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Father of Aerial Yoga and Segway chauffeur to his dog, Newton, Christopher Harrison arrived in Hell’s Kitchen from Utah in the mid-1980s — and never left. Christopher shares his West Side Story.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
Humble beginnings: I arrived from Salt Lake City, Utah on the hottest day of the summer in 1984 with too many bags and no place to stay. I was a gay man escaping Mormonism and I landed in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen in the midst of a plague upon my house. I was determined to dance on Broadway, despite already having eight knee surgeries. I danced in the film Footloose in Utah — it was my door into the business. Kevin Bacon told me if I wanted to make it as a dancer I had to move to NYC and then stay there and not give up. I lived above a crack den on 44th across from the Improv club. The friends I made died, as did my lover. I didn’t give up. I surpassed my goals. “In life, hidden in the forces that pull us down is the energy to lift us up.”
What was your first job? What do you do now?
First Job: Food prep at an executive kitchen in the old PanAm building. Second Job: Acrobat at the Met Opera. NOW: Founder AntiGravity Entertainment (est. 1991) and AntiGravity Fitness (est. 2008). Father of Aerial Yoga and the AntiGravity Academy at the AntiGravity Lab (NYC). Director/Choreographer at AntiGravity Theater and Aerial Arts Center (Orlando). What do I do now? I am the Segway chauffeur for my dog Newton.
What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
My favorite NY minute is the one I’m having now. The past is a glorious history, the future is a forever mystery, but being present is a gift. There is never a dull moment living in Hell’s Kitchen, especially living at the top in Manhattan Plaza facing the Empire State. Okay, one favorite moment — watching the airplane land in the Hudson in 2009.
Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
I love the diversity, the melting pot that is our neighborhood. I love the history. I love the restaurants, I love the LGBTQ peeps and the many artists. I love the local community feel, especially the street fairs. I love the proximity to the best theaters in the world. I love that we are so close to so many arts centers, like Hudson Yards and Lincoln Center. I love the nightlife! I love having everything you could ever need nearby. I love seeing familiar faces and that we watch out for one another. I love the piers and watching sunset by the water. I love that my wheels can get me anywhere in no time flat.
What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
I hang people upside down from the ceiling and fly people through the air for a living. I’ve been doing it safely for over 30 years in more than 50 countries. My antigravity techniques are for anyone. They can not only heal back and neck pain, but can reconnect one’s body/mind and cause one to have an epiphany. I hold the chalice to the fountain of youth and I love to share it. No lie.
What else should we know about you?
The AntiGravity Lab is on W37th Street and 8th Avenue. We hold daily classes that are open to the public. Anybody can experience antigravity, literally anyone. It is both easier and more challenging than floor-based yoga. Straight up: The pandemic hit hard. We need locals to come support us. www.antigravitylab.com
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Christopher’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places
AntiGravity Lab — 265 W37th Street #1100 (bw 7th/8th Ave)
People who come to the AntiGravity Lab have a true healing. It is a place to connect with real people and have an in-person experience that is uplifting and community oriented. I love being able to bring about levity with my work and share my passion for flying. Forgive the shameless plug.
Manhattan Plaza Health Club —482 W43rd Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
Terrific group classes, pool and spa. Great personnel. Great facility!
Poseidon Bakery — 629 9th Avenue (bw 44/45th St)
They have the best Spanakopita in NYC!
Turco — 604 9th Avenue (bw W43/44th St)
Authentic Mediterranean cuisine. Yum! Best takeout.
Chez Josephine — 414 W42nd Street (bw 9th/Dyer Ave)
Live music and good food and great atmosphere!
International Grocery — 543 9th Avenue (between W40/41st St)
I’m transported to another country. The clerks have been the same for years. The owners are consistent. The food and novelties are the best and the fresh fish market is right next door!
Swing 46 — 349 W46th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
Live Music, dancing, delicious food!
Amy’s Bread — 672 9th Avenue (bw W46/47th St)
The most heavenly breads in NYC!
Little Pie Company — 424 W43rd Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
How blessed are we to have this here? Whenever I host a dinner I serve up their pies. OMG the sour cream apple?! What a glorious neighborhood story!
Don Giovanni’s — 358 W44th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
Not only the great pizza, but also the history — I remember when it was the improv club. Dining against that wall is like having a beer with the greatest comedians of all time!
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
Come “hang out” with me at www.antigravitylab.com. Learn more at: www.antigravityfitness.com, www.anti-gravity.com, www.antigravitytheater.com, www.christopherharrisonnyc.com, my dog Newton is @antigravitydog
If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself) please fill in this form — w42st.info/WSSnominations
You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.