This is the story of how my daughter and I learned to fly.
It’s also the story of a fabulous group of people putting on a fun event, but more on that later.
It started with an e-mail I sent to Kari McDuffie asking about an upcoming event called Holy City Cirque, featuring something called acro-yoga. “I’d love to talk to you about the event,” I said. “And … what’s acro-yoga?”
Instead of explaining, McDuffie invited me to watch her practice at the downtown Waterfront Park with a couple of her partners. When I mentioned I’d have my five-year-old daughter with me, she said the more, the merrier. McDuffie and fellow acro-yoga enthusiast Greg Guay, a classical guitarist in his day job, welcomed us as if we were one of their own. When I asked them to describe acro-yoga, they rolled out a yoga mat and offered up a demonstration, right there on the rainy, windswept pier.
Part yoga, part dance, part acrobatics, acro-yoga is a series of movements, a “flow,” designed to be performed with a partner. One partner serves as the anchor, lying on the mat with arms and feet outstretched, holding and supporting their partner as they fly through the air in a graceful dance.
“That must require so much trust,” I said, watching McDuffie balance precariously on the balls of Guay’s feet. “So much communication.”
Guay and McDuffie nodded simultaneously. You can tell they’ve been working together for quite some time.
My daughter tugged on my arm, her eyes wide. “Want to try it?” I asked. Somehow I knew these two wouldn’t mind.
But my daughter balked. “You go first, Mommy,” she said, and it was my turn to balk. No way, my body screamed. You’ll break your face!
McDuffie grinned. “Time to set an example, Leah.”
Guay held out a hand, gave me some basic instructions, and soon I was in the air, balancing on his feet, clinging to his hands. “Don’t let go!” I cried.
Then, I let go. Balanced. Stretched. Flew. I didn’t stay long, but I did it, and as soon as my feet were planted on the ground, I wanted to do it again.
But it was my daughter’s turn. Emboldened by my flight, she marched up to McDuffie, who lifted her high into the air. Later, Guay spun her and flipped her until she laughed so hard she almost fell.
Everyone should try this. It’s so much fun.
On June 16 from 6-9 p.m. at James Island’s Brick House Kitchen, you’ll have the chance. McDuffie, Guay, and their acro-yoga partner Sally Bette Newman will emcee the first-ever Holy City Cirque Variety Show. Inspired by shows like Cirque du Soleil, they’ll bring together local performers for demonstrations and workshops. There will be belly dancers, aerialists on silks, parkour enthusiasts, and all kinds of people showing off their skills and helping the average layman try something new.
Holy City Cirque will be a spectacle. Judging by the way people stopped and stared at McDuffie and Guay as they practiced their flows in the grass at Waterfront Park, people love acrobats, and they love to see normal people doing things that look impossible. That’s actually why the little group practices in public spaces as often as possible. Strangers stop by, and they are able to introduce acro-yoga to all kinds of new friends. Recently, a woman in her 70s was able to do some stretching and receive a bit of a massage, and the experience was rewarding for all.
The Cirque event itself has grown beyond McDuffie, Guay, and Newman’s original expectations. In the final days before the 16th new acts are still confirming, and more and more people are RSVPing on the group’s Facebook page. They hope to introduce hundreds of people to acro-yoga.
To participate in future unlimited workshops at the Cirque, they’ll ask for a $10 donation. All proceeds will go to support Girls Rock Charleston.