FERNDALE — You don’t have to have a lifelong dream of joining the circus to learn the aerial arts; you just have to have a desire to get in shape while doing something a little more adventurous than aerobics or pilates.
The new Agora Arts studio, which is set to open in Ferndale April 8, will offer numerous classes in aerial silks, trapeze and lyra for students of all ages and experience levels.
According to studio director and music instructor Maria Pia Bucco, “The aerial arts classes are great for adults and kids, as long as you’re not afraid to try something different. We always make sure that people feel very safe and comfortable, so there’s really nothing to be afraid of here. And once you start learning, it really brings up your self-esteem, because you have to be very confident to perform these aerial tricks.”
Aerial instructor Sarah Morgan explained that, in the classes for beginners and children, students will start with very basic stretching and conditioning warm-ups before they ever touch an apparatus. They will then be introduced to simple aerial tricks at a very low height, with plenty of mats and pads placed beneath them in case they fall.
“We always keep things as safe as possible, so people almost never get hurt doing this,” Morgan said. “It’s not as scary or as difficult as it looks; some of the simple tricks are actually very easy to do. Even though it’s definitely a challenge, it’s also a great confidence-builder once you realize that you can do it. It’s a great workout, too, because you’re using ... every muscle in your body, from your fingers to your toes.”
Agora Arts is certainly not lacking for ambition, as it ultimately aims to be three studios in one. In addition to its aerial classes, the studio will offer physical arts courses such as Kuratomi stretching, yoga and tae kwon do. It will also provide private music lessons for violin, viola and trombone at all levels; chamber and ensemble music coaching; as well as rehearsal and recording space for local musicians.
As Bucco pointed out, “I really want to emphasize the ensemble playing with students of all different ages. There are plenty of opportunities out there for kids to play music together, but there are very few opportunities for adults. I want to give adult musicians a chance to meet other musicians who share the same interests.”
Bucco has been playing and teaching music for most of her life. Born in Venezuela, she began playing violin professionally at age 17 and later graduated from the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, Russia, and Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. She was head of the string department for the Judit Jaimes School for the Integral Arts in San Cristobal, Venezuela, and worked for the Department of Culture in Caracas and as a faculty member for El Sistema. Since moving to the U.S., she has performed with a variety of ensembles in Pennsylvania and Michigan. She has been a faculty member at the Suzuki Royal Oak Institute since 2000, and is a member of the Flint and Traverse City symphonies.
Agora Arts boasts other faculty members with impressive credentials. Morgan and fellow aerial instructor Irina Laura are both regular performers with the acclaimed Weird Sisters Circus, while music instructor John “T-Bone” Paxton is a veteran of the Detroit music scene as a trombonist, vocalist, entertainer and recording artist.
Bucco currently lives in Royal Oak but said that she was eager to open her studio in Ferndale. She hopes that, if everything goes well with the launch of Agora Arts, she can expand to a larger location one day.
“I just really like the feeling here in Ferndale,” she said. “It’s a very good location, and everything is so community-oriented. … I just really wanted to create a studio that combines all the different things that I’m good at. I’m a musician and a performer, but I also use my body a lot with the Kuratomi (stretching), so this all seemed to make sense to me. I feel so lucky that we were able to find this place.”
Morgan agreed. “We’re all really excited to open this studio and bring something new and unique to this area,” she said. “There’s no other place around here that offers everything we do all in one location.”
Bucco encouraged students to sign up for the spring session of classes that begins April 8. More than just developing a particular skill, she hopes that Agora Arts will help people unlock their creative potential, develop a greater level of discipline and commitment, and improve their personal health and wellness.
“All of our classes are based on the idea of personal expression and creative performance,” she said. “We all have this need to express ourselves and do something creative with our life. We want to move beyond our boundaries and push ourselves farther than we think we can go. At our studio, we really want people to feel good about what they do — to feel healthy and productive and, most importantly, have fun.”
To register for classes at Agora Arts or learn more information, call (248) 589-9668 or visit www.playatagora.com. The studio is located at 646 E. Nine Mile Road in Ferndale.
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