Aerial Arts Program & Business Development

Frequently Asked Questions For Climbing Gym & Studio Owners

What is an aerial arts program?

A good aerial arts program will directly benefit members who wish to become better climbers. It will also create a sustainable community within your gym of upcoming aerialists who will offer unique opportunities to market to future members who do not currently climb. Aerial silks allow people to feel strong and beautiful from the very beginning. Vertical Art Dance finds that this activity generally excites fitness, dance and gymnastic/cheer based females.  A good program will consist of 3-4 silks/apparatuses suspended in a dedicated area of high ceilings (16+ feet), good padding (up to 8” thick) around each apparatus and all items of impact risk are padded or cleared. There will be a trained teacher who will also need a place to continue their education and practice during off class times. This teacher is a professional who will develop direct relationships with the students and personally coach and spot the students as they train. A student to teacher ratio should be 1:4 max. As the students advance their skills so must the teacher, a good outlet for the students is to organize performances at the gym where parents etc can come see choreographed shows and competitions.

What are estimated start up costs?

Assuming you have sufficient overhead anchor points such as beams or rated points for redirects and a ground anchor system, here is an example of estimated aerial arts program start up costs for a climbing gym:

Gear: Padding per station: 8’x8’x8’ $800 each, Hardware: carabiners, swivel, rope, anchor slings, lowering device $400, Fabric: $126 per station for “twin tails” (14 yards or 42 feet, 21 feet of “twin tails”.) or $63.00 per station for “hammock mode” (7 yards or 21 feet, for a 10.5’ hammock)

Example Instructor Salaries: Minimum $30 per hour in Los Angles, CA set up tear down not included.

Insurance: Costs will vary, please contact your current liability insurance carrier/agent to find out the costs to add aerial arts activities to your gym. Teacher and Performer insurance is generally costs $400-$800 annually. Aerial teachers are required to also carry their own aerial instructors liability policy.

Marketing: Reaching out to current member lists with exciting news, e-blasts, in house signage, etc. Colorful silks hanging in the gym and also in use. Word of mouth, traditional marketing great social media photos.

How much can I charge? Member vs. non member student?

Non-members should pay an industry rate usual for that area. IE Los Angeles $25-$35 average cost per class per hour. Maine $15-$25 average cost per class per hour. Gym owners must understand that aerial silk climbing requires a lot of spotting and personal coaching. There’s no way around it, this is the additional money which members generally agree to pay. Their existing membership allows them access to a facility where climbing and other life safety type rigging solutions are used for training and recreation. IE ropes harnesses etc. If climbing required a professional coach for every 4 climbers then the membership would likely be more expensive too. Equipment depreciation is also a minor consideration. Much like ropes, silks wear out and get dirty. A teacher will need to be responsible for cleaning and inspections for the systems, additional class costs will need to be worked into the overage membership charge. These are important explanations to understand and communicate to the member. Vertical Art Dance can help with this.

How long is a class?

A typical aerial yoga/dance/fitness class is usually between 1 and 2 hours long. The instructor will need to be there a few minutes  before and stay after for apparatus set up and tear down. Open gym sessions are also a great way to utilize the aerial arts area, allowing students to workout in the space on their own. Open gym sessions can also rage from 1-2 hours long and can be put into the down time of the gym space, bringing participants in during slower periods.


What is the depreciation rate of aerial fabric?

With aerial fabric in hammock mode the average shelf life is an estimated 1-2 years with medium to heavy daily use. In our experience aerial fabric in hammock mode is the fastest mode to deteriorate. Aerial fabric in twin tail mode generally will last 2-4 years under the same conditions. We suggest daily equipment inspections and depending on use recommend washing your aerial fabrics either bi-weekly or monthly.

How do I find trained instructors?

Contact Vertical Art Dance directly for advise on regional instructor pools. Aerial yoga (hammock) teachers will be more common than the Twin Tails teachers.

How much space does a silk rig take up?

The most widely recommended spacing is a 10’ radius with the silk hanging directly in the center. The minimum space would be a 7’ radius. This will not allow for much swinging or movement. The teacher will have to work in a tight space as well which doesn’t lend itself to the safest situation, Much like spotting a bouldering climber, space is critical.

Do other gyms do this?

Yes, we are currently building a database of facilities which offer this type of program. If you are a facility who currently has an aerial arts program and would like to be added to our data base please contact us with your information. Please be sure to include your gyms name, website, email, phone number and a contact name.

What are the typical rigging requirements? 

The rigging needs are different between Hammocks and Twin Tails however the solutions are the same. Vertical Art Dance uses a LOS (Lower Out System) Sterling Rope Co. makes a device called the F4, we thread this with a 9mm SR HTP static line or SR CanyonTech rope, a ground anchor, 1-2 overhead COD (Change Of Direction) anchors using slings, a quick link. (some cases a pulley too), a swivel and a connector plate to the silks. Vertical Art Dance is the innovator of ornamental rigging plates and we suggest checking out our new “Angel Rigging Plate” in the Aerial Shop.

What is the fall protection like?

Padding must ALWAYS be used! We recommend a minimum of an 8’x8′ by 8″ thick pad per aerial apparatus station. During classes and open gym time you should also have a professional instructor/spotter. You should have a proper Lower Out System (LOS) in place to handle retrieving an entangled student. (if you don’t have a LOS then the teacher has to 1. stop class, 2. get a ladder which means leaving the spotter position, 3. climb up onto unstable padded flooring to try and get the student to unweight the fabric and climb down the ladder with the teacher. This method commonly causes both the teacher and the student to loose control and is dangerous to all those involved. The LOS allows the teacher to casually walk over to the ground anchor and safely lower a stuck student to the ground with out creating a scene. Click here to learn about the SR LOS Kit.

How many students per silk rig per class?

Twin Tails” vs “Hammock” mode will have different results. Hammock rigs specifically for an aerial yoga class are 1 student per rig, Twin Tails rigs are up to 4 students per class.

Does my insurance typically cover this?

You will have to contact your insurance carrier/agent directly to learn about your options. We recommend always carrying an insurance policy for any type of aerial arts program, activities and performance. We also recommend only hiring qualified professional instructors who carry their own personal aerial arts teachers liability insurance.

What type of business arrangement should I have with the aerial teacher?

A. Sub lease some of your space and have the pre-trained teacher collect the money from the students and pay for their own insurance. “Cross Promotion” and “percentage of profit sharing” is a great way to start.  Gym has a hold harmless agreement the students sign along with the teachers personal waiver system. Teacher is responsible for purchase and upkeep of gear.

B. Hire a pre-trained teacher for a flat fee. Gym markets and collects the income via memberships and additional sources. Gym owners responsible for the insurance and equipment upkeep. Teacher handles the maintenance.

Regardless, have the following written into your agreement: An exit plan, a no new apparatus without owner approval, unsupervised situations etc written into your agreement as part of the management plan.

What are the common risks my business will face?

Climbing gyms are perfect for this type of activity as they are already managing this type of risk.

A. Injury, fabric burns, falls, suspension pinching and entanglement.

To Manage: Qualified teachers and ratios to prevent burns and falls, padding for falling and a lower out system, LOS to casually lower a stuck climber, much like climbing.

B. Property damage due to unfit anchor points. Some facilities will not have adequate overhead anchor points in the leased warehouse space etc. Due to the static nature of a silk rig, significant damage can occur to the rooftop system from the repeated shock loading from aerial drops and movement.

To Manage: Contact Vertical Art Dance and our qualified rigger can review your site via email and calls to assess your situation free of charge. In uncertain cases Vertical Art Dance uses engineered Portable Truss Structures LIVE LINK as an endoskeleton to a building completely eliminating the risk and costs of rigging to existing structures.

C. Early depreciation of the silks.

To Manage: Teachers generally supervise the clothing and jewelry etc that the students wear while using the silks. Twin Tails last longer than Hammocks. We suggest washing the fabric once every 2 weeks or once every month depending on usage.

D. Crazy teachers who bring in different apparatus’s inducing steel pipe hoops, cubes cork screws etc., or adding in bungee cords to the system for excitement etc. Not good.

To Manage: Agree in writing, ahead of time that management must approve any new changes to the rigging or apparatus’s and have cameras to review issues and enforce the agreement. Vertical Art Dance can help provide a sample management plan.

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