Saudi trapeze artist has soaring success with aerial yoga business

Modern yoga classes have proved so popular among Saudis that Roa’a Al-Sahhaf is already looking to expand throughout the Kingdom. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 11 September 2019

Saudi trapeze artist has soaring success with aerial yoga business

  • Aerialist Roa’a Al-Sahhaf is a certified coach from a number of top US and European institutes

JEDDAH: A Saudi flying trapeze artist has found soaring business success just months after launching the Kingdom’s first aerial yoga studio.

Roa’a Al-Sahhaf, the country’s first female circus performer, said her modern yoga classes have proved so popular among Saudis she is already looking to expand throughout the Kingdom.

The 42-year-old mother of three girls, opened Saudi Arabia’s first certified aerial arts studio in the coastal city of Jeddah in March this year offering yoga, pole dancing, Pilates, family dance classes, and boxing.

Aerial yoga uses a hammock to support, either fully or partially, the weight of students while they work on traditional yoga postures. Not only does it enable them to perform advanced yoga moves that would normally take years to learn but hanging upside-down can be good for the spine and builds confidence.

Al-Sahhaf graduated from The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts in London and has been practicing aerial silks, as they are known, since she was a child. However, she only began to make a career of it in 2009.

“I was the first Saudi female circus performer. Actually, it was my childhood dream to perform in a circus, and thanks to Taif Season it came true in Circo Americano,” she said.

I started loving aerial arts as a kid, but we did not have gymnastics here so the first time I saw this studio, I pursued it.

Mawaddah Mahboob, Saudi lawyer

During the recent Taif festival season of activities Al-Sahhaf performed in flying trapeze and aerial shows with the famous circus.

“I tried to join Circo Americano a year ago, but it was not allowed for females to participate,” she added. “But when things changed, I leapt at the opportunity to shine.”

Pole dancing

The Pole Spirit Paris studio was where Al-Sahhaf learned the discipline of pole dancing and other aerial moves in 2012 and she is now a certified coach from a number of top US and European institutes.

Armed with her qualifications, she decided to introduce her passion for aerial arts to Jeddah. “I had times where I could not travel, so I wanted to practice it here in my city. I decided to open a studio room in my house, and it worked. It started with family and friends of friends, and little by little gyms and studios began to call and ask me to give classes,” she added.

Al-Sahhaf now offers workshops and classes in more than six gyms and studios across Jeddah, in addition to running workshop tours throughout the Kingdom and other GCC countries.

Raised in Paris, Al-Sahhaf said she always had a passion for gymnastics. “I saw aerial hoop in a show when I was in Paris a few years ago, and I was hooked. My parents used to live there, so whenever there was a chance to learn gymnastics or aerial silks skills I used to sign up,” she said.

Her studio, located in Al-Khalidiyah district of Jeddah, offers workshops and training programs for fitness instructors looking to teach aerial arts.

Aerial yoga

In the future, Al-Sahhaf wants to build a Saudi community of aerialists. “I want to engage with the Saudi General Entertainment Authority for more performances and shows done by the studio team. I would love to collaborate with gyms and studio owners around Saudi Arabia to include these types of arts and sports in their gym schedules,” she added.

Al-Sahhaf said aerial yoga had many mental and physical health benefits and most people could take part.

Mawaddah Mahboob, a 23-year-old Saudi lawyer who attends classes at Al-Sahhaf’s studio, told Arab News: “I started loving aerial arts as a kid, but we did not have gymnastics here so the first time I saw this studio, I pursued it.

“It helped me a lot to get more in tune with my body and made me realize that you don’t have to be skinny to be fit. It certainly brings positivity to your life,” she added.

Samia Abushosha, an assistant professor of physics at King Abdul Aziz University, said: “I am 44 years old and it feels like a great accomplishment doing this at my age. I only started nine months ago, and I can feel the positive vibes it gives me in every class.”

Afnan Al-Zain is one of Al-Sahhaf’s coaching assistants and an assistant professor at the faculty of dentistry at King Abdul Aziz University. She started doing aerial yoga in 2017 in the US. “To me this is like my side job as it relaxes my mind, helps me release stress and enhances creativity so that my mind becomes clearer to give more in my career.”

Decoder

Aerialist

An acrobat performing high off the ground, defying a fall to earth, as on a trapeze or a tightrope.


Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

Updated 16 September 2019

Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

  • We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season, says GEA CEO Amr Banaja

RIYADH: Fireworks, concerts, festivals and international performances will be among the highlights of the 89th Saudi National Day celebrations this year.

The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has announced a season of record-breaking events for the annual celebration.

At a press conference in Riyadh on Sunday, GEA CEO Amr Banaja said that Saudi citizens and residents can enjoy a number of entertainment activities planned across 13 regions of the Kingdom as part of the National Day season being supervised by the GEA from Sept. 19 to 23.

“The GEA is proud to oversee the Saudi National Day Season activities by launching a unified identity that brings together the society under “Himma Hatta El-Qimmah,” Banaja said, inspired by the words of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: “The Saudis’ strength is like that of the Tuwaiq mountain.”

The GEA was proud to be overseeing the occasion, Banaja said. “We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season befitting this dear country,” he said.

“This year fireworks celebrations will continue for several days where more than 700,000 shots will be fired at an altitude of up to 300 meters, accompanied by music,” he said.

Celebrations will be held in all regions during the season, and visitors will be able to enjoy a range of activities that reflected the unity of the nation and the cohesion of the people and leadership.

“Distinctive international shows designed especially for the National Day will be held in Riyadh from Sept. 21-23,” he said.

Fireworks will light up Jeddah over Al-Hamra Corniche accompanied by sound and light effects and laser shows.

At the five-day Dhahran Exhibition in Dammam starting on Sept. 19, the world’s largest theatrical producer “Cirque du Soleil” will present a specially designed show for Saudi National Day.

Forty artists will present 14 shows of acrobatics, sports, music, and dance. Eight concerts will also be held in a number of regions where, besides international stars, Saudi and Gulf artists will present patriotic songs.

The concerts will begin on the first day of the season on Sept. 19 at Al-Jouf University Stadium in Sakaka with performances by Khaled Abdulrahman and Nabil Shuail.

The next day, a concert will be held at King Khalid Sport City in Tabuk staged by artists Abdullah Al-Rowaished and Aseel Abu Bakr.

On Sept. 21, Majid Al-Mohandes and Dalia Mubarak will perform at Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Musaed Stadium in Hail.

On Sept. 22, two concerts will be performed at King Abdullah Sports City in Buraidah by artists Rashid Al-Majid and Balqees Fathi; the second at Prince Sultan Cultural Center in Jazan by “The Artist of Arabs” Mohammed Abdo and Turki.

On Saudi National Day (Sept. 23), three concerts will be held in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.

Thousands will gather at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh to listen to singers Hussein Al-Jasmi and Abadi Al-Jawhar.

In Jeddah, Rabeh Saqr and the artist Waad will perform at King Abdullah Sports City, while in Dammam, and in the Green Halls in Riyadh, Kuwaiti singer Nawal and the artist Ayed will entertain the audience.

Five forums will take place in five cities, where a number of speakers will present inspirational events.

Forums will be held in Madinah and Tabuk on Sept. 19, while in Abha and Buraidah the forum will be held on Sept. 21 and in Hail on Sept. 23.

Banaja said that the GEA had created 150 smartphone apps for the National Day celebrations with 40,000 downloaded so far.

He thanked the security authorities for their efforts to make the season a success, and all government, private and nonprofit sectors for their contribution.

The programs were mostly free, he said, though there were some concerts for which tickets could be purchased online.

There will also be a major aero show in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province, and a Saudi falcon show will be organized in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar.