Masterclass Featured Student: Amanda R.

May’s featured Masterclass student is a woman with a huge heart and a passion for teaching youth—miss Amanda! (@discoverhappydecorah)

Amanda is a rarity in this world. She has exceptional patience and love for children. I too have spent a good portion of my educator career instructing small people and I can tell you that it is NO easy feat. Amanda masters it so beautifully and with such grace. Everything she does in this world as a mover, business owner and mother is to ensure that her kids shine. I have so much respect for this woman as a teacher, student, performer and friend. Meeting her in person just this past January during my Midwest Tour was a beautiful experience. We connected on a personal level as I got to know more about Amanda’s story and life. I am truly grateful for our connection and it has been my greatest honor to help encourage her and support her (and she has encouraged me in many, many ways—yet she probably doesn’t know it!).

Here’s Amanda’s story:

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This is a story all about how my life got flip, turned, upside down... literally. I've taught Pilates for 8 years at my studio, Discover Happy, in this small sweet town Decorah, Ia. Around 2013 I wanted to explore the roots of Pilates and ask the question: Why? Why do I teach this movement? What inspired Joe to move this way? What is the ultimate purpose of completing the Control Balance ( a cool Mat Pilates movement)? These questions were the springboard for creating a certification program for Pilates instructors and my obsession with Aerial Arts. Pilates has influences of gymnastics, boxing, and aerial arts. After discovering this I found a Pilates based aerial fitness program called Aerialates (created by Elizabeth Skwiot of Crique-it Fitness), which has dissolved but provided an amazing foundation for strength building and technique. Now we approach the exciting turning point, where aerial fitness developed into a aerial arts program. I've worked with youth my whole adult career as an after school teacher, camp counselor, nanny, youth group home facilitator, social worker, and now a movement educator. I graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Child and Family Sciences in 2006. As I left the social work world to launch my Pilates career I didn't want to lose interaction with youth and families. My Pilates youth program kept kids of all ages moving in the studio weekly, seriously from ages 4-18. At some point curiosity of all the contraptions in the studio launches questions and when the trapeze and silks caught the eye of my youth class I let them explore. Watching my youth fearlessly play with the suspended equipment sparked more joy in me than I can explain. As I watched them I knew exactly why I was drawn to aerial, it opened up a portal for joy and play and creativity. The young dancer in me couldn’t contain all the excitement of self expression and performance and technique and really feeling empowered to move my body in an artistic and playful way. Working with young women I would hear excuses like “I only do girl push ups in gym class” or “boys are stronger because they can do pull ups.” I can’t begin to tell you how sad and angry I felt to know that so many young woman, including myself, would allow this kind of conditioning. Aerial became more than a movement art for me and my youth, it became our voice. We are strong as people, not as just a woman. I wanted more adults to know the joy of childlike play and more youth to feel empowered by their skills and with that I found an aerial fitness format utilizing the sling apparatus through The Aviary in Minneapolis. Christine Longe, the owner of The Aviary created an aerial fitness format called Fly Fit (™) that incorporates conditioning and skill building to learn aerial. We further utilized The Aviary’s instructor Matthew Casey to train us in Lyra the following year. After one year in a 475 sq ft foot room we grew so much that we found a new space to hang out in. We now have 18 ft ceilings, 1200 sq ft of space and lots of youth as well as adults. I developed a Performance Team too! Born to Fly (™) hosted an amazing Aerial Youth Training that inspired the creative forces behind the performance team. Of course Holly Ann Jarvis inspires and supports me through every slum of my personal practice and development of this program. Joining the pateron family has constantly challenged me and inspired me. If it wasn’t for Holly’s amazing visit to our students this winter I wouldn’t have believed in my own ability to perform. Our fly family is expanding and so is my heart with every “ah ha” moment, every “look I got it Miss Amanda!” movement. I cannot wait to experience the future of our program. We are hosting more professionals this summer and in the future. We are performing more in the community on our rig. Our performance team is growing as I started a performance prep team this winter too! Pilates saved my life. It gave me the ability to feel and own my body. Aerial saved my soul. It gave me the joy I see in every child as they explore and play and experience life. And you can’t tell me you don’t feel very alive right before you decide your brave enough to fall for the first time. I’ve never seen a face without wonder and smiles after that experience.

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I wanted to join Holly's Masterclass because I can't access classes frequently. We are a minimum of 2.5 hours from any aerial facility. Holly's tips, conditioning suggestions, and choreo challenges keep me challenged. I have gained so much confidence in my ability to perform as Holly provides open and vulnerable conversations about dreams, progress, and struggles of building your aerial skills. Being invovled in the masterclass has felt supportive and hopeful and really empowering.

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