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The Tipping Point

It was a year ago or so that a friend recommended The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I had long ruminated and been very perplexed as to the reason that certain phenomenon, trends, etc, suddenly and inexplicably hit critical mass and really took off. Things such as the hula hoop – invented in 1957 and a fad by 1958. Then, interest lay relatively dormant for over 40 years. In the last few years, there has been a renaissance in hooping, but now with a much more serious interest for exercise and dance. Yet, it is difficult to ferret out any particular reasons to explain the resurgence in interest now. One may cit interest in exercise, material availability, etc., yet all these elements have been in place for decades.
Gladwell seeks to explain such mysterious sociological agents of change that mark everyday life with his three rules of epidemics: The Law of the Few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context. Gladwell’s thinking is also based on the 1967 Six Degrees of Separation study by social psychologist Stanley Milgram. However, despite the books popularity and Gladwell’s financial success (over $1 million dollar advance for the book and subsequent speaking at $40,000 per lecture), the scientific community is not in full agreement as to the validity of Gladwell’s analyses and for many, the reasons for a tipping point in social phenomena still remains a mystery.

I see this tipping point concept in my business as well as the innumerable trends I have witnessed in the last 44 years I have lived in New York City. Frozen yogurt shops, gelato, and most recently, aerial arts – a relatively difficult and somewhat dangerous activity to gain an audience with the general populace. Until recently, such interest in things like trapeze, wire walking, lyra, and silks has been limited to circus professionals. People such as Hovey Burgess have been steadfast in training a small number of those with a passion for flying high.

On Sunday, January 13, 2013, I had been wandering the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on a trip to visit the Domino Sugar refinery. I was intrigued by a one-story industrial building with a colorfully painted door with the words The Muse Performance Center brandished across its face, the huge Domino Sugar building in the distance looming over the place. I wondered what may lie behind this door when I heard my name called. I am recognized on occasion by a customer from the large number of contacts I have made over the last 38 years in business. But nonetheless, it is quite infrequent and certainly unexpected on a Sunday afternoon on a deserted street in an industrial area of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
I did not recognize the individual, but he was in fact a customer and informed me that he had just been to my place of business in the last week. He was, quite conveniently, associated with The Muse. I asked if it would be possible to enter the space and take photos, to which he said yes. He introduced himself as Ryan and gave me his card: Ryan Shinji Murray, it said, along with the words: pleasure to meet you. let’s keep in touch. I learned that Ryan is a very talented working professional and was leaving for a 3-month tour that week – I was fortunate to have met him just before leaving.
I entered the small industrial space and saw that it was, in fact, one of a number of spaces I had heard of that was used for the training and teaching of aerial arts. In the last few years, there has been a renaissance in interest in all manner of aerial circus arts. Studios in inauspicious locations around New York City provide space for such activity. In the five boroughs of New York City, you will find STREB, The Trapeze School of New York, Circus Warehouse, Skybody System, Aerial Arts NYC, Helium Aerial Dance, Kiebpoli’s Aerial Class,The Sky Box, Body and Pole, the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, and The Muse, located at 32D South First Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. STREB, one of the most well known, is only two blocks away from The Muse.

I thank Ryan and the cordial staff of The Muse for letting me take photos of their space. And I will let others explain why now, among the other particular current trends and fashions of New York City, that aerial arts has reached The Tipping Point :)

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