Some people seek mental release in meditation, others in yoga. Stephanie McLaughlin, AS’95, owner of Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications in Manchester, N.H., finds her mental and physical release in aerial circus.
On Wednesday afternoons, when she used to be chained to her desk, you can find McLaughlin at Bare Knuckle Murphy’s boxing gym in Manchester, hanging upside down, spinning, and flipping from two strips of cloth that hang from the towering rafters of the converted armory.
“Think Cirque du Soleil—those ladies hanging, swinging, climbing, and dropping from the silk ribbons hung from the sky,” she says. “While I won’t be performing in Cirque anytime soon, I’ve spent the last year building strength and skills, and I’m now doing things that blow my mind.”
For now, McLaughlin is working pretty close to the ground, practicing and developing her moves before she takes them skyward. Safety, after all, is one of the priorities of the Go Ninja aerial skills workshop, which leases space at the boxing gym.
“In order to do this, you have to be 100 percent focused,” says McLaughlin. “Nothing else can creep into your mind, not your business, not the laundry, not the clients—nothing.”
Like ballet, which McLaughlin studied from age 7 to 27, aerial skills require a great deal of strength in your arms, shoulders, core, back, and even wrists.
“You hurt in places you didn’t even know you had muscles,” she says.
McLaughlin is currently working on a move in which she goes from a sitting position, known as the “diaper wrap,” through a series of complex moves into an upside-down position called the “gazelle.” It’s meticulously choreographed in slow motion for now; when she masters the move, her airborne gymnastics will climax in a twisting plummet into an upside-down ballet pose.
“It’s a real ‘wow’ maneuver,” says McLaughlin. “I’m a small-business owner, so it takes a lot to get me away from my desk. But I’m totally captivated by this. It’s addicting.”