Team GB in Rio de Janeiro. Even I, a self-confessed fitness-phobe, decided to step out of my comfort zone and try something new – a circus class.

I knew I wasn’t exactly going to become the Simone Biles of the circus world when I signed up for class at Cloud Aerial Arts, but I figured it was a good place to start my plan to get fit. After all, aerial hoop, silks, acrobalance and trapeze sounded a lot more appealing than a jog around the park.

Established in 2013 by Maria Stutt, the circus training centre holds around 20 classes each week in three different venues (Manchester, Burnley and Stockport), and has fast become one of the most popular destinations for aerial classes in the North West with over 700 people signed up.

The Sky Loft in Manchester is also home to the Big Rig, an impressive 18ft high and 23ft long aluminium structure which cost over £6,000 to produce and was created by a specialist rigger in Glasgow. Introduced earlier this year, the structure will allow even more classes and workshops in a safe environment.

Maria, who was originally a legal secretary, developed her love of aerial from training in pole dancing in 2009, when a few girls in her office persuaded her to come with them to a class.

‘I loved it. After a year I saw a company was holding auditions for people to do hen parties, and I thought I could teach that. Soon after that friends were asking me to teach them, and I realised I was having more fun doing pole at weekends than I was in my full time job.’

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Teaching one hour of pole lessons earned Maria more than one day as a legal secretary, so she decided it was a natural transition to leave that career behind and pursue one in the arts of aerial.

As I flapped about on the aerial hoop in the Manchester Sky Loft, trying to position myself into a ‘Man on the Moon’ without injuring myself, it was quite comforting to hear that my instructor wasn’t always as flexible and graceful as she is now.

As Maria explained in our one-to-one class, it’s a full body workout and takes time to build the muscle and upper body strength to haul yourself up into the many different positions. While you’re busy having fun hanging upside down, you don’t realise all the muscles you are toning up – until the next day that is.

‘It’s not like the gym. You don’t feel like you have to drag yourself here,’ explained Maria. ‘Most students do more than one class a night, as it is fun to do with friends. People return as they get a sense of achievement when they’ve been working toward a specific move and they accomplish it, so they then want to strive toward the next one. Even for me, I’ve been doing pole for seven years and I still want to learn more.’

This desire to perfect a challenging position couldn’t be truer. On the trapeze, I became so close to achieving the ‘Gazelle’ move but I just couldn’t quite secure my leg around the rope. I was so sure that after another class I would have it in the bag – and it’s this drive that makes you forget you’re working out.

It’s also a huge confidence booster as you master moves you never thought possible. I forgot my fears of falling off and I was more concerned about pushing the boundary of what I could do next.

Who knows, if journalism doesn’t work out I might just find myself auditioning for the circus – but most likely as a clown. w

One session at Cloud Aerial Arts is £8 but you can block book for a discount. For full details, visit

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