With political campaigns heating up (if I was clever, I would figure out how to put a GIANT EYE ROLL HERE; you’ll just have to imagine it), I figured now is as good a time as any to bring up one of my very favorite topics: progressions! Turns out, you can be progressive AND conservative in your aerial work, which just might make you a superhero.
What is a Progression in CircusLand?
Simply put, a movement progression is building off of foundational skills to achieve or pursue an advanced state. For example, Lulu comes to my aerial silks group class here in New York City. She has never taken a silks class in her life. I do not allow or encourage her to start with a triple star (duh) – we work on simply standing on the fabric.
This seems pretty common sense, right? Well, I started with an easy one for you. How many of you are trying to execute a hip key in the air before mastering in-air inversions? Oooooh – I see a lot of hands. Dear Danglers, inversions in the air come before hip keys in the air – I’ll bet you’re in bad habit city right now. Good luck with that.
Every single move in circus is built on foundations of proper body positioning, strength, and mental readiness (it’s a thing). Every. single. one. Ultimately, a progression map looks a lot like a tree: there’s a solid trunk (inversion in the air), then branches start forming (hip key in the air), and so on, all the way to the fancy leaves at the end (drops from a hip key). Trying to bypass those progressions is NOT PRETTY, people!
- An uphill battle. Without the supportive skills, moves higher up the progression tree are f*$king hard.
- Higher risk of injuries. Not only are you more likely to fall on your head, you’re practically guaranteed repetitive stress injuries (tendinitis, bursitis, etc.), popped hammies, or soft tissue injuries like a torn labrum.
- No understanding of the theory behind it. Yes – circus theory is a thing! You should know the why behind what you’re doing. WHY do we cross two times behind the back for this move? Why do we take our heel out of the knot? Why do we “clench for Jesus” as we slide in front of the fabric? The *why* is important.
- Ya’ll – it’s ugly. Seriously. Know what’s lovely? A beautiful progression that doesn’t result in just heaving yourself into a position, hauling your body over, and flopping around like a deranged mackerel.
- BONUS: extra panic! And fear! A good progression also prepares you mentally for the experience of advanced moves. Some motions MUST be executed with confidence, some require some mental reconciling with fear, and some just hurt like hell. There’s no skipping the preparation for that (unless you really like falling, injury, extra pain, debilitating fear, peeing in panic, you get the picture).
How do I Work With Progressions?
Hopefully, your teacher has given a great deal of thought to their methodology and pedagogy. (Psssst! If you suspect that this is not the case, it may be time to seek out a new coach.) This looks like a consistent and careful progression that is similar for every student. Everyone will progress at wildly different paces, but the stepping stones should remain the same, with small variations for special needs. It does NOT look like allowing students to jump in wherever they’d like.
So, let’s all be progressive AND conservative! It’s the best of all the aerial worlds! Love and pull-ups, Laura
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