Charman Driver joins the circus

by Charman Driver

photographs by Scott Sharpe

I like to get high. I expect my clients to do it and I’d like to suggest you do it, too. Of course I’m talking about that natural high one gets through exercise. It releases endorphins – substances in the brain that produce a natural boost in your mood. Exercising makes you feel good. You’ll also eat better, sleep better and look great because of it.

When I was asked to write a health and fitness column for Walter, I jumped (high) at the chance. I’ve spent over a decade preaching the gospel of physical fitness as a Pilates teacher, boot camp instructor and, more recently, as a Duke-certified integrative health and wellness coach. I know first-hand what physical fitness can do for you – mind, body and spirit.

The truth is, not everyone gets as excited about this fitness stuff as some of us do and there is no one-size-fits-all form. I could wax on and on about the depressing number of sedentary folk in our country, state and city, but I’m not going there because I went on a run this morning. Can you guess my mood? Plus, my job is to be a part of the solution.

What motivates one person to dismount the couch and turn off the TV or get out of bed early to exercise is different from what works for another. If you could just find something – anything – to get inspired to exercise, what would that thing look like? Or maybe you simply want to inject life into your old workout regimen and try something new.

So how will you get your high? That’s where I come in.

Think of me as your guru of movement. (I almost wrote guinea pig, but thought better of myself). I will discover and experience “adventures” in health and fitness in our great City of Oaks and tell you about them. I aim to think outside the gym and use my expertise to shed light on a variety of possible active life endeavors. I hope that you come away informed, inspired and motivated to create a healthy lifestyle through exercise.

Ditch the gym, join the circus

In my boundless pursuit of the high life, how appropriate that my first adventure for Walter would be to join the circus! That’s right, I said circus. Cirque de Vol, “a creative movement arts studio,” has come to the Warehouse District in downtown Raleigh. Their website reads, “Ditch the gym, join the circus.”

I’m in! I flipped for Cirque’s out-of- the-ordinary variety of creative movement programs including trapeze, aerial silks, acrobatic yoga, hoop dance, stilt-walking, juggling, fire dance and laughter yoga – no joke!

In the end, I chose aerial silks for the sheer beauty and athleticism that I associate with Cirque du Soleil. I’ve seen those amazing acrobatic performers suspend, swing, spiral, fall and fly through the air on long, and colorful fabrics (silks) that hang securely from a high ceiling. Cirque de Vol claims that anyone can do this, and that no experience is required.

A wide smile stretched across my face as I walked into the sunlit studio and watched as my instructor – the lovely Liz “Bliss” Roberts – unfurled the gorgeous red fabrics that tumbled to the floor.  Liz started talking about wrist locking, foot locking, tying, wrapping and gripping and then it was if I was hearing a foreign language – a frown across the brow quickly replaced my smile.

She then explained how participating in aerial silks helps to build strength, flexibility, coordination and balance in the body (you’re speaking my language now, sister) and continued on in my native tongue as to how this form allows people to “get” into their bodies by exploring movements in the air, defying gravity. (The smile is back).

We began on the floor with a short yoga-like warmup and moved on to the conditioning portion of instruction. Liz is a skilled and patient teacher and (gradually) the language became clearer as I learned challenging poses that allowed me to wrap, climb, flip, invert and drop in these gorgeous silk ribbons. Wow!

A cool-down signaled the end of my hour-and-a-half long session. I never once thought about the time what with all the laughing and fun we were having. But make no mistake, I worked deeply from my core, enlisted all major muscle groups (and some minor ones I didn’t know existed), increased my heart rate, perspired a great deal, and even flexed my brain muscles.

On my way out the door, Liz (now I get the “Bliss” moniker) shouted after me, “It’s addictive, isn’t it?”  I hollered back: “It sure is!”


For more information about Cirque de Vol Studios, go to A drop-in Intro Aerial Skills class is $30.