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Whoa, Nelly! What to Look for in an Aerial or Circus Class

As a coach, it’s impossible to go into other classes and not evaluate everything – how they’re structured, the feel of the class, pacing, etc, and reflect on whether you’re “delivering” for your own behbehs. Because students, particularly those new to circus, often have no idea what to look for in a class, here’s a (hopefully) helpful primer.

The Warm-up Should Be Functional

A warm up should prepare your body for the misery it’s about to encounter. What does that include? Excellent question, Watson. While warm-ups should be tailored to the apparatus or discipline (ideally with a spin towards what you’ll be working that day), you’ll likely encounter the following:

  • cardio to raise the body’s temp & get your blood pumping (for some classes, the cardio element is built into the warm up, as opposed to a separate section)
  • moves to “lube your joints” with synovial fluid
  • muscle activation to get your muscles firing
  • stretches to ease your body into the anticipated range of motion

I prefer an on-apparatus warm up for the most part, as I feel it increases familiarity with the silk/trapeze/bowling ball/whatever that you’re working with. That said, some coaches deliver an appropriate warm-up without it.

If each class starts with an 8 Minute Abs or Booty Blaster routine that pretty much has nothing to do with what you’re learning in class, you’re missing out on valuable training time.

Having a Teaching Philosophy is a Thing

Students will encounter two types of teachers: coaches who love to teach and have devoted time and energy to creating a style, pedagogy, and methodology, and those who teach because it’s a side gig. Aim for the first, folks. 

A good coach plans what they will teach, can easily rattle off the foundational skills of whatever discipline you’re working on, and has meaningful progressions in place to accommodate students of all levels. For example, aerial silks can be broken down into: climb, inversion, foot lock, hip key, ankle hang – everything else is a variation. You’re free to have a differing philosophy, but this is the framework for my classes. Almost every blessed session, students will do variations of those moves (including a split, drop, and sequencing). If, after a few classes, you still have NO IDEA what the building blocks of your apparatus might be, or your teacher asks (my all-time least favorite question) “so, what do you want to work on today?”, your coach may not have a developed teaching philosophy in place.

But what about progressions? Well, students come in at varying levels of strength, fear, flexibility, body awareness, etc. A great coach can break a move or concept down to teeny, bite-sized pieces, giving you challenging micro goals, attainable within a few sessions. No goal is too small. You should also have a good idea of what the end goal looks like. For example, when I give my handstand coach the “fear face” when the class is working on something terrifying, she gives me a crazy easy variation; she then helps me to connect the dots. BOOM. Progressions = progress.

Class Pacing – Faster…. Slower… a Little to the Left

A good pace is one in which students don’t feel rushed, but they also don’t have a lot of down time either (note to coaches – if you see phones starting to come out during class, and you’re pretty sure they’re not taking notes, adjust your pacing). Coaches structure classes differently, but you should feel reasonably engaged throughout the entire class. 

 

Theory & Technique

Theory is the “why”behind your discipline, technique is the how. It’s important that you, as a student, know how this crazy thing works, so that you can eventually pick up the reins and do some driving yourself. You really, really want your teacher to have a good grasp of why you wrap your thigh here, or how to avoid hitting your hoo-hoo on the pole there, or why you want your arms super straight in handstands (turns out, you fall on your head if they’re bent – who knew?).

Coaches who are light on theory are often light on technique, or have no idea what standard a student should be held to at any given stage in their progress. You want someone who knows where you ought to wind up, how to get you there, and what milestones you should hit (and celebrate – champagne and confetti!!!!) along the way.

Conditioning Should Be a Thing

That’s it, really. This is your time to safely push your muscles to fatigue (it’s why it’s put at the END of class), so don’t waste it. Again, it should be functional, and similar each time so as to actually accomplish the *conditioning* part of the equation. 😉

 

For more about choosing a great coach or class, here’s a bit more for you to chew on. I’m still learning every day, every class I take or teach, how to share what I love, and I hope it never ends. Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

The Post In Which Laura Witwer Has Her Ego Smashed

Oh circus training, you can be a cruel mistress. To catch yourself up on my recent circus comeback, click here. Or, you know, just dive in. I don’t care.

I knew it would be hard on my ego to “go back to school” and essentially rewind the tape on my training a bazillion years, but I was REALLY surprised at what shape my neurosis took as I hauled my ass back into classes.

ONE CLASS. That’s all it took for me to be a blithering blob of feelings sobbing in a corner. ONE CLASS. But, an hour and countless little tissue packets later, I was in a weirdly better headspace. Like, a better headspace than I had ever been in with training. I am not prone to cathartic moments of clarity and common sense, but I had an epiphany! Ready? Here it is.


Trust the process.


That’s it. I’m totally serious. But, it wouldn’t be much of a blog post if I left it at that, so I’ll elaborate. 🙂

Trust the Process

If you train, the things will come. Consistency matters. Did you miss that? I’ll say it again. Consistency matters. Want that inversion? Those splits? That muscle? Consistency, friends. If you show up and give 70-90%, the skill will come in time. Now, you don’t necessarily get to determine the time frame (thanks, Mother Nature), but you can rest in the process.

So, I promised myself I would schedule my classes, show up, and give 70-95% every time. Even when I didn’t feel like it. Oh hell, especially when I didn’t feel like it. And you know what? Progress happened.

Just One Thing

Measure your progress, but be careful how you do it. The barometer of your progress should NEVER be, “am I getting better at silks (or trapeze or farting glitter or whatever it is you’re trying to do)?” Too. Broad. Your answer will always be something along the lines of, “No, I still suck.” Enter: the micro-goal.

Instead of “trying to be better at silks”, set a series of micro goals that can be measured. No goal is too small. You heard me. Here are a few of mine:

  • 10 inversions in the air (micro-goal: I added one each week) CHECK!
  • kicking up to a handstand on my opposite side. CHECK!
  • doing my PT before every session. CHECK!
  • holding my handstand at the wall a full 30 seconds. CHECK!
  • Next week:  3 sets of pendulum inversions, kick up to a handstand on my opposite side again, and whatever else I decide is important between now and then.

I set a goal for each and every session, sometimes several. Sometimes, my goal is just to repeat what I did the last time. DO note that a goal doesn’t have to be result oriented (complete kick-up), but can be process oriented (practice kick-up 5x with good form). Practice counts, not just results!

I promised myself I would set and honor my micro-goals, and it’s been amazing.

Change Your Focus, and Let the Work Change YOU

Memory is a bitch. Remember when you could do 10 pull ups with one arm while reciting Hamlet’s soliloquy and eating popcorn? Remember when you were skinny? Remember when you could cough without peeing your pants? Whatever it is, make like Frozen and let it go. You are where you are, and you’re going where you want to go. Constantly comparing Now You to Past You is a recipe for self hatred, and ain’t nobody got time for that. Get going on your micro-goals.

What you focus on matters. Focusing on where you’re failing? How you’ve changed? How much you hate yourself right now for eating that entire box of ice cream sandwiches? M’kay, but what you focus on expands. Let the work be your focus, not you. Let the work change you.

Now, no discussion on focus is complete without a quick chat about judging results. Don’t. Evaluate, but don’t judge. I’ve thought a lot about this one recently since I’ve started taking handstand class. See, I can cartwheel just fine to my left, but my right side is HILARIOUS. It’s some weird sideways hop froggy thing that doesn’t even RESEMBLE a cartwheel. And, every time I do it, I make a face (I should never play poker for money), and Ivory yells “DON’T JUDGE IT!”, and I try not to judge it. Then I do. But, this week, my goal was to not judge my cartwheel – to try to find one inch of progress. I DID! I didn’t shriek when I did them. Don’t judge it. Evaluate it, “goal it”, and save the feelings for tonight’s episode of “The Bachelorette”.

I promised myself I would show up, be present, do the work, and just evaluate. I still have “moments”, but that’s all they are – moments. We walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death, friends, we don’t build a condo there. Tune in next week, when being a student makes me a better teacher. Love and pull-ups, Laura

The Blog in Which Jen Crane “Wonder Womans” My Circus Shoulders

WELL. After I decided to embark on my fancy Circus Intensive, I figured it would be good if I didn’t, you know, completely break myself the first week. Now, I’ve taken A LOT of injury prevention workshops (hell, I’ve even taught one), but I’m gonna be honest – none of them really addressed injury prevention in a way that seemed complete for me. For example, some dealt with shoulders, but shoulders aren’t the only places we’re likely to get injuries. Some focused solely on correct positioning. Mine focused a lot on preventing catastrophic injury (for example, students are more likely to get badly injured if they bring a friend to class, or when switching instructors). I needed an actual game plan for not blowing out MY body. I needed something that addressed my goals, my weaknesses, and my schedule.

Enter Cirque Physio’s resident miracle worker, Jen Crane.

Cirque Physio

Are you familiar with Jen’s work? If not, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. Get over to her website right now. Jen is a physical therapist with an addition “orthopedic certified specialist” (OCS) behind her name. This is mui impressive on it’s own, but wait for it – SHE SPECIALIZES IN CIRCUS. She DOES circus. Friends – she totally gets what we do. She gets what we do better than WE do!

I’ve been following her excellent blog for a while now, so I decided to poke around on her site to see what I could glean. In addition to programs designed to support flexibility training (see below), Jen also offers Skype consultations for injury-free artists looking to prevent injury, increase range of motion, etc. So, I set mah-self up with an appointment!

What’s it Like Working Virtually with a PT?

I know what you’re wondering: how good could a Skype consult be? Could she really see anything? Could you?

Prior to the session, I filled out a detailed form which went through my medical & injury history, career, etc. On session day, after hammering out some technical difficulties on my end, Jen and I had a great chat about where I was in my training, my injury history in circus, and what I really wanted to get out of the session. Because I had filled out the form, we didn’t have to spend forever on backstory, and were able to move to the nitty-gritty quickly.

She asked me about my training schedule, and made some great recommendations (drop an aerial class, pick up a handstand class) to balance my training. She’s also making me rest. You can’t see my face right now, but it’s not cute. Nevertheless, she’s totally right – rest is essential. Grump grump.

She then took me through several exercises to evaluate my range of motion (spoiler: my ROM was not good). From there, we went through the exercises she was prescribing for me, which she then emailed in a lovely PDF.

The whole experience was remarkably empowering! I came out of it with a good understanding of what I needed to aim for form-wise, permission to take time off from training, and a game plan for addressing my weaknesses and keeping my body zoom zoom zoomin’ along. It was EXACTLY what I had hoped for!

Below is a list of Jen’s stuff that I have found fabulously helpful, as well as a couple of other resources in my “Keep It Together” arsenal. If you’re coming back from a break, just getting started, or want to troubleshoot problem areas, I cannot recommend a session enough – the exercises have already made a HUGE difference in my ROM and stability. Five stars!

Cirque Physio

 

Additional Stuff

Happy…. well, happy injury prevention! Love and pullups, Laura

Creating Your Circus Intensive (and Other Life Choices You May Rethink)

(Photo: Chinese pole class with the effervescent Ivory Fox.)

It all started in January. I was doing my silk solo on a gig; when I reached my final inversion to prep for my drop, it happened. I audibly grunted. I AUDIBLY GRUNTED AS I INVERTED. Let the horror of that sink in for you, unless it’s too much to bear, in which case skip immediately to the next section.

Now, the audience didn’t hear it, and nothing bad happened, except for the horrible terrible realization that I was a completely and appallingly de-conditioned mess. Somehow, in the flurry of teaching, gig prep, parenting, and all the other stuff I pack my days with, I had forgotten one very important thing: training. I had let myself slide into the De-conditioned Zone, and it was a dark, dark place, friends.

I spent the next few months in complete denial. Surely, if I just demo-ed more in class, it would all magically come back. I build muscle with lightening speed, and I would book time to train on my own. Of course I would! I would absolutely NOT book time and then cancel it….. or book time and spend it all on emails that suddenly HAD to be answered right then and there…. nope nope nope, definitely wouldn’t do that… except I did.

A few weeks and more than a few glasses of wine ago, I realized I was at the tipping point every performance athlete reaches: retire or stay in the game. And friends, when that realization sank in – really sank in – I was like a drowning woman fighting for air. There was no f**king way I was ready to retire, which left one thing. Stage a comeback. Oh sh*t.


“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect, and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quindlen


Creating a Circus Intensive

Know thyself. I knew that, if this was going to happen, I was going to need way more accountability than I had previously employed. It was time for A Circus Intensive. Lots of you expressed interest in how I did that outside of a dedicated program, so I figured I’d share my process with you in the hope that you’ll find it useful! As this journey of pain and triumph continues, I’ll keep you posted – I KNOW I’m not the only one who wants to get back in the arena, but is completely overwhelmed at the thought. Or maybe I’m just talking to myself. Who knows.

Step One – Set Some Lofty Goals

OK. What do you want to do? Here are some ideas that jumped out at me, but you do you.

  • Return to circus after a long hiatus (injury, pregnancy, life, etc).
  • Explore an aspect of circus you haven’t poked around in yet (a new apparatus, a different style of performance, injury prevention, etc.).
  • Get your act together – literally.

The list could go on forever. Whatever you decide, make sure it excites you, and scares you just a little bit.

Step Two – Set Your Parameters

  • How long do you want your intensive to be?
  • How much time and money can you realistically dedicate to this venture? I’m a big believer that good training is worth paying for – be really deliberate with your spending.

Don’t skip this step! Setting parameters allows you to jump into training with your whole self. If you set flimsy boundaries, you won’t have edges to push towards. I set my intensive for 3 months, with a none-ya-business budget. 😉

Step Three – Get Your Ass in Class

Pick your classes and make your schedule! For a true intensive, you’ll want to pack as much circus-y goodness into a designated amount of time as you can. Here we go!

  • Keeping your parameters in mind, choose your classes. You can choose to make one studio your “training home”, or select classes from a bunch of schools. I chose The Muse in NYC as my home base. It’s close-ish to my apartment, has a great list of classes, lots of open workout time available, a good atmosphere, and oodles of options to suit any financial situation. I’ve been there for about three weeks now, and I’m really loving it.
  • Supplement with online training (in appropriate disciplines). I chose a couple of supplemental programs – mainly in flexibility and hula hooping. I snagged two of Cirque Physio’s programs (more on Jen Crane next week – she is AMAZING), and a bundle from Deanne Love.

Step Four – Add Sprinkles

Now that you’ve got your goals and parameters set, classes picked out, and supplemental training snagged, you’re ready to add “sprinkles”. This is the stuff you add because it just sounds like so much fun! I added a roller dance class, and a few other frills to reward myself for the ridiculously hard work I’m engaging in. My roller skates came yesterday – I am going to be a fabulous Magical Disco Mermaid! You might choose costume making, stage makeup, tassel twirling, or whatever floats your boat. Ideally, it’s a little ridiculous, and utterly fabulous.

 

And there you have it! Your intensive is real! Intensives can be one day or one year – whatever fits your life and goals. If you’re feeling stuck or lackluster about your training, or you’re looking to do (what feels like) the impossible, an intensive may be just the kick in the bloomers you need.

Stay tuned for the next few weeks as I blog about this process – opening a can of Whoop-Ass on my ego, getting my PT on, splitting my pants in flexibility class, and more. What intensive are you going to set up for yourself? Tell me all about it in the comments below! Love and pull-ups, Laura

New Stuff Happening at NECCA!

If you’re in NYC, you should come train with me. 😉

If you’re in Vermont, or looking for a great Pro Track program, you should check out NECCA! NECCA, the New England Center for Circus Arts, is expanding, which is great news for the USA circus community. Have a look!

Professional Training Program

(from Serenity Forchion)

NECCA’s newly expanded Professional Training program – With the opening of our new building (coming in June, in a few short weeks) we will have more high flying aerials (swinging trapeze and cloud swing and flying trapeze indoors and higher ceilings for duo trapeze) as well as expanded ground training with a trampoline and tramp wall and fabulous handstand, contortion and partner acrobatics coaches. The opportunities of our 40’ ceilings and new performance and training space are exciting and a higher level of facility to our high level program.

With the expansion into the new building, we find we still have a few openings in the program and I’d love it if you could point this out to any student or friend of yours who is still wondering what to do with their training aspirations. Applications are online, and we still have a few spots open and are taking applications now. Click here for more info!

New Facilities

Building a fabulous new circus facility takes a lot of hard work, and, of course, a lot of moo-lah. By investing in circus spaces across the USA, we invest in our own personal circus dreams, as well as the future of our community. Can you donate the price of a latte this week? I’ll bet you can. Click here to fund your sparkly, spin-y, flippy circus opportunities.

Help! I’m Falling and I Can’t Stay Up!

A couple of weeks ago, a young gentleman – let’s call him Gavin in honor of my recent trip to Ireland – wrote to ask about grip, and what I call “noodling out” or “bottoming out”. You know when you’re trying to wrap your feet in a foot knot or for splits and suddenly you’re on the ground with Popeye forearms and no foot wraps? Well, there’s an app – er, a fix for that.

Check Your Form

The #1 cause of noodling out is a “half mast” arm position – neither fully bent, nor fully straight. Think about it – ever tried to do a pull-up and just hold the halfway position? IT’S F$*KING HARD. You have two choices for stronger arm positions:

  1. Beginners should generally start with an engaged straight arm position – shoulders screwed into the sockets, arms overhead.
  2. As soon as you can hold yourself in a bent-armed position on the floor, you can begin wrapping this way in the air. Remember how Superman would grab his shirt and rip it off to show his delicious rippling muscle-y chest? You’re going for a similar movement pattern: separate the fabrics just between your bubbies, and move your hands to the front of your shoulders. Glue your elbows to your waist, and lift the bubbies a bit as you bring them through (like I always say: when in doubt, bubbies out!).

Werk Your Silk Grip

Look! Here are some exercises (thank you, Miss Rachel Feinstein!!!!) to help you get to “Superman” position!

Or this, if Superman’s not your thing. Sorry, I couldn’t resist (not sorry at all).

via GIPHY

Love and pull-ups, Laura

“BUT I WAS TOLD NEVER TO POINT MY TOES!” Why the WHY Matters in Circus

“NEVER point your toes in a double ankle hang.” (false – depends on the wrap)
“ALWAYS immediately trash all rigging that has been dropped.” (false)
“NEVER question your instructor.” (absolutely absurd)
“ALWAYS bring your teacher wine and chocolate!” (ding ding ding! We have a winner!)

I teach an ankle hang that allows for pointed toes. If I had a dollar for every time I told a new student to point their toes going in, and heard, “But my teacher said NEVER to point in this hang!”, I’d be a rich woman indeed. I ask, “Why not?” (…..crickets……..) The student never has a real answer, they’re just fairly certain that they’ll die if they point their toes. Now, I’m all for erring on the side of caution, but the “why” matters in circus. It matters a lot.

I’ve been teaching for 17 years (do us both a favor and don’t do that math), and here’s one of the biggest differences between unseasoned instructors, and those of us who have been around (and around and around) the block: we know our theory. We know WHY you wrap to the front. We know WHY you shouldn’t point your toes here, but totally can here. We know WHY you’re flailing around like a demented bumble bee on your split wraps. And YOU can know why too!

Understanding the theory surrounding your apparatus or discipline allows you to “get it” from the inside out. Try to:

1. LISTEN. Start listening for the whys. I (mostly) guarantee your coach drops little nuggets of theory here and there – train yourself to listen for them.
2. WRITE IT DOWN – take notes. Take notes take notes take notes. You will progress faster, and you’ll find yourself becoming a little circus detective. Write.it.down.
3. ASK – ask questions! If you can’t see an obvious reason for something, ask a question. Not sure what’s holding you in the air? Question. Maybe see another way of doing it? Question.
4. QUESTION AUTHORITY (Trust me – I’m a teacher.) – As your understanding grows, you may suspect that your coach is teaching something a particular way because that’s the way they were taught. A good coach will JUMP on a better (or even different) method – be it getting into a move, communicating an idea, or reevaluating their theory. Respectfully engage in a bit of detective work, but don’t be a twerp about it. Phrases that can help include: “I’m having trouble understanding why we do xyz this way. Can you help me with this one?” Or “Are there other ways of getting into that? Could you also….” If you’re not a disruptive poo head about it, most coaches are happy to explore.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you make your teacher want to take out a hit on you by challenging them on everything that comes out of their mouths – it’s a fine line between eager & curious and confrontational & obnoxious. But take charge of your learning! Some folks have an absurd notion that learning is a one-way street from teacher to student (all you teachers just started a hurricane somewhere in the South Pacific with all that eye rolling you just did). True learning is anything but passive!!!! Pursue the “whys” and watch your training get deep like an ocean. Now, where’s my wine and chocolate? Anyone? Love and pullups, Laura

Guest Instructors Are NOT Fortune Telling Vending Machines! T Lawrence-Simon Guest Posts

Hey there dangler friends and fans,
I have locked Laura in a closet until she repairs the entire Killian Cog costume collection (haahaa, ok I ripped the seams out, she’s resewing while drinking a bottle of wine and crying “Why would you do this to me?!” but, details details…)
My name is T, I have written here before when Laura was…not available.
I have a new topic I want to share with you all.
Bold thesis statement that I will flesh out further on:

GUEST INSTRUCTORS ARE NOT FORTUNE TELLING VENDING MACHINES!

Ok, let me go back to the beginning. The topic of today’s post has two main scenarios: I teach at ESH Circus Arts in Boston, we’re known as quite an awesome circus school, so we get a lot of people travelling through who hear about us and want to come take a lesson while they are in town. The other scenario is that often, I get flown to a school somewhere else who wants me to offer workshops, and while I’m there offer some times to their students for private lessons. What both of these scenarios have in common is that the instructor doesn’t know much about the student they are doing the lesson with. They may or may not have ever met them before, and if they have, it could have been a while since they last saw this student and don’t know what progress they’ve made or not made in their aerial training.

So having experienced this situation on my home turf, and countless times while guest teaching at another school, I wanted to make a useful primer for the students that like taking privates from new (to them) instructors. I really love teaching students all over, and getting to help them progress in their aerial life, but I have experienced some roadblocks that hinder the lesson from being the greatest it can be. Below I’ve broken down the roadblocks into categories, and offer suggestions for how to better set up the lesson if you feel like you fall in that category.

HELP THEM BE PREPARED

When you set up the private in advance, whether with your/their school or them directly, send along a video of you in the air (can be an instagram link or just a quick minute long sequence you uploaded in a private link on youtube). This helps the instructor get a grasp for what level you’re at, and maybe what kind of stuff you might need to work on. Going into a private lesson completely blind is like being a lawyer going into a courtroom with NO clue what type of law they will be needing to know to defend their client. It’s not that we don’t have it all in our brains, but if you request “3000 ways of getting into crossback straddle”, I might want to prepare by writing them all down so my brain doesn’t skip any during our lesson. Some people might think this is an imposition or they don’t wanna bother the teacher in advance. If watching a one minute aerial video of a student you are going to teach is a bother, IMO that is not a teacher that is worth taking a lesson from. Now having said that, if this was during a teaching tour where I was teaching at 17 schools in a row, and had hours of private lessons in each place, I might not have the time to sit down and watch all these videos, BUT at least you sent it, and that’s great.

A PRIVATE LESSON SHOULD NOT BE LIKE A BORED GROUP OF FRIENDS DECIDING WHERE TO GO TO DINNER

So, private lessons cost money, you are paying for an hour or more of my knowledge and safe instruction and my expertise to do it well. So, why are you willing to throw that money down to learn if, when the time comes, you have no tangible goals or desires. This conversation happens way too frequently:

T: Hi there, are you my 3 o’clock lesson?
STUDENT: Yeah, hi I’m Laura Witwer. (this is a completely random name I made up in place of naming an actual student, all resemblance to any person living or dead is completely coincidental)
T: Awesome, we’re on trapeze today right?
STUDENT: Yeah.
T: Great, so what are we working on today?
STUDENT: I don’t know, what kind of stuff do you want to do?

HOLD UP! Yes, I love teaching, and yes I love meeting new students and stuff, but this private lesson is not about me. The reason I am probably being flown to your school is because I have a pretty big skillset, and I teach it quite well. So I am game for pretty much anything that falls under the category of what I can teach. Please, bring me anything. If it doesn’t fit under my skillset, then we can have a conversation about that, and figure out how I can be of service to you. If it doesn’t actually fit in your skillset (i.e. person who can’t really invert cleanly above the ground who says they want to learn some big drop they saw in a show) at least I can know where you want to go, and I will get you closer with helpful drills and conditioning methods, or a progression that will eventually get you to where you are going.

The last two scenarios go hand in hand, and lead me to the title of this blog post:

I DON’T KNOW YOU. I DON’T KNOW YOUR LIFE. I DON’T KNOW YOUR CHOICES: GUEST INSTRUCTORS ARE NOT FORTUNE TELLERS

So, I walk in, I see my student warming up on the mats- (quick thing, this is for any private lessons EVER: when you book the lesson with the space, ask if you are allowed to warm up beforehand. Then, actually GET THERE early and warm up beforehand. This sounds like a gross statement, but I have made so much money watching people warm up because they arrived the minute before their lesson started, and I of course will not be letting them just hop up on the aerial equipment with no proper warm-up)
-back to what I was saying:
I walk in, they are warming up, they do a climb or two, they seem fairly able, like they’ve been doing this a while and they have good technique and stuff.
I say “So what would you like to work on in this lesson?”
STUDENT: “I don’t know, show me something new.”
*TIRE SCREECH*

This is my 2nd least favorite type of private lesson. There, I said it. I get where the idea is coming from, they are doing pretty well at their school, they have a pretty broad vocabulary, and they’re feeling a little stuck/bored with their school’s curriculum, so here’s this travelling teacher, who apparently has a pretty big following, he probably knows a lot of stuff beyond the vocabulary you do. This totally makes sense, but here’s the catch. To teach you something new, I would have to know every single thing you know to make sure that what I am offering is in fact new to you. Read the above sentence 3 times. Yeah, a pretty tall order, amirite?

This topic and the next topic share solutions, so please read below to find solutions to this mind-reader scenario.

I’M NOT A VENDING MACHINE

I find the “Show me something new” student, is often the same student who wants to try a trick once, just to learn the basic mechanic of it, and then move on to the next skill so they can learn THE MOST skills in one lesson. This isn’t really that useful; sure, you may or may not have learned 16 new positions/drops/maneuvers, but you didn’t get any finer points and training tips from me. You just put in the private lesson money to the aerial skill vending machine and poked all the buttons until your money’s worth of candy came out. Learning new skills is not at all wrong to want, but let’s think about how many, and how we approach them.

Besides the lack of finer detail learned, and this is maybe a more personal aspect (to which you are permitted to respond with: “you are being hired for a service, it doesn’t really matter what you are feeling”) is that it also makes me feel a bit…used. To me, teaching is a collaboration, they way I teach and what I teach is informed by the students I work with. If I am not reading my audience, and letting that input guide me to better teach them, I am not doing my job well. So when someone just wants to treat me like a vending machine, I just feel a lack of human connection. I get that you are paying good money for me to be teaching you, and so you want to get the most bang for your buck. I get that you might feel stagnant in your home school’s curriculum at this moment, and I’m new and exciting for you. So, how can we work together to help you feel successful?

SOME REWORDING FOR THE SCENARIO WHERE YOU EXPECT ME TO BE A  MIND-READING VENDING MACHINE

“So right now in class, we’ve been working on our double star drops, and I would love to get your feedback on that to start. We’ve been entering the stars from the knee hook, and the leg straight up the silk, if you have any other cool entries, that would be awesome.
I don’t really have a specific set of skills I’d like to learn, but I do suck at back balances, could you help me with that? (This will most likely lead me for the rest of the hour, once I see what your imbalances are, and can help you progress past them)
I’m a total drop-junkie. At my school, we’ve worked on bombs, single star, double star, 360, and windmills. Could you show me any fun variations to those, and/or maybe we could work on combining drops.
How many ways are there to get into an S-wrap? (haahaa, then immediately go and book 3 more hours of private lessons, it’s gonna be a long night)
Can I show you a sequence that I’m working on, and that will help you get a feel for what kind of skills I like? Then you can think of some cool things to add to the sequence to spice it up?

So there you have it friends, I hope this has helped you in some way. Maybe the next time a guest teacher is in town, you can try some of these, and see if it makes you feel more productive. Hopefully Laura is done sewing, and maybe she’ll forgive me some day.
Until then dear danglers,
Fly Away!
Love,
T
www.HoopArtist.com

OMG – Your Back Knee is Killing My Eyeballs! Prettify Your Split!

 

Now, I know YOU never split with your back leg slightly bent. I’m not talking to you, nope, just talking to myself….. BUT, if I were talking to you, I would tell you this…..

That ugly back leg is all I see when I look at your split.

It doesn’t matter how low you go, it doesn’t matter how good your hair looks that day. All that matters is that the line of the back leg is broken, and so are my eyeballs.

Fix It Quick!

Everyone thinks lower is better when it comes to a split, but not when it comes at the expense of lines!

  • Lift your split up. You heard me. I would rather have you higher with good lines than with your ankles at your ear level and an ugly back leg. Lift.it.up.
  • Press your back leg straight. Straighter. It’s still not straight. Think about:
    • Lifting your back kneecap – feel it sliding up as you tighten your quads.
    • Lengthening the back of the knee.
    • Pretending you don’t have knees. Yes, I’m serious. This totally works for some students!
    • Feel as if someone is pulling your legs long (like taffy) in two different directions. You can also pretend your legs are light sabers or laser beams. Add sound effects if you wish.
    • Bring your split all the way up, tighten your knees, go back down, and have someone yell at you the second they see a bend. Extra points if they do it in German – hey, it works for me on wheel!

Go forth and SPLIT, people! Love and pull-ups, Laura

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.

 

Stop Looking Down – People Are Gonna Think You Dropped Money

Look out! Point at someone!

Stop it. Stop it right now. You’re doing it again. Quit it! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

You’re looking down. At your feet, at the floor, at your bits, at I-don’t-even-know-what. Girl, people are gonna think you dropped some money! Pay attention to where you’re looking, because the audience will look where you do.

This is an issue of technique, so it may take some practice if you’re used to doing the following:

  • Nodding your head when you climb. Look where you’re going! You don’t want to crunch your neck looking straight up at the ceiling, but your chest should be slightly lifted (boobies to the sky!), and your gaze directed up. If you’re nodding like a bobble head doll as you climb, remember – your feet don’t need you to watch them in order to climb.
  • Dropping your head in splits. This is PRIME looking down time! What are you looking at? Lift your gaze to the horizon! This lengthens the neck, and we don’t just get a view of the top of your head.
  • Looking at your bits. Why are you looking at your bits? Stop looking at your bits.

Don’t Look Down, a Truly Brilliant Poem by Laura Witwer

I am not quite sure where to look,

I did not learn this from a book.

I do not need to see my feet

To know that they’re attached to me.

I will not look down when I climb,

I will not look down all the time!

I will not look down in a splits,

I will not look down at my bits.

I will not look down at the floor,

I will not look down anymore!

 

Seriously, I missed my calling. Love and pull-ups, Laura
 

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.