Hidden between random storefronts and through a narrow gated alleyway, a 6,000 square foot space is home to one of the most unique fitness training facilities in all of Los Angeles. Its specialty? Circus arts. With a philosophy to be open to “anybody with any body,” classes are led by working circus professionals in a non-competitive environment.

A look inside Cirque School L.A. offers a welcome respite from the typical machines associated with working out. Their equipment consists of trapezes and colorful cascades of fabric pouring from the ceiling. Let’s not forget about the steering wheel assisted leg stretch contraption and handstand blocks. There’s even a tightrope. If the yellow brick road led Dorothy here, she’d get the feeling that she isn’t in a gym anymore; Toto would agree.

The 60-minute “Aerial Fitness and Conditioning” class is an intense workout that serves as a great introduction for beginners. Aloysia Gavre (Cirque School co-founder and 20 year Cirque du Soleil veteran) led this particular Friday evening session. Things got started with students introducing themselves and announcing their class experience levels (The group ranges from zero to over one year).

After a thorough warm up, Gavre gracefully directs the class to break out into two stations. One group performs groundwork exercises while the other half are perched atop the trapeze for aerial techniques. It’s at this moment students fully comprehend the tremendous amount of muscle activation required to simply stay above ground. “Don’t use your biceps, that’s cheating,” proclaims Gavre after noticing extended arms using the rope for support. Say hello to your core work.

The second half of class proceeds to the aerial silks and hammocks. The type of things students try and execute are more than one might imagine. Leave it to the watchful eye of Gavre to intuitively gauge individual capabilities and strengths; she uses her observations to effectively push them past self-doubt and into self-discovery.

Beyond ripped arms and amazing abs, the beauty of circus arts lies in the endless challenge it offers. It’s a constant work in progress that encourages students to unlock their physical potential while having fun in the process. Twice a year, Cirque School is transformed into a professional theatre. It serves as a platform for advanced students to exhibit their showmanship and feel the adrenaline rush of performing in public. Says Gavre, “Through our students physical accomplishments, they soon transfer their newfound confidence into their daily lives.” The circus is clearly a magical thing.

Whether it’s a longtime dream to one day perform under the Grand Chapiteau or boredom from the mere thought of running on a treadmill, there is no right or wrong reason to come here. Whatever the motivating factor, Cirque School’s big red doors will gladly serve as the open arms that welcome one and all.

(2 blocks west of Metro Red Line Hollywood & Western station)

Joy Bitonio has the phrase “Joie de Vivre” tattooed on her shoulder, a reminder to enjoy life every single day. She has a voracious appetite for fun, adventure, food, good cocktails and works out like a madwoman to keep it all together. Her fitness articles can be found on examiner.com. Follow her on twitter.

Pictured above:
1. Interior of Cirque School L.A. studio. Credit: Joy Bitonio
2. Aloysia Gavre assists a student on the trapeze. Credit: Mary Costa.
3. Student performs. Credit: J. Charles Ferrari


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