There are three main types of equipment that most clubs and companies focus on: silk, trapeze and lyra. Many aerialists are also trained in other forms of circus arts, such as chandeliers, bungees, cloud swings and aerial straps.
Aerial silk is one of the most well-recognized aspects of this type of dance, and is often called aerial ribbon, fabric, or tissue depending on region. Performers climb the special fabric without safety lines, simply because the silk acts as their safety net. Artists wrap themselves in a certain way that can secure their limbs so that they will not fall. Some choose to use dried or sprayed rosin on their hands and feet to increase the grip and friction on the fabric, but with proper training, safety is not hard to come by. Aerial silk acts were first made famous by Isabelle Chasse in Cirque du Soleil's show called Quidam.
There are many different types of fabrics aerialists use for climbing, with varying widths and give depending on the routine and the acrobat. Most use 2-way stretch poleyster lycra, interlock or tricot. Most use low-stretch fabrics, because it gives the performer a higher degree of control for precision choreography and has great shock absorbancy. Medium-stretch fabrics are now only primarily used by Russian artists and those who started training in the mid-90s.
For beginners, it's beneficial if the fabric comes down past the ground, allowing them to practice foot wraps and locks at a lower level where they can be spotted. Usually, 20 to 30 feet is required to do any kind of tricks or drops.
Watch the video on the left as UF Aerial Club members Jordan Morrow and A'Shayla Passaretti demonstrate some basic moves on silk.
A trapeze is a short horizontal bar hung by ropes or metal straps from a support. There are different types of trapeze performances, such as static, swinging or flying, and it can be peformed solo or with multiple people involved.
Static trapeze refers to an act where the bar stays still, and the performer moves around the bar and ropes, performing a multitude of movements like balances, hangs and drops. This type of act is typically where beginners start, as gaining the amount of strength to even get onto the bar is a tough feat. This is what most UF aerial club members use.
Swinging trapeze involves an act where the trapeze is moving, and uses the momentum to create the tricks. Usually, there's only one performer here. Most acts of this kind start with the performer sitting or standing on the bar, and ending with him or her catching it in an ankle or knee-hang. This is reserved for more advanced aerialists.
The last type of trapeze act is the one most people first think of, called a flying trapeze. It usually starts the same as swinging, except more people are involved and can transfer from apparatus to apparatus. Multiple swings are used and the tricks are performed once momentum is gained. It is usually performed over a net for safety or sometimes water, and was first invented by Jules Leotard in the late 19th century.
UF Aerial Club president, Adam Crosland, and vice president, Elan Horesh, show how to do a basic knee-hang on a static trapeze in the video at right.
During UF aerial club meetings, the lyra is often the most advanced piece of equipment for members to try. Its round shape gives minimal spots for grip, making it hard to mount and manipulate.
Check out the video of UF aerial club members Samantha Payne and Taylor Clemons, showing the basic steps for how to mount a lyra apparatus.
(Info on this page obtained from my own knowledge of aerial dance from being a past club member, wikipedia (common knowledge) and UF aerial officers. All videos were taken by Kim Libby.)