ecently, I was invited to judge an Aerial silk championship. At first, I was hesitant to give my nod for it, because I was not sure what a Latin and Ballroom dancer like me would do as a jury for Aerial silk competition, but on insistence of my dear friend actress Smilly Suri, I agreed for the same and I am glad and thankful to Smilly for persuading me for the same, because it was an evening that has left some wonderful memories in my heart.
The championship was organised by the affable Aditi Deshpande. This super flexible artist is the founder of Fly High Aerial Art, who is a trained gymnast and professional Mallakhamb performer. Aditi passionately pursued her career in the field of Aerial Arts. Her thirst for learning and further improvising on her skills took her to San Francisco to further evolve as an Aerial Silk instructor.
She has been teaching ‘Rope Mallakhamb’ for over 15 years and ‘Aerial Silk’ for four years at Shri Samarth Vyayam Mandir, Dadar. Aditi has trained aerial enthusiasts from worldwide. She does have a few international performances under her belt in addition to being a winner of 20 Gold, 15 Silver and 10 Bronze Medals in District, State and National level Championship with the most prestigious State level award, Shiv Chhatrapati Award in her cabinet all at the age of 21. She has also trained Bollywood Diva the sensational Sushmita Sen, Smilly Suri and many more.
You have trained in rope and Mallkhamb which is a traditional form then, what made you take up silk?
Well, yes! I have been training in Mallakhamb since the age of 5. Since childhood, I had a goal of achieving the Shiv Chhatrapti Award which is the highest state level Award given by the Maharashtra government. And since then my journey began to achieve it. Mallakhamb also gave me lovely experiences to travel the world and teach students abroad.
However, after receiving the Chhatrapati award, I needed something else to motivate and energise me. Nothing was challenging or exciting me. I got an opportunity to visit USA, for a duration of 3 months. There I enrolled and trained for 3 months and found my new passion in aerial silk, which is similar to what I always did, but still was challenging and added a new level of competency to achieve. Since then, there was no looking back.
And now this has become my passion and goal.
Rope and silk being similar what is more difficult and challenging out of the two?
Yes, it is similar with respect to the skill set required, but very different in terms of the sport. In Mallakhamb myself, we have to perform 20 elements in 1min 30 secs and hold positions for a few seconds. Speed is of key importance. Hence, when I began to train in silk, I had to relearn everything. The performance time became to 5-6 mins. We had to hold all movements and poses for a longer duration. It involved more grace and poise. Despite having strength, flexibility, aerial understanding and balance, I still struggled on endurance on the silk. As an experienced teacher, I would recommend silk as being more fun and easy for my students.
More girls take up silk, what message you have for the boys to show up for silk?
It is sad that we have less boys but in abroad, lot of boys take up this art form as it requires lot of strength and there are lot of duet acts, but in India I always got a response from boys that “we don’t know split, how will we do silk?” It is a myth that only flexible people can do silk and I want to change that perception.
With reality shows showcasing silk a few times, what do you think is the future of silk in India and your plans to take it ahead?
Reality shows are a great platform to showcase aerial silk. It gives access to a wide audience. However, it comes with its drawback. People don’t learn the discipline in the correct way. And having learn it in haphazard ways can cause accidents and injuries which is not how I would like to go about things and hence am not very keen on reality shows. I want to take it forward as a medium of a curriculum like gymnastics and give it a strong foundation in schools, so in this way it becomes a wider discipline and is schooled in the right way. My 10 year plan for Silk in India, is to share my skills and experiences as an aerialist and educate students in as many schools and studios. I plan to spread the awareness of this form as widely as possible across India and give it a face in India as well as recognition internationally.