In a town that’s anything but conventional, it only makes sense that the Woodstock area should play host to an athletic space that mirrors its forward-thinking, progressive ideals. Enter the Jungle: Athletic Movement Studio: a new center for imaginative fitness that has sprouted up on Route 28. Envisioned and actualized by owner and instructor Richard Ferrono, a long-time member of the Woodstock community, the Jungle is no ordinary gym or gymnastics studio. Rich and his fellow instructors teach the athletic arts — a combination of circus arts (aerial silks, stick spinning, acrobatics, and poi), parkour (the avoidance of obstacles by jumping, running, and climbing), tumbling, yoga, and natural movement.
The space currently occupied by the Jungle has housed a variety of businesses over the years — a mixed martial arts studio and a caviar company among them. Although neither stayed long, Rich believes that the location is perfect for the Jungle, with its proximity to both Woodstock and Kingston, as well as its positioning on the Route 28 corridor.
The Jungle has a bright, airy, and playful interior that seemingly contradicts the building’s industrial outside.
Floor mats and gymnastics equipment don’t keep your eye from being drawn to the ceiling, where vividly-colored aerial silks hang, a Cirque du Soleil-esque vision of nimble acrobats and trapeze artists leaping from rope to rope overhead.
An apparently uninhibited small group of kids took turns scrambling, jumping, and spinning over elevated mats, as well as completing front tucks and back handsprings with the assistance of their instructors. At the end of the class, they seated themselves in a circle on the floor and, in a moment of calm, Rich told them to remember that they were “spiritual beings in physical form.”
“I knew I was going to do this at the age of nine, and I’m fifty-two,” said Ferrono. “It’s my passion…I had owned a gymnastics school for 20 years, and I got into the circus arts about eight years ago. Upon getting into the circus arts, I realized this is a lot healthier than gymnastics.” He believes gymnastics is rigid and constructed — something he seeks to break away from. “If [you] want to do a circus art, [you] can pick one area of expertise and then you can do other things: you can study music, you can have a life. I know as a child, it was gymnastics six days a week, for several hours every day.”
Much of Ferrono’s fitness philosophy revolves around changing the mindset most people have about staying healthy. His goals for the Jungle’s ultimate impact on the community largely consist of wanting others “to look at health in more progressive paradigms…We think, ‘Oh, okay, I have to work out and kill myself for hours in a gym,’ and it’s really not that. My goal here is to have people embrace play, and have that lead them. I’d like to offer up a new way of thinking to the community and inspire them to be healthier.”
These “progressive paradigms” are especially relevant as the New Year approaches. Many people who wish to have healthier lifestyles make their New Year’s resolutions into grandiose — and often unrealistic — goals to go to the gym every day, or else to commit to dieting. But the extreme difficulty of juggling day-to-day responsibilities while making time for yourself leads many of these resolutions to dissapate.
This is where Ferrono’s philosophy kicks in. “I’m not saying go work out for an hour; I’m saying go play for twenty minutes.”
The options for doing so at the Jungle are seem vast. In addition to offering many classes for kids, there are quite a few options for adults. “We have adult parkour, mobility, and starting in January, we’ll have both child and adult capoeira (a Brazilian martial art comprised of dance, acrobatics, and music). We’ll be expanding more and more and we’ll eventually offer circus arts to adults, as well as aerial yoga. We also do partner yoga and acrobatics for adults.”
Ferrono is looking to expand the repertoire of classes offered, as well as inviting instructors to teach new disciplines. “I’m offering other people in the community [a chance] to run a business out of here. So long as you’re awesome at what you do, and it’s in line with what we do, then come on down!”
Ferrono wants to give back to the community in other ways. All proceeds from its upcoming “Karma Wash” event are being given to Family of Woodstock.
That event, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday January 3, inspired, says Ferrono, by Wavy Gravy and the Merry Pranksters, will feature a ‘Troupe of Bliss Facilitators’ dusting off ‘your negative Karma’ with the low-to-the-ground, 30-foot-wide trampoline, a 40-foot inflatable floor that will be lifted two feet off the ground, an Aerial Silk Cocoon, suspended in the air…suggested donation is $5, all for Family.
The Jungle will also be the new event space for Kingston’s Freestyle Frolic, a community dance held once a month in a drug and alcohol-free, family friendly environment. A Valentine’s Day workshop will also be held, incorporating contact dance, play, and physical activity.
The Jungle will be closed New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. For more information on normal hours, class schedules, or the January 3 Karma Wash Event, visit https://jungle28.com/ or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/The-Jungle-athletic-movement-studio-765891943520410/, or call 845-481-4988.