Staying physically healthy benefits many aspects of an individual's life, from boosting confidence to becoming physically stronger.

Aerial arts, also known as aerial dance, can be an alternative to the traditional workout at the gym.

Aerial arts is a sub-genre of modern dance that started in the '70s. It involves an apparatus that hangs from the ceiling in order for the dancer to explore moves in all dimensions, said Christy Muecke, aerial dance instructor and performer.

Dragonfly Aerial Arts Studio is a nonprofit business, co-owned and started in Knoxville by six aerial dance enthusiasts. Four of them are certified aerial dance instructors, Muecke being one of them. Aerial apparatuses can include trapezes, silks, poles, cordoleises and Spanish Webb ladders, Muecke said.

The organization has aerial fitness classes to help promote progress to the different types of aerial dance that Dragonfly Aerial Arts provides.

Silks, or fabrics, is one form of aerial arts that can be learned.

Evelyn McClarnon, a licensed massage therapist, is a student at Dragonfly Aerial Arts Studio and started on silks five weeks ago.

"I would tell someone who is interested in silks without a doubt you should try it out," McClarnon said. "It's an amazing, beautiful art form, and if you are wanting to exercise, it's one of my favorite ways to exercise. Even if you don't think you are strong enough, don't worry. Once you start taking classes, you will become strong, very strong. Silks are amazing. I love it."

Muecke learned aerial arts when a friend needed a spot filled last minute. She had weeks to learn the art form and routine to fill in the spot. With her fitness background, Muecke immediately took the offer and has continued to pursue all aspects of aerial dance, focusing mainly on dance trapeze.

"We do it so we can do it," Muecke said. "The reason we teach is so we can continue to feed our aerial addiction. We don't get paid. We do this so that we can have the studio, so we can have it to continue (practicing). (Aerial dance) is the best form of exercise that I've ever done, ever. It's completely low impact. It's weight bearing so it helps your bones. It's a full body weight exercise."

Irena Spassova, graduate of Rutgers University and a swing dancing enthusiast, was introduced to aerial arts by a trapeze artist friend. She added another benefit she saw from going to the silk fitness classes besides the gained core strength.

"I don't like exercise, so I needed to trick myself into something fun, so I decided (aerial dance) would be neat, and this would build up different muscles than swing dancing does," Spassova said. "(The silk fitness class) teaches me a lot of stretches that I've picked up and do before and after swing dancing."

Besides teaching through the nonprofit organization, the Dragonfly Aerial Arts instructors are also booked to put on shows at various venues throughout the year. If a student really becomes dedicated to aerial dance, there are different outlets for them to perform at if they choose to.

"Anybody can try it," Muecke said. "It doesn't matter how strong you are. It doesn't matter what size you are or what your flexibility level is. It's for everybody."

Dragonfly Aerial Arts Studio is located in Maryville, Tenn. The studio's location and information on classes can all be located at its website at