Rise Above Aerial Arts, a new aerial arts studio offering classes in Columbia and Ellicott City, celebrated its grand opening last weekend by holding free pole fitness classes for women in the community.
The first of its kind in Columbia, the studio aims to provide a space for women to build confidence and strength, said founder and owner Kathleen Hayes.
Inspired by her love of dance, Hayes, who lives in Columbia, decided to open the studio to bring aerial arts — acrobatics that are done in the air like pole dancing, aerial silks and aerial hoop/lyra — to Howard County.
“Everywhere I lived before moving to Columbia, there were always a variety of dance classes and dance options,” said Hayes, 36. “When I moved here, I didn’t know a lot of people and I couldn’t find an aerial studio near me, so I thought what a great opportunity to start a dance company.”
When Hayes was a teenager, her mother died, and then her stepmother died when Hayes was a young adult. She said she turned to dance for comfort.
“I was invited to go dancing with one of my friends, and I honestly feel like it was a bit of a lifesaver for me,” she said. “I was able to make new friends and establish a sense of community and have some light back in my life.”
Hayes said she opened the studio with hopes of providing a place to uplift women.
“I just thought it would be so fun to have a dance studio where women can come and rise above any situation that they are dealing with and enjoy having a safe space to be creative and make new friendships and be empowered by other women,” she said.
Held at Slayton House in Columbia and B. Funk Dance Company in Ellicott City, the studio is currently offering beginning and intermediate pole dancing classes, as well as private parties for birthdays, bachelorettes, graduations and more. The studio will soon also have aerial hoop/lyra and aerial silks classes.
Melanie Ray, 28, of Baltimore, attended a free pole fitness class Friday at B. Funk.
She said her experience taking a class at the studio was “easy” and “laid back.”
“I think everyone during the class was curious about having signed up for a course that was a little outside of the traditional dance class,” Ray said. “The instructor made it really engaging and really comfortable and relaxed.”
Mount Airy resident Michelle Mouthapong, also attended a class at B. Funk.
Having previously practiced aerial arts at home using online tutorials, she said she was excited to be able to learn in person.
“[I’m excited] to have the opportunity to go to a class where I can do these kinds of things with an instructor in front of me and actually ask questions and be able to experience it firsthand rather than turning on a video,” said Mouthapong, 30.
Hayes said she hopes the studio will add variety to the community.
“Columbia is an amazing place in terms of family activities, but there’s not a lot of options for women only,” she said. “I’m hoping that [the studio] will fill a gap for women who may want to come together and have their own space and to build each other up and to come and have a good time and allow for a creative outlet through dance.”