Elena Meyer Reimer first encountered aerial silks while visiting her college-age cousin.
“I was like, ‘That looks really fun’…so I started Googling and I found a place in South Bend that taught silks and I was like, ‘OK, I’m gonna do it.’ And then I went,” said Meyer Reimer.
That was during her sophomore year of high school. Most of the people in her class at ESA Aerial Arts were significantly younger than her.
“It was good to start so late in that I had a lot of motivation, but also bad in that I felt very behind, and a lot of the people in my class were 7-year-olds who [were] better than me,” she said.
As a child, Meyer Reimer had participated in dance classes, but found them to be too “girly.” So she switched to soccer. However, it wasn’t until she discovered silks that she found the perfect combination of emotion and strength.
“I find silks [to be] really empowering,” Meyer Reimer said.
She describes aerial silks as being a combination of dance, gymnastics and knitting “because you have to manipulate the fabric to create different knots and locks and things that will hold you in different positions [like in knitting], but at the same time, you’re trying to express movement in an emotional and kind of theatrical way [like dance], but there’s also kind of that gymnastics element of learning silks and tucking and practicing different conditioning things,” Meyer Reimer said.
As she prepared to go to college, Meyer Reimer realized she wasn’t going to be able to spend as much time at ESA Aerial Arts as she had in high school because she was hoping to spend most of her time on campus.
“But I definitely wanted to keep doing silks and meet other people who are interested in doing that kind of thing because it’s something that I really really love a lot,” said Meyer Reimer. “I feel so strong when I do silks. And I thought other people might like that, too.”
And so she started Silks Club, which is entering its second year at Goshen College. With funding from Student Senate, she purchased one silk and installed it in the Roman Gingerich Recreation-Fitness Center last year. The newest silk, also funded by Student Senate, has yet to be delivered.
In order to set up the silk, Meyer Reimer calculated for 4,000 pounds of weight.
“[That’s] way over whatever you need,” Meyer Reimer said. “So it’s going to be super safe.”
Then a metal bar was hung across the roofing beams in the Rec-Fit Center. Next, a strap and metal carabiner were put in place to allow the silk to spin. The silk was folded in half and attached to the carabiner.
While the setup is secure, the sport itself does come with some risks.
“Similar to most sports, you have to build up to new skills. If you just jump from doing a [beginner-level] climb to doing a huge drop, it’s more likely you’ll get injured. And honestly, I’d say a lot of it is just self-awareness — knowing your body and knowing when you need to take a break, ” Meyer Reimer said.
Hashem Ammari, a junior, started joining Elena for silks in South Bend last year. He says that silks is what taught him how art could be dangerous and also how to pay greater attention to his body.
“I’m paying more attention to details in general. [Silks] made me stronger and more confident in general to do stupid things and fail in front of people because [with silks] you just step up and fail until it works,” Ammari said.
This past Sunday afternoon, members of Silks Club gathered on the upper level of the Rec-Fit Center.
Elizabeth Eichelberger, a senior, is in her second year of participating in the club, which she had heard about through friends. Her favorite thing about the club is “how everybody is so kind to each other and cheering each other on and supportive.”
Haley Willis, a junior, values Silks Club for both physical and social reasons.
“I like aerial silks,” said Willis. “[It’s] something that helps me exercise and stay healthy…while also having a good time with other people.”
Meyer Reimer also brought a unicycle, cyr wheel and juggling balls to Silks Club, which gave participants lots of other circus-flavored options as well.
Silks Club meets irregularly this semester due to Meyer Reimer’s participation in the Sustainability Leadership Semester at Merry Lea. For further information on this semester’s club meetings, Meyer Reimer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next semester, Silks Club will resume its regular meetings on Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. in the Rec-Fit Center.