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Thursday, October 19 Business

Aerial fitness studio opening Fairfield location

FAIRFIELD — Ashley Popoli reaches for the hoop hanging from the ceiling, known as a lyra, with both arms and pulls herself up in order to get her left leg inside and bent over the edge. She then holds on with one hand, stretches out her right arm and leg and throws her head back.

Just as easily as she got into the position, she disentangles her body and gets down. When her moves are compared to those seen in shows like the Cirque du Soleil, Popoli nods.

“All of the stuff they do, we do — except we don’t balance on top of each other,” she adds, smiling.

Moments later, she once again works on preparing her Mill Plain Road studio, located within the Sportplex next to The Field House, for its grand opening Saturday.

“I forget what it’s like to open brand new again,” Popoli said. “It’s interesting.”

Saturday’s event marks the opening of the second location for Popoli’s Vertical Addiction brand. Her first studio, which opened up on High Ridge Road in Stamford in 2012 before moving to Pacific Street last year, has been doing well and raising awareness of the benefits of aerial fitness.

“It’s still certainly a growing sport,” Popoli said. “More and more people are getting to know it.”

A gymnast all her life, Popoli said she entered the aerial fitness industry by accident. An event planner at the time, she was invited to a pole-dancing course about a decade ago and loved it.

“You don’t realize you’re working out,” she said. “You have fun. There’s camaraderie. We talk in class. It’s a very interactive environment.”

When the recession came along, Popoli began looking for a new career because people weren’t hiring event planners as much, she said.

While working at Lululemon, those who knew she was certified in pole dancing kept asking her when she would be opening her own studio. Popoli said it hadn’t occurred to her to pursue the fitness method as a career until she began looking into the possibility and found a space in Stamford, where she lives.

“I think it kind of picked me,” she said. “I don’t think I necessarily picked this.”

Since opening Vertical Addiction in Stamford five years ago, the business has expanded its offerings, with classes on hammocks, silk cloths hanging horizontally across the studio; aerial silks, which hang vertically; chair dances; flexibility and strength training; and, of course, pole dancing and the lyra.

The company, which is co-owned by Popoli’s business partner, Trevor Mullineaux, is undergoing a rebranding to better reflect what it stands for and what it offers. The original logo, featuring a woman hanging on a pole, was too focused on that aspect, said Popoli. “I think our original logo gave off a more exotic impression and turned people off,” she added.

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Popoli said she was glad she found the space within the Sportsplex because of its positive reputation.

First Selectman Mike Tetreau, who planned to be at Vertical Addiction’s opening Saturday, said the Sportsplex is a “phenomenal resource” in town. He joked that with all the fitness and health clubs opening up in town, they were talking about hosting a health club week after next year’s restaurant week.

“This is another piece of the puzzle,” he said, of Vertical Addiction.

Popoli said she’s hoping the Fairfield location will allow those from northern Fairfield County more access to her studio’s offerings. “Now we’re really ready to move forward and grow this brand,” she said. “Now we can take Vertical Addiction to the next level.”

ktorres@hearstmediact.com; 203-330-6227

Keila Torres Ocasio|Staff Writer

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