Welcome to the third part of ‘Meet our instructors’ where you can get to know the people who dedicate their time and love to helping you achieve your aerial goals. This month, I spoke with Lorna who is the owner of Leeds Aerial Arts to find out where her passion for teaching came from and how she turned her passion into a full-time career.
Where did your aerial journey begin?
Whilst studying dance at University, I had the opportunity to train with ‘Wired Aerial Theatre’. For those of us who were keen to try aerial, were auditioned by the company and I was successful!
I trained in Bungee Assisted Dance, Vertical Wall, Aerial Hoop, Silks and Trapeze to gain my degree in ‘Dance with Aerial Performance’. Even though they are the most random of degree titles, I think I have put it to good use!
How long have you been teaching?
I started teaching straight out of university in 2013. and initially started teaching Dance (Ballet and Modern Jazz) at Headingley Ballet School.
In September 2013, Yorkshire Dance awarded me a small bursary to introduce more Aerial to Leeds. I used this money to train in aerial rigging, purchase my first hoop and set up the first Aerial Class.
The first ‘Leeds Aerial Arts’ beginners class (as we know it today) started in September 2014, some of those first aerialists still come to class today and have even gone on to train to teach!
What was your first discipline?
Bungee-Assisted Dance was my first taste of Aerial. I would HIGHLY recommend taking one of Wired’s weekend courses! It is so much fun but be prepared to work hard and have sore hips afterward!
I originally specialised in Aerial Silks. My friend Becky and I used to go into Liverpool to do extra training in the evenings and used the silks for our final degree performance.
What’s your favourite discipline?
It has to be Aerial Hoop. I chose to begin Leeds Aerial Arts with Hoop classes because I think it is the most accessible discipline, but offers endless possibilities!
What made you start LAA?
A little nudge from Yorkshire Dance and my partner, now Husband, helped me take the plunge from turning my dream into a reality.
When I moved back to Leeds I couldn’t find much aerial and wanted to share (and keep up for myself) this awesome new skill! I bought my first hoop and the rest is history!
How do you find running a studio/business?
It can be hard work at times but very rewarding. I only need to spend a few minutes with those in the studio to remember that the paperwork and stress is all worthwhile!
I find my role shifting now that we have the studio space, I have to spend a lot more time managing the business rather than being in the studio sometimes. However, it certainly makes me feel proud of how far we have come.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you would give to any aerialist?
There will be days you feel unstoppable and days that you can’t get going! Be kind to yourself and go at your own pace. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and just show up- you are capable of more than you think!
Will you be expanding LAA to other locations?
You will have to wait and see…
Where else do you teach?
For Leeds Aerial Arts- I go all over! I teach at the University of Leeds every week, and regularly hold workshops across Leeds and Yorkshire. I also travel to train teachers and performers across the country.
I am a Registered Teacher with the Royal Academy of Dance and hold a masters degree in Education (Dance Teaching) from the Royal Academy of Dance. This means I also get to spend my Tuesday nights teaching Classical Ballet at Headingley Ballet School.
Regardless of how busy the studio gets, I think it’s important that I keep up my dance teaching. It’s part of who I am and influences my aerial work. I have worked hard to get to where I am with my dance and want to keep that going.
What’s your favourite aerial hoop move?
That’s tricky! In terms of my favourite things to do on the hoop, I like clever flows and combos. If I had to pick a move it would be the Russian Splits or the Russian Mount. I have been stretching SO much this year and now that I have flexy shoulders and back I also like to show this off in the air!
Do you have a party trick?
I’m good at the limbo! – Thanks to core strength and flexibility from aerial training.
Which discipline do you find the hardest?
I’ve never been any good at pole! I just slide right off! If you need a pole expert go to Emily – it’s not for me.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
Getting the go-ahead for our studio was hard!
I find that when people haven’t yet heard about aerial fitness and aerial arts they take a lot of convincing that it’s viable, relevant, and important. Fortunately, I now have a small army of fellow instructors and clients to help me to spread the word too. #goteam
Why should people try aerial arts?
So many reasons…
It’s fun, you forget that it’s exercise, you will make great friends, class is warm and friendly and supportive, you will gain insane core and upper body strength, it feels AMAZING when you master something you have been working on for ages, everyone is rooting for each other, you will discover that you can do anything with a little courage AND it is right here in Leeds!
What do you find most rewarding about teaching?
I love it when a new beginner comes to the studio, perhaps feeling a little nervous but willing to give it a go, and then leave their first class feeling amazing, stood that little bit taller, and proud of how much they achieved.
Now that you know more about Lorna, here are what some of her students say about her lessons…
“Training with Lorna is very efficient. Being very skillful and friendly, her class is always fun and safe yet challenging at the same time.
I’m always happy on how we manage to refine tricks i’ve learned in the past as well as learning new ones in a session.
She’s also very accommodating when it comes to routines I want to try, making my aerial journey progresses as how I expected.”
“Two years ago, I mustered all my courage and signed up for one of Lorna’s Aerial Hoop beginners’ courses.
I was a bit unsure whether I would be able to do any of the moves at all because I had zero strength as well as some back problems, but I needn’t have worried – I reached out to Lorna about my concerns beforehand and she assured me that she’d be happy to adapt the exercises to what I was able to do.
Safety is the number one priority in Lorna’s lessons.
Because she makes time to work with every student individually, she knows exactly when it is safe to encourage you to challenge yourself more during class and when it’s better to keep practising.
Lorna has a talent of explaining moves in a way so that they still make sense once you are upside down and is happy to patiently talk you through everything again in case you still get stuck and forget which limb goes where next (which happens all the time).
It’s so much fun to learn in such a supportive environment. I feel like Lorna truly believes in her students even if they might not even believe in themselves at times. There is always something new to learn in her lessons and I find her strength inspiring – she demonstrates even the hardest of moves with such grace and makes them look a lot easier than they actually are!
“I started classes at Leeds Aerial Arts over 18 months ago. Lorna taught my fundamentals course and from day one Lorna has been supportive and encouraging.
She loves to give you a challenge and will always offer a hand. She never turns up to class without a smile on her face and is always up for a chit chat throughout class.”
I think the fact that I have tried to never miss one of Lorna’s lessons since I started two years ago speaks for itself. I have progressed so much and honestly wish I had started attending her Hoop classes earlier!”
If you want to begin your aerial journey with Lorna training then you can book your place here.