Solace in the silks

Senior gained a passion for the unique art of aerial silks

Senior Aija Bowman climbed to the top of the silks. Her muscles were fatigued from the strain of the rest of her performance, but she knew that she just had to stay focused for a little while longer. As she climbed up, the performance music built around her, drawing the audience into her routine. She got in position and did her final move, a star drop where she unwound down the entire length of the silks and caught herself just before the ground, hitting her final pose just as the music ended.

She couldn’t contain her excitement. She had just finished her first ever aerial silks performance, and she couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Since getting into aerial silks around seven years ago, Bowman has never looked back. It has become an integral part of her life, helping her not only physically, but also providing a creative outlet and helping her mental health.

“I really liked it because it was the physical component of it but then also the mental creative component of it,” Bowman said.

The first place that she saw aerial silks was at a “Tangled” themed Disney On Ice performance, where Rapunzal’s hair was made out of the aerial silks. After seeing the show, she couldn’t get it out of her head and knew that she needed to try it.

“She was just mesmerized by it,” Bowman’s mother, Whitney Bowman said. “And you know, after that, she kept saying…, ‘Mom, I want to do that so bad.’”

So, Whitney went to work and searched to find a studio that would teach kids. Unfortunately, the closest place that offered lessons for children was in Chicago. But she didn’t give up, and after begging a studio in Indianapolis, Cirque Indy, they finally started a class for kids.

From her first class, it was clear that Bowman was naturally gifted, and she quickly progressed from kid to adult classes in only a matter of months.

Her quick progression made her passion for silks clear. She has been focused on improving from the beginning, and that is something that sets her apart from other kids, who often just wanted to go “wild” on the silks, according to her coach, Heather Adams.

“Aija has always been very mature and listens well,” Adams said. “And that’s why she progressed so quickly into the adult program was that she was able to follow instructions and act beyond her age.”

Because of Bowman’s work ethic and devotion to silks, Adams says that “the sky’s the limit for her.”

But Bowman’s journey hasn’t all been easy. During her freshman year, she broke her back due to physical stress from her many athletic activities and had to take a break. Not just from aerial silks, but also from volleyball. She wasn’t allowed to do many of the things she previously loved and had to wear a back brace.

“It had always been a big part of my life, something I really loved…,” Bowman said. “It was taken away from me out of nowhere, so that was very hard.”

Though she is still in physical therapy from her injury, she’s back in the air. She said that her injury gave her a new perspective and appreciation for aerial silks.

Since the start of COVID-19, Bowman has been training on an outdoor rig at Adam’s house. She has continued to grow, both in her skill level, and in her love for the activity.

One of her favorite things about silks is that she is able to be creative with her routines. She had always done other sports, but had never done anything that had a creative side to it.

“The creative thing is a really big thing for me, like flowing with whatever you want to do,” Bowman said. “There’s no wrong answer.”

Despite it being very physically demanding, the fluidity of the moves helps to alleviate some of her stress.

“It’s very creative, flowy, and I think that helps me to kind of ease my stress,” Bowman said.

Whatever the occasion, Whitney loves to watch her daughter dance on silks. Whether it’s a recital or a practice, the joy that she gets is unmatched.

“When I’m sitting there and I’m just beaming and so proud and just to see her up there and her smiling. It’s just the best feeling ever as a parent,” Whitney said.