Movie trivia time: who is the first dancer seen in the 1984 hit movie Footloose starring Kevin Bacon? That was pro dancer and yoga enthusiast Christopher Harrison who has built a career on taking big stars to new heights with gravity-defying aerial dancing.
Megastars Rihanna, Pink, Mariah Carey, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kanye West, and Britney Spears join megainfluencers Bill Gates, Steve Forbes, Richard Branson, George Lucas, Giorgio Armani, and the White House as patrons of Harrison’s art.
Harrison, who placed 4th at the World Games in gymnastics when he was 17 years old, began developing his movement style as a tumbling specialist and later as a dancer in Broadway theater productions.
The athletic competitor and performer envisioned and founded the internationally-renowned entertainment and fitness brand AntiGravity in 1991 where he serves as Artistic Director. His credits include conceiving and producing “over 400 entertainment productions from Broadway to the Olympics to the Academy Awards to Disney films to the Metropolitan Opera to flashmobs,” according to his website.
When it opened, Antigravity was America’s first gymnastics/dance performance company that groomed champion gymnasts to win competitions:
“Their movement style was all about jumping up and flipping to defy gravity. They explored every means possible utilizing trampolines, vaulting boards and springy shoes.”
Antigravity is headquartered in midtown Manhattan, New York City with the sister AntiGravity Theater & National Aerial Performance Training Center based in Orlando, Florida which produces a long-running show.
Harrison has contributed greatly to the evolution of bungee dancing. He invented the first AntiGravity boots for tumbling. When the innovator found out about hanging silk as a performing apparatus, he redesigned it to create the “silk hammock,” a term that has been adopted worldwide.
The silk hammock aerial dance technique helped the Broadway production of Nine win two Tony awards.
Realizing that his silk hammock could help the general public as an exercise device to raise health and fitness levels, Harrison worked with physiotherapists in 2007 to create AntiGravity Yoga & Fitness. These trademarked techniques are now offered in gyms and studios in over 30 countries.
Ironman’s Gwyneth Paltrow endorsed anti-gravity yoga and dance as the secret to her health and fitness. More than 80 physical entertainers and hundreds of certified AntiGravity fitness instructors around the globe are actively promoting this new recreational fitness technique which has received safety approvals from the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), American Council on Exercise (ACE), Central YMCA Qualifications (CYQ), and Yoga Alliance.
Harrison’s core mission is to motivate and inspire others with his passion for expression through physicality. So how does it work?
There are eight programs and more than 1,000 poses that use hanging U-shaped silk hammocks. Many studios begin a session with a body inversion. The silk loop’s height is adjusted to waist level to support the waist and buttocks while leaning backward and upside-down. This pose is designed to lengthen the spine which compresses throughout a long day of sitting, standing, walking, and running.
To perform a body inversion, the practitioner sits, hammock-style, in the middle of the fabric loop. Body weight pulls the springy material down, stretching it. Grasp the fabric around the hips for anchoring, then slowly turn upside-down until facing the floor – or as nearly as possible. Focus on breathing to minimize any discomfort or slight nausea from the unusual orientation.
This extremely relieving position is held for 30 seconds or so as blood rushes to the head and weight is lifted from the internal organs, including the heart. After the initial blood-rush to the head, most people settle into the posture. The movement is completed by flipping right-side-up and clambering down to the floor.
The silk hammock is lowered to a foot and a half from the floor for most restorative anti-gravity yoga poses. The soft, yielding fabric supports the hips, buttocks, and lower back when assuming a bridge position, with the shoulders on the floor and feet planted as flatly as possible.
Perform a spinal flexion by moving from side to side in a “C” shape with hammock support from head to toe. From here, it is easy to go into the final resting pose common to many yoga sessions, called Savasana (sah-VAH-sah-nah). Lying on the back, lengthen the body with arms extended down to the sides with palms up. Lower the chin to extend the neck. Breathe slowly and deeply.
Fans of anti-gravity yoga agree the techniques help improve posture, raise kinesthetic self-awareness and agility, strengthen the core muscles, ease back pressure, and increase muscular strength and flexibility.
Click here to find a certified AntiGravity Fitness location near you to find out first-hand why practicing yoga in silk hammocks suspended from the ceiling is gaining popularity – on and off stage.