What is it about aerial arts that you love so much?
I love aerials for many reasons, but one reason stands out: anyone can do it! Up until recently, you have to be born into a famous circus family, or attend professional circus school, to learn to fly. Today, recreational aerial and acrobatic classes are popping up in all cities, open to people of all levels, ages, bodies, and genders. Aerial silks, and other circus disciplines, is gratifying, and the foundation of an incredibly supportive community of creative people. Aerial arts goes beyond twisting your body into a pretzel, or falling from impressive heights – it’s about storytelling, using your body to paint a picture or become a song.
I adore how aerials is all about self-growth and personal development – both physical and mental. In the past, I would dwell on the notion that exercise is a punishment or a chore I “had to do”. I thought I had to be a lithe, delicate ballerina to do aerials. Getting involved in circus has enabled me to step away from a plethora of body image issues, and realize that I need strength, that I need muscles, to accomplish certain skills. Many of my friends from studios around the world will agree that aerials has transformed their bodies – as well as the way they think about their bodies. Not only is circus accessible for all body types, it is enhanced by different body types. And by every body, I mean EVERY body. For instance – Lauren Watson, who has incomplete paraplegia, performed at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year. When I trained in Canada, one of my coaches had worked with Erin Ball, an incredible aerialist and hand balancer – without feet!
How did you feel when you first did aerial arts?
At the beginning of my aerial journey, I felt intimidated. As a beginner, it was daunting to watch people swivel effortlessly into graceful positions, perform gravity-defying drops without hesitation, and manoeuvre their bodies into incredible shapes. At the same time, it was inspiring to see how much everyone challenged themselves, while respecting and listening to their bodies. I found myself worried that people would see me as “the weak one”. The people around me were strong, coordinated, elegant… and I could hardly grip the slippery fabric with my hands.
As I trained more and more, I discovered that aerials was exactly what I needed. It was athletic (cardio is my worst enemy), creative (I’m a science student!), social, and exciting. Aerials eventually became an outlet for me to be the fearless, quirky, innovative person I wanted to be. I still face challenges here and there, but I’m learning to embody the confidence and positivity that I’ve learned in aerial – and transfer it into other aspects of life.
In short, aerials makes me feel empowered, courageous, beautiful, and challenged.
What are your top 3 tips for girls thinking about giving it a go for the first time?
- Surround yourself with encouraging, likeminded, goal-oriented people. Most studios will provide classes that are designed specifically for first-time aerialists, or even “taster” classes where you can explore various aerial apparatuses, like the hoop or trapeze. Whether your training mates are there for a relaxed weekly class or a rigorous workout, you might soon find yourself with a circle of fiercely-supportive circus friends.
- You don’t have to start super strong (or super flexible). Most people don’t! I often hear “I don’t have the upper body strength” – but aerial arts is a whole-body exercise. You will be activating your core, back, shoulders, legs, fingers, and every stabilizer muscle in between. Similar to any exercise, aerials can be risky, and it’s critical to find an aerial instructor who values the safety and comfort of his or her students.
- It may be a little discouraging at the beginning, and that’s okay. Entering with reasonable expectations and an open mind is key! Your instructor will modify skills accordingly, especially in a beginner class, but it’s always our own thoughts that are most disheartening. While all classes will begin with a warm-up and conditioning, beginner classes will likely involve simple skills, emphasizing proper technique. Don’t feel bad if you spend most of the class closer to the floor than the ceiling!
What has been the highlight for you on this journey?
In my aerials journey, spending time on the aerial straps has been very special to me. Ever since I started aerials, I’ve been enthralled by the freedom, thrill, and control of this discipline. At C!RCA Training Centre, I had the opportunity to take private lessons in the straps. Though countless tricks required weeks of “I’ll nail it today” before I finally nailed it, training on the straps has been a major lesson in patience and goal-setting. Although I haven’t had any particularly magical highlights in my journey so far, I am addicted to the sense of accomplishment whenever I achieve a new skill, especially in the straps!
What does the future hold for you?
Prior to starting aerials, I dreaded exercise. Taking the plunge into the circus community allowed me to realize that exercise can take on countless forms – and no matter what, it should be fun! Since I am currently in university for human physiology, I am exploring the possibility of using circus arts for healing, perhaps as a form of therapy. I would love to attend medical school to become a sports medicine physician. I’d truly enjoy working with athletes, performers, and instructors – to give them what they need to perform their best. For many high-level competitive athletes and performers, injury is devastating, so prevention is key. Specifically, It’s my dream to be the team doctor for Cirque du Soleil or Disney on Ice, and be able to interact closely with a group of talented artist-athletes – while travelling the world!
Monday, June 18: improvisation at the end of class on the straps 😊 guys… I love straps.
Monday, May 28: playing around with doubles lyra for the first time
Friday, May 25: my first time doing an unlocked straddle roll (360 drop or “goddess drop”), AKA T-Flip in Australia!
Monday, May 21: playing on the corde. Did two improvised songs in the air with my class and had fun spinning on the Spanish web (my FAVOURITE!).
Friday, May 4: shegal (AKA “arrow”?) on the straps – I still needed a boost to roll up into this position, but it feels comfortable once I am in it. I am going to build up to doing it on my own by getting enough momentum, and by practicing negatives with my right arm (descending, or reverse 1-arm chin-up).
Sunday, Apr. 29 (and prev. Friday): first time working on splits balance (needs work), and revisiting splits from belay
Mon. Apr. 16: revisiting the aerial silks belay star
Wednesday, Apr. 11: more meathook variations (leg variations on the straps, and double-hand hold from a silks belay), superman back balance, and sheep’s hang
Friday, Apr. 6: working on meathook variations and spinning on the straps, and diamond roll-ups and belay variations on the silks
Success at last! I did a Superman support into this back balance by myself (twice!!) on Friday, March 23. I was super surprised when it happened for the first time, and thrilled that I finally figured it out.
Still working on getting my Superman on straps by myself – this was my seventh straps lesson on Sunday, March 18.
It’s been a while! This was Friday, February 23 (2018 woo!) at CIRCA Training Centre in Brisbane, Australia.
Early September 2017: last time doing silks for 4 months
Sequence with Rebecca splits, splits, cross-back straddle
Splits, Pinwheel (from hipkey), and bow and arrow variations
Late August 2017
Saturday, August 19, 2017: back at the Vancouver Circus School (variations of belay)
Tuesday, July 25
Tuesday, July 19, 2017: splits in every orientation 🙂
June 27, 2017: my first time doing a meathook on one hand!
June 23, 2017
June 2, 2017
May 30, 2017
May 20, 2017
May 7, 2017
End of April 2017
April 2017: stretching oversplits – still don’t feel good!
Mid-March 2017: playing on the Spanish Web
Last week of February, 2017
Valentine’s Day week
Friday, Feb. 10, 2017: playing with the aerial rope!
Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017: Goddess drop/straddle roll, star drop/diaper fall + forward rotation
Around first week of February 2017
Around Jan 19
Around Jan 19
Wed. Jan. 11: first day of aerial HOOP!
And… back to silks
Week of Mon. Dec. 19
Sun. Dec. 18: star drop
Sometime before Sunday the 18th: playing around with some static poses
Sunday, Nov. ?: PHOTOSHOOT! 🙂
Monday, Nov. 14 and Thursday, Nov. 18: belay, splits roll-up
First goddess drop:
Trying to do something I saw on Instagram like
Thursday, Nov. 3 and Thursday, Nov. 10: half Monty, mermaid, hoop stuff, Rebecca splits
Thursday, Oct. 20: first hip key
Thursday, Oct. 13
Tuesday, Oct. 11
Thursday, Oct. something? Part of an improv that we did to a cover of Toxic by Britney Spears!
Thursday, Sept. ?: short improv performance that made me exhausted after two moves…
Thursday, Sept. something: learned to tie a knot while lace-locked, and splits variation on the opposite leg
Back to silks after way too long off! Tuesday, September… something.
Thurs. Jun. 23, 2016: my last day of aerial silks at Brass Butterflies before going back home to BC
Mon. Jun. 20, 2016: my first two attempts at the star drop
Sat. Jun. 18, 2016
Thurs. Jun. 16, 2016
Mon. Jun. 13, 2016
Mon. Jun. 6, 2016
Mon. May 30, 2016: layback, splits wind-up, mermaid variations
Thurs. May 26, 2016: layback, splits wind-up, mermaid, candy roll, arabesque
Monday, May 23, 2016: drallion/cross-back straddle