A Whitestone resident and her business partner will soon bring the excitement and pure athleticism of aerial arts to northeast Queens, and they recently turned to the community to help make their plan a reality.
Danielle Kocal and professional aerialist Laura Haley recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund Aerial Haven, an all-ages aerial studio for residents in Queens and Long Island. The duo met when Kocal started taking classes at the Bayside dance studio where Haley was a trainer. But aerial classes stopped once the studio lost its space.
Kocal began looking for other aerial classes but couldn’t find ones outside of Manhattan, western Queens and Long Island. So she and Haley decided to start their own studio for kids and adults.
“Aerial is a ridiculous workout; you don’t even realize you’re working out. It’s so much fun and so challenging,” said Kocal, a law professor and professional bellydancer and yoga instructor.
It involves individuals performing acrobatics while suspended in the air by equipment like silks, hammocks and rings. At Aerial Haven, Haley will serve as the studio’s main instructor. She started her professional career in aerial over a decade ago and has experience performing in circuses and large aerial productions worldwide.
“Aerial instruction is something I’m really passionate about because I can see the positive impact on my students,” Haley said in the Kickstarter video. “Training students from ages 5 to 75 to be strong, confident, determined and excited is something I’ll always be passionate about.”
The pair’s goal is to raise $18,000 by Friday, March 6, and as of Feb. 27, 85 backers have donated $11,971 to their cause. All funds will go toward essentials including crash mats and other aerial equipment, insurance, legal fees and renovations.
Their main challenge has been finding a studio with 15-foot ceilings, which is essential to perform aerial safely and effectively. Kocal said that she and Haley have been checking out potential locations in Bayside, Whitestone and College Point.
According to Kocal, each class will be an hour to an hour and 15 minutes long and will focus on areas like warmups, ab conditioning, floor work and learning aerial tricks. The studio will offer small eight-member aerial classes of varying difficulty. Haley will teach the aerial classes while Kocal said she will teach some yoga and a beginner aerial class. Classes are open to everyone 5 years old and up.
Those looking to get more practice can participate in open climb classes, which Kocal said is an unstructured session that lets people work on whatever skills they want.
Aerial Haven will also offer a space to have birthday parties and members will get opportunities to give regular aerial showcases. In addition to getting fun and effective workouts, Kocal said her favorite part of aerial is creating a sense of community with the other members.
“When you learn a skill that you’ve been having trouble with your classmates are proud of you,” said Kocal. “It’s difficult for people who are and aren’t in shape but each week it gets easier. Everyone leaves the class saying ‘I did something.'”
Click here for the Aerial Haven Kickstarter.