For Amanda Savoie, there is no greater joy than to know people on a deep level and to guide them in knowing themselves deeply as well. What most people don’t know is that this usually involves getting off the ground in the walls of her aerial silks studio.
Originally from Mandeville, Savoie graduated from LSU in 2010 with a degree in communications, but for a while, theatre was her major of choice. It was during her time as a theatre major when she got her first taste of what it was like being high in the air.
“It was my last semester at LSU that they introduced aerial silks into the theatre department, and I got a little introduction to it there,” Savoie said, recalling how she wore jeans the first time she tried the art form. “I was not dressed for it at all. I was walking in the theatre, and one of my professors asked me to try this, and I remember thinking, ‘What is this?’ I had seen it at Cirque du Soleil, but didn’t know what it was called, didn’t know that it was accessible.”
Savoie recalled leaving that day filled with curiosity and excitement, while also discovering she had “muscles in [her] elbows.”
“I couldn’t believe the extent of a workout it was,” Savoie said. “I was a little overwhelmed by it, but also enchanted by it.”
Since then, she has dabbled in aerial silks on and off for a few years, until 2014 when it really took off.
“It was then that I decided this was something I really enjoy, I could really pursue this, I can go somewhere with this,” Savoie said. “One of the most rewarding things now when people find out about it is that they realize it’s not just something they can go see at the circus, but it’s something they can do.”
Owning her own studio wasn’t the initial dream as Savoie went on to graduate for counseling and began working as a clinical mental health counselor. But aerial silks weren’t far from her mind as she further educated herself in the art form.
“The more I trained, the further I took it, the doors just opened up,” Savoie said. “The people have come to me, and even my students have said, ‘You’re stuck with me. You should take this a step further and open your own business. This has a lot of potential.’ So I’ve been taking it one step at a time with no real intentions of getting it as big as it’s now becoming.”
When the business was first created, she taught primarily in her back yard. Her husband built her a rig, which at first was meant for just her to practice on, but soon the idea of sharing her knowledge grew.
“I thought, ‘Maybe I can do a few private lessons out here,’ and that’s sort of where it took off,” Savoie said.
Since then Savoie has grown her business from private lessons in her backyard to working as a counselor part time, and renting space out of LA Athletics gym.
“I have this picture, and I have this cheesiest grin on my face as I’m unlocking the door,” Savoie said. “I never thought I would get to this place.”
Right now the major focus of the studio is having students learn aerial fundamentals and aerial fitness, but Savoie plans on introducing more classes over time as she builds her core team.
“I’ll be offering lots of aerial arts,” Savoie said. “I want to offer trapeze, aerial rope and lyra. So I’m slowly building a team of people that I hope will work along beside me. So Above Ground is really growing and is becoming something bigger than I intended originally, so I’m excited about that.”
Savoie describes aerial arts as liberating. What she has found is that there is a limited belief of who aerial silks are for, as people tell her they don’t think they have the right body shape or don’t possess the upper body strength. However, Savoie assures that anyone can do the beginner level exercises.
“So when people, who maybe aren’t in the best shape, come out and try it and do things that they thought they might never know how to do, they feel elated,” Savoie said. “You feel free; you feel like a rock star.”
But aerial silks is also so much more than that as it has helped Savoie realize that she has more physical and psychological capacity than she ever realized. Savoie described being in a fragile place five years ago, after receiving several significant physical injuries.
“I had a lot of bodily injuries; I’ve been in a couple of car accidents. I’m very accident prone,” Savoie said. “Part of why I stopped doing silks for a while was because my body couldn’t handle it. There were days where I couldn’t even get out of bed.”
It was during this time that Savoie realized that what was really important is when you put your mind to something, and she found the strength to heal in her faith, which then had her return to silks.
“I really believe in trusting in Him, and also believing that He made me strong; He has made me well, and pushing through and committing to trying to create that healing in my life. And silks was absolutely a big part of that…I started healing. It was a unique brand of physical therapy.”
Savoie would love to one day merge her aerial training along with her experience as a counselor as a holistic way to help people reach their goals emotionally and physically.
“I have found a lot of therapeutic moments in the teaching of aerial silks to my students,” Savoie said. “I felt a lot of unique interpersonal relationships because of the trust and what they are gaining from silks.”
Photo by Emily Brauner.