At first glance, “Versatile Arts” might seem like a strange choice of name for an aerial studio.  Most aerial schools have “circus” or “trapeze” or at least something relating to the air in their name; this one could just as easily be a photography studio or music school.  To understand the logic behind the name, you need to know how the company came to be.

Before I was the director of an aerial studio, I was a software engineer.  I worked at three different companies over 18 years and got my master’s in computer science from UC Berkeley along the way.  Software wasn’t just what I did; it was who I was for my adult life.  When I walked away from Microsoft in 2003, it was more than a career change; it was an opportunity to reinvent myself.

Having no idea what I was going to do next, I decided to “try on” a variety of things.  I dabbled in glass art, did some art modeling, learned about landscaping by giving my whole front yard a makeover, mastered the art of sourdough bread, and took my first aerial classes.  Some of these “stuck” and I decided to create a business that could serve as an umbrella for a variety of pursuits.  That business needed a name, and I’ve always liked the word “versatile” and appreciated that trait in myself – plus it sounded much better than “Indecisive Arts”.

Over time, the aerial-related aspects of the business came to the forefront:  instruction, performance, costuming, and equipment.   In 2012, Versatile Arts is first and foremost an aerial studio and training facility.  So how is the name still relevant, you ask?

At VA, we start all of our beginning students out on a variety of apparatus – trapeze, rope, and tissu – from day one.  This cross-training helps them build strength and develop a broad base of skills that will serve them throughout their aerial career.  And while we certainly applaud students who want to focus on one discipline, we also encourage them to branch out and try new things sometimes– both to stay fresh and to see how skills on one apparatus can transfer to another.  In 2011, we introduced the Versatile Artist program, which recognizes students who have completed acts on multiple apparatus – so if, for example, you see someone wearing a Versatile Artist tank top around the studio, you know that that person has performed original choreography on at least two different apparatus.   (In case you’re curious…I am personally up to 7.   I believe in leading by example!)

We are also branching out beyond aerial instruction with the addition of our Ballroom studio.  Our curriculum now includes ballet, modern, and tap dance offerings as well as a combination aerial and dance repertory class.  Yoga and other fitness classes are coming soon as well.  We hope that these expanded offerings will give our aerialists the tools they need to stay healthy and challenged while not sacrificing our commitment to providing the best aerial instruction possible.

Ultimately, Versatile Arts is about encouraging yourself to expand your comfort zone, saying “yes!” to trying new things, and – as we like to say around the studio – “embracing the power of ‘and’.”

Beverly Sobelman

Director, Versatile Arts