Within walking distance of Elon’s Campus, you’ll find a building where colorful silks hang from the ceiling, and people hanging from them, but that could all go away soon. Zenitry, a yoga, barre and aerial silks studio, has become not only a place to workout, but a community for many in the Elon and Burlington area.
Recently, members of the Zenitry family received news that the owner of the studio is stepping down in order to care for her newborn baby, and if a replacement is not found soon, the studio will close by the end of May.
Michelle Spurlock, The Aerial Silks Program Director, moved to Elon about two years ago, when her husband was offered a job at Elon in the Computer Science Department. Spurlock used to work in Higher Education herself, but realized it was aerial silks and yoga that was her true passion. So, she decided to teach full-time at Zenitry.
When learning about the potential of the studio closing down, she said while it was difficult to think about losing such an amazing space, she assured her students that she will never stop teaching, and that there will always be a place to soar in Elon.
“We want to stay, but if we have to move, we will find a barn, or a warehouse, and we will hang from the ceiling. We will do whatever we have to do. People who do aerial get a little fanatic about it,” Spurlock said.
Growing up, she was always “the kid on the sidelines” because of severe exercise induced asthma that often left her excluded from sports or any form of physical activity. It was when she discovered yoga and aerial silks for the first time that her life changed, both physically and mentally.
The practice of yoga is what she said “really started getting me stronger in terms of my lungs, but also my body.” After several years of practicing yoga, she discovered aerial silks for the first time, and took her yoga practice “way up with it.”
“I was like, wow, now I’m going to get really strong and gain power and strength that I have never known before,” Spurlock said.
The strength that took over her body the first time she tried silks has played an instrumental role in her life ever since, pushing her to continue teaching and growing the aerial silks community despite the potential closure of Zenitry. While she is sure she will never stop teaching, she said, “[Zenitry] is just amazing,” and losing it would be a great loss to the community.
“It’s just the perfect space. It’s just the perfect location for this type of thing. We are really hoping to stay here. We’ve built our home here,” Spurlock said.
Clarissa Whitmeir and Nicole Murray are students of Spurlock who, like their instructor, have seen changes in their everyday lives because of what they’ve learned through aerial silks. Whitmeir says she feels stronger than she has ever felt before.
“It’s been a little bit of a journey to find more confidence in myself and build strength and just trusting my body more. I struggled growing up with confidence, so I’ve looked for things my whole life to kind of make me feel empowered, and this has really done that for me,” Whitmeir said.
For Murray, when she saw the silks for the first time, she immediately wanted to get on them and was told that she was a natural.
“I was like, 'I don’t know about that, do I have the money to?' They got me in here and it’s absolutely amazing. I went from a little girl seeing Cher in concert–that’s when I first saw the silks–to now, when I’m actually doing it,” Murray said.
Spurlock says that there is something about aerial silks that builds community and confidence. With everyone cheering each other on, they support each other in trying to master new skills and challenge themselves, both physically and mentally.
“The fact of what you are doing is risky. This is definitely risky and not your average workout. You are in the air and learning acrobatic tricks in the air, and it’s fairly vigorous, and it’s hard,” Spurlock said.
While the fate of Zenitry remains a mystery, the passion for aerial silks, for members of this community, will never come into question.