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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Walking tall: Spokane Aerial Performance Arts helps kids reach new heights with stilt classes, camps

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

Thanks to a grant from Spokane Arts, a local performance troupe is reaching new heights.

Since August 2011, Spokane Aerial Performance Arts has provided local instruction in the circus arts, including aerial silks, aerial hoop, static trapeze and stilt walking for both children and adults.

Last summer, the studio hosted two popular stilt-walking camps. However, the equipment didn’t hold up to extended use.

“I applied for a SAGA (Spokane Arts Grant Awards) grant and was able to purchase 14 sets of new stilts this year,” said owner Sherrie Martin.

When combined with the 11 sets they already had, there are now enough stilts for everyone in the 25-member youth troupe.

The stilt-walking classes are free to kids who are already enrolled in other classes at Spokane Aerial Performance Arts.

“It offers so much excitement,” Martin said. “The wooden ones are harder to walk on than the plastic ones, but the kids like the challenge of the wood.”

Stilt sizes range from 14 inches to 3 feet, and the first thing students have to master is putting the unwieldy items on and taking them off by themselves. Once the stilts are securely fastened, it’s time for baby steps.

“I have them walk around a big red block until they’re steadier,” she said. “When we put stilt covers over them it looks like they have extra long legs.”

Several members of the class will make their debut at the Junior Lilac Parade on May 13.

“This is our first outing as a troupe,” Martin said. “We’re going to be in Medical Lake for Founders Day in June, too.”

On a recent Monday afternoon at the studio, kids practiced their maneuvers.

“I like the idea of being in a parade,” Liv Donaldson, 11, said. “The costumes are the most fun.”

She and her cousin, Penelope Cook, also 11, are color-coordinating their turquoise stilt coverings.

“I got up on the stilts on my first try,” said Cook.

But getting the confidence to walk on them proved more challenging.

“I have a little fear of heights,” she admitted.

Not so Eden Warren, 13, who towered over everyone as she strode through the room on 3-foot stilts.

“I’m 5-foot-3 without them,” she said. “I like the feeling of being tall.”

She likes it so much, she bought her own set.

“I wanted to practice at home,” she said. “The hardest thing is that you have to be constantly moving.”

Indeed, all the students walked in place to keep their balance when not taking bigger steps.

“Focus is the key,” Martin said.

That can be tricky for the younger set, but Aurora Simmons, 9, is gaining more confidence with every try.

“At first it was hard,” she said. “Strapping them on was the hardest part.”

She’s proud of the results of her efforts.

“I’m almost as tall as my dad with these on,” said Simmons. “I get to feel like a giant!”

Martin enjoys watching her students take bigger strides.

“It’s just cool,” she said. “It’s a sport with lots of room for creativity.”For more information about classes at Spokane Aerial Arts visit