A year after law professor Danielle Kocal and professional aerialist Laura Haley launched their Kickstarter campaign for Aerial Haven, the aerial arts studio has finally found a permanent home in College Point.
The pair settled into their new digs at 14-57 110th St. in January 2021 after COVID-19 derailed their original goal of opening back in March 2020.
At the time, Kocal spoke with QNS about their plans to open an all-ages aerial arts studio in Bayside to teach a form of acrobatics performed while hanging from a fabric, typically large pieces of silk that hang from a tall ceiling.
Their plans emerged after the location where Haley taught classes lost its space. The duo launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new studio and over 100 donors raised a total of $18,791, enough to help them pay the first month’s rent and startup expenses for their Bayside studio. But then the pandemic hit.
“Our Kickstarter finished and we were successful,” Kocal said. “We were supposed to open March 15, which is a day before the city shut down so we never opened. We had to put everything on hold and go online.”
So for the next 10 months, Haley and Kocal brought their lessons to computer screens. They put aerial lessons on pause since they did not have a suitable space but continued to offer at-home belly dancing, yoga and aerial conditioning classes.
As COVID restrictions began lifting in New York City, the pair started looking for another studio location in northeast Queens. Their main challenge was finding a building that had ceilings that were 15 feet or taller as most places they found had 12-foot ceilings at most.
“We were looking at more industrial areas and College Point has a lot of mixed-use areas. So we’re in a warehouse space with 24-foot high ceilings,” said Kocal. “I’m happy that we ended up here because my parents still live here and I grew up in the neighborhood.”
Over the summer, Kocal said that they had been teaching a few private lessons in her backyard with an outdoor aerial rig. Some suggested that she and Haley should continue with the outdoor classes instead of moving forward with their indoor studio, but Kocal said the location was “too perfect to pass up.”
“We know how hard it is to find a place with ceilings exactly like what we need, so we didn’t want to let it go. We said, ‘We’ll just make it work for the first few months until people start coming again and hopefully it will pick up.'”
Since opening Aerial Haven, Kocal and Haley have been teaching in-person classes at the 1,300-square-foot space and limiting class sizes to just four students per session. Per COVID-19 guidelines, everyone in the studio is required to wear masks and stand at least 8 feet apart and all equipment is regularly sanitized.
“Everybody has their own individual apparatus. So if it’s a silks class, everyone has their own silk and they can either bring in their own silks or we have some that they can use,” said Kocal, who added that the facility is also equipped with air filters.
She hopes that increased vaccine distribution and the upcoming warm weather will encourage more people to give aerial a try.
“I think people get nervous because they see Laura doing these crazy tricks and she’s amazing, she’s a professional circus performer. They get nervous and think, ‘I could never do that,’ but you really can.”
Kocal added that although the moves may seem advanced for beginners, it’s something that everyone can learn to do.
“It’s fun, it’s such a good workout. You don’t realize you’re working out because you’re trying to do all these really cool things and fulfill your childhood circus dreams.”
Aerial Haven is located at 4-57 110th St., Suite A in College Point. To learn more, visit www.aerialhaven.com.