You’re Too Fat for Circus Training (and Other BS You May Believe)

Me in my dancing days!

Me in my dancing days!

Many years ago, in ye Days of Olde, I made like a ballerina. I danced quite a bit from elementary school through college, and a little when I moved to NYC (nothing terribly amazing). Man – there is nothing like staring at yourself in a leotard and tights in a full length mirror for four hours a day to make you painfully hyper-aware of your body! See, I’ve always been just a little too much in every way – a little too loud, a little too opinionated, a little too big for pointe shoes. Then, I found circus. And suddenly, I was just right.

 

What’s the difference? I mean, let’s be candid – I’m expected to be fit and and fabulous for my job. Why did I feel like I had struck body image gold? Because suddenly, the emphasis was off my body shape, and onto the amazing things I could make it do. Instead of looking at fellow artists and wondering how I could get that thin, I wondered how I could get that strong, or flexible, or engaging. I cried with joy (and pure amazement) when I did my first full pull-up, and it felt like Christmas morning every time I found a new muscle. It felt so good to celebrate my body instead of fight it!

 

Body Beautiful: Learning to Appriciate Your Miracle

One of the things I love most about circus is the sheer variety of bodies and the incredible things they can do. Long and willowy, compact and powerful, generously sensual, tight and angular, and everything in between. Not to get all woo-woo-touchy-feely with you here, but there really is only one you – one body just like yours. Try this (actually do it  you’ll be glad you did).

 

  • where are you strong?
  • where are you flexible?
  • where are you weak?
  • what is uniquely beautiful about your body?
  • what do you love about the way you move?

 

That – right there – is the blueprint for your training! Train to your strengths, work on your weak spots, focus on cultivating your own beautiful style. I’m not going to lie – if you are significantly over or under weight, very tight in the muscles, or are working around a dodgy fill-in-the-blank, the work has to be modified. But so what? It doesn’t mean you don’t start. It means you modify.

 

Circus has room for every body, every age, every creative soul who just doesn’t feel like being bound by gravity today. Don’t get me wrong – I still love to dance. And I understand the emphasis on body shape. I do. I’m just opting out, and I invite you to do the same. Are you more lush than lithe? More angular than agile? More chutzpa than hero? There is room for you in this wonderful community. Circus doesn’t demand that you start with a certain shape, or that you be able to do 20 pull-ups on day one while sitting on your own head. It DOES demand that you put in the time, do the work (without whining), and understand that amazing things take time to train up to. Here’s to the journey!  Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

 

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18 comments on “You’re Too Fat for Circus Training (and Other BS You May Believe)”

  1. Julie Reply

    Yes! Exactly! I love it!

    Right now I’m at the one pull up stage. I can do one good pull up, but I need a stretch band to get the next one. I’m working on a clean inversion. Mostly I have to scrabble to get the inversion & then I try to come down very slowly. But I’m a lot stronger than when I started aerial silks.

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Pull-ups multiply like rabbits – you’ll have more in no time, Julie! Inversions are so tough to get, but once you do, they’re yours and it’s the BEST FEELING! 🙂

  2. Mishka Reply

    This is really awesome to see, particularly on this blog 🙂 As a curvy aerialist, I remembered seeing this (http://www.laurawitwer.com/2011/10/14/this-is-awesome/) and a few other references to getting skinny/losing weight on here and feeling pretty discouraged by the implication that aerial’s all about sweating off fat. Thanks for promoting the idea that circus is for all body types 🙂

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Not only is it FOR all body types, I think it’s enhanced by all body types! Thanks Mishka! 🙂

    • @CircusofHumaniT Reply

      I’ve been challenged by my curves and think losing 10-20 pounds will help me be a safer, stronger aerialist for my smaller frame. But, I saw an Italian family circus where one of the horse vaulters/aerialists was super curvy. That’s a yet-to-be-published blog post at http://www.circusofhumanity.com, I think!

  3. Maritza Reply

    Absolutely inspirational! I work in physical therapy and practice ariel in Florida and I feel like you that everyone has great potential and only need one that person who can see that and push them to their full potential.
    Thanks for sharing this.
    Maritza

  4. aerialsilksdc Reply

    I love this post. It’s true, circus is for everyone. But the lovely thing about aerial is that it transforms you and your body into the fitter, more flexible, more graceful version of itself. It’s you, but with an attitude, an innate knowledge that you could lower yourself down a sheet if your apt were on fire or scale a tree to reach Miss Mittens. It’s the badass version, and nothing makes me happier than to help young women discover her.

  5. mikki Reply

    As someone who struggles with an eating disorder thank you for this post. Doing aerial has made me learn to see that my body has to be strong and taken care of to do these things. There is something to be said about performing in front of people in a leotard and leggings and too suddenly notice that you’ve forgotten about your body image issues…its all about the act.
    Quiet honestly, a year ago I was at deaths door, aerial saved my life.

    • Lewitwer Reply

      This is so powerful, Mikki. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us – what a blessing you are! I wish I could give you a huge hug. Wishing you continued healing, and beautiful, strong, astonishing aerial work every day.

  6. Krystyn Reply

    Beautifully written. I tell so many people, that you can accomplish incredible things when you commit yourself to it and have encouraging people helping you along the way. I was paralyzed and in a wheel chair for two years of my life, due to a hematoma forming during a surgery. No one thought I’d walk again, no one thought I’d live a “normal” life. They were wrong in so many ways. Not only can I walk, but I do circus. My mother and sisters never stopped encouraging me and helping me as I struggled with learning to walk again. The video was so heart felt and encouraging. I hope that wherever you are in your life, whatever struggles you are dealing with, that you don’t give up. Ever.

    “There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…” – John Lennon

  7. Ash Reply

    I’ve been putting off taking my first aerial class for a while now, because I’ve been terrified to walk into a studio with all these tiny/super fit people.. While I’m terribly overweight, definitely not as flexible as I used to be and I probably couldn’t do a single pull up to save my life. But you’ve really inspired me go at least try one class. I’ve been beyond obsessed with silks and lyra hoops for a long time. I think it’s time to finally just go for it.

    • Lewitwer Reply

      Ash – do it do it do it!!!!!! Many of my students have more luxurious forms, and you can absolutely do this! It will take a while, but all you have to do is show up and put in the work – the apparatus does the rest. They stretch you, strengthen you (body and spirit), and empower you. Go sign up right now before you talk yourself out of it! 🙂

  8. Mackenzie Reply

    I know this is not a recent post, but I’ve been making my way back through your blog since your workshops. I read this yesterday, after a couple months of apathy/slothfulness and in a period of really struggling with my body. It made me cry. As a lush aerialist with decent all-around skills but no particular standouts aside from really strong inner thighs (base all the moves!), I get frustrated all the time by the focus on the lean, lithe, lovelies all around me and the attention they garner, and I get comments like “well, it’s obvious you’ve worked really hard.”

    Exactly. I worked really hard. It deserves way more than indifference, thank you very much.

  9. Eve Reply

    LOVE this post and can totally relate! When I first started I got quite a few funny looks re my size but I persevered and have lost a little weight but I have gained so much strength… I am fearless! Eve 🙂

  10. Allie Reply

    So much truth in this post. I typically read and absorb and move on, but after reading everyone’s comments, I wanted to add my part, too. I’m a fluffy aerialist who struggled for months against my strength to weight ratio in the beginning. I had to modify, modify, modify and I actually gained weight from the muscle I had to build to stay up in the air. Having a supportive coach and fellow flyers in my studio kept me coming back, and it’s become one of the most empowering and enjoyable things in my life that has completely changed my self-image. It might take more time for us more lush folks, but circus is for everyone! If you don’t get that kind of attitude from the people you meet in your first lesson, find another studio until you feel comfortable going for it in your tight tights!

  11. Steph Reply

    I only wish this were true of professional circus and professional aerialists.

    Ain’t nobody that wants to book my fat ass.

    And for all the ” circus for every body” that people claim, there’s still a ton of fad diets and bs opinions about other peoples’ food selections.

    I want to love the circus, but sadly it is very, very defeating for me.

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