How does aerial dance compare with aerial yoga?

I met Nicole Rowland in Thai Lam’s level 2 aerial silks class at Aerial Artique. She made me feel so welcome when it was my first level 2 class and I was feeling a little intimidated. Now Nicole has started teaching aerial yoga classes of her own! I saw some of the lovely pics of Nicole looking so serene doing aerial yoga and wanted to create a portrait of her that captured that.

‘Touch Your Toes’: Mixed media (acrylic, chalk pastel and gold leaf on wood) portrait of Nicole


Nicole was so welcoming to me when I move up from the level 1 class to the level 2 class with Thai. It was a really challenging class. I was feeling a little out of my league because all of the others in the class were so good. Nicole came up to me after class and said not to worry. She said that everyone feels like that their first time in level 2 and that she thought I would be doing great in no time. It made me feel so much better! Nicole is now teaching aerial yoga, which I am sure she is awesome at.

For my portrait of Nicole I was inspired of the colours of this glass plate. I just loved the brown and gold all swirled together.

Glass plate that I used for colour inspiration


Side by side comparison of reference image and ‘Touch Your Toes’

Q&A with Nicole:

What made you decide to try aerial silks?
I first got into aerial silk when I lived in Orlando Florida looking for a gym with positive atmosphere that was fun and effective. I found Vixen which was an all female gym that included pole, spin, dance, and aerial silks. During my year of membership I tried all the different classes, but fell in love with silks immediately. It had the ability to make you feel strong and beautiful all at the same time.
What are your favourite aspects of teachers that you have had for aerial?
The best teachers I have had in aerial always created a safe and encouraging class. Aerial silk can lead to dangerous injuries if not done properly, but the teachers I loved are ones that taught with clear directions of proper steps to get in and out of wraps. As well as being able to make the class playful and fun, where everyone is encourage to continue to grow stronger.
How do you feel when you are performing?
This past summer was my first aerial silk performance for the student showcase at Aerial Artique which was an amazing experience. It was a ten week process of learning the group sequence and timing it to music with eleven other amazing ladies. It had solo parts and groups of four, as well as a short timeframe when we split the silk having multiple performers on a single silk. By the time the two shows came we were well prepared and excited to perform. For me personally it bought me back to my youth when I would do competitive cheerleading performances. Your nerves are heighten but you couldn’t be more happy to perform in front of your friends, family, and strangers who are all looking forward to a fantastic show. I hope I can participate in another performance opportunity soon.
What made you decide to start teaching aerial yoga?
When I moved out of the mountains and into the out skirts of San Francisco the first thing I found was a place to practice on silks again after my two year break in a ski town. However due to work schedule I would only be able to make it into the city on weekends so I started to look for other classes near work location which is how I found Mojo Yoga who had aerial yoga. It was a great experience as a supportive alternative to Aerial Dance. Throughout my time the owner of the studio kept encouraging to get certified to teach and within a few weeks of looking into it I found Levity who was offering a teacher certification at Aerial Artique, who at the time did not offer Aerial yoga. It was a great decision because it took my strengths from work of presenting and coaching others, and added it with my outside of work passion of Aerial world.
what do you hope your students get out of your classes?
My goal for my students is that they can find breathe, balance and strength. In today world everyone is moving so fast and multitasking, but in my class I have my student just focus on their breathe before anything else. Balance is a hard one because it could mean different things for everyone (work/life, eating habits, stability balance, etc) but by attending class they can get closer to accomplishing their desired balance by putting time in to focus on themselves for 75 minutes. Lastly strength, Aerial Yoga has relaxed poses but it also has pose that can challenge you and build your muscles.  Many of my students leave surprised to see they are strong than had originally thought.
Are there teachers that you have had before that inspired your teaching style or whose techniques you would like to aspire to?
The great thing about teaching is you are always learning new techniques by observation in the field and in other life experiences outside of silks. In silk specifically I find I pull a little from everyone: Lauriel Marques in Orlando with her fun Disney performance background, Hannah Jane for her approach to make a class welcoming to everyone, Angela Chu for skill of making the simple move beautiful, Thai Lam for his skill helping people push past their fears, Lei Lei for her free spirit, Amelia for her calming pass and the list could go on and on.
What do like about teaching aerial yoga?
Yoga for an outsider can be intimidating with the unknown terminology and different pose but with having the hammock as your prop everything becomes more approachable for all. As the teacher I get to help find that realization and create a new lifetime hobby that can help their whole wellbeing.
What do you think are the main differences between aerial silks and aerial yoga?
It’s one that is often seen as the same exercise but they are distinctly different. Aerial Silk, sometimes referred as Aerial Dance,  is split silks that involve tricks, drops, climbs and being in the air for an extended amount of time. Students strive to increase their skill set growing in levels, which is high pace and requires grip strength. While Aerial Yoga is slower sequence that always have a alternation to meet anyone needs. Aerial Yoga has inversions but you are always supportive by the hammock so there no required strength required for your first class. Both are great experiences that I do weekly that support each other but can provide different benefits based on what you are looking for.

Reference Image

The glow of the reference image is what made me think of the gold colour scheme. I also love the beautiful shape that Nicole is making. It is almost a perfect square in the window between her arm and foot. Her perfectly pointed toe and straight arm really adds to the composition of the piece. I also like the serene look on her face in profile.

Photographer Patrick O’Connor


Progress photos of ‘Touch Your Toes’

Creative Process

This mixed media portrait was created on a plank of wood. To try to create the golden glow I decided to use gold leaf for the highlights.  I drew on the first layer of highlights in yellow to mark where I would place the gold leaf. Then I painted on the first layer of shadows using acrylic. I applied both gold and copper coloured gold leaf. I wanted to use two different shades of gold leaf to give the piece more texture.

‘Touch Your Toes’ arranged with a metallic vase


Prints of ‘Touch Your Toes’  available in my online art shop


Do you have an interesting aerial story that you want to share? or would you like to commission a figurative portrait contact me at