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Learning is ACTIVE! The SassyPants NYC Method

Benton splitsLearning is a two-way street, my lovelies. Gone are the “open head, insert knowledge” days of education (praise be!). The students who learn the most are the ones who engage most fully with the material, whether it’s nekkid mud wrestling or aerial silks. Are you meeting your teacher half way, or expecting them to do all the work?

Circus Is Active

Circus is active (WHAT??!!). Whether you’re a visual, aural, or kinesthetic learner, at the end of the day, the magic of circus actually happens when you get up and flip/flop/balance/splat/twirl/spin/perch/swing/clench/slide/pee a little/heave/fly/fling yourself on your chosen apparatus or a mat. We all process information in wildly different ways, and each of us has a preferred method of encountering new material. Even more fun? We may not even know what that preferred method is! But, one thing is certain: you ain’t gonna learn it without actually doing it.

My “New York Method” of Aerial Learning

New York is fast-paced and decisive – you either do your thing, or get out ‘da way. In SassyPants Aerial group classes, if you just stare at me waiting for Divine Inspiration, you lose your turn!

My students here in NYC are a varied group for sure, and not lacking in the personality department (yeah, I’m looking at you, Tuesday 6:45). Some like to talk through everything before they approach the silks, some have to see it, and some just have to get up there and slog through it.

When encountering something new, try this:

  • Watch demos carefully, and try to identify which base skill the move is built on.
  • Listen to verbal cues, and do exactly and only what your coach asks you to do.
  • Do what you know, and ask for clarification. Ask for a spot if you feel unsafe doing a move on your own.
  • Completely mystified? Ask what the first tiny step is. Then do that step until you’re comfortable.

Please don’t:

  • Be on your phone, daydreaming, or chatting while your coach is demoing or speaking. Pay attention.
  • Just stand there and stare. I cannot do it for you, so you’re going to have to meet me at least half way. If you’re super confused, ask what the first step is, ask for a demo if you need it, and begin. You don’t need to analyze “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” before you attempt a climb on silks. You DO need to touch the fabrics.
  • Insist that the teacher focus solely on you. If you feel paralyzed unless the coach is right next to you, it might be time to book a private, or switch to a lower level class.
  • Sulk and get an attitude (this will make your teacher stabby).


New stuff can be scary, confusing, and intimidating as an adult. The more active you are in the process of your learning (literally ACTIVE), the easier it gets. Have fun and stay safe! Love and pull-ups, Laura


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Aerial Expo THIS WEEKEND!!!

Hello, Dear Danglers! Guess what’s happening this weekend in Iowa? The AERIAL EXPO! I’m super sad that I can’t be there in person this year, but here’s hoping you can! Love and pull-ups, Laura

On August 21-23, Aerial Expo will bring world-class aerial performances, competitions, and workshops to Des Moines for the second consecutive year. Held jointly at the Science Center of Iowa and the Des Moines Social Club, this high-flying event showcases both locally-based and nationally-renowned aerial artists performing on trapeze, silks, lyra, and more.




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Aerial Straps – The Myth and the Magic

If you’re really, really into pain, have I got an apparatus for you! AERIAL STRAPS! I’m joking, of course (no I’m not). Straps are hardcore, badass, and not for the feint of heart. Have a look!


The Myth, The Magic

The biggest myth is that straps are for boys. Sister, please! They take a lot of training and strength, but I’ve seen plenty of women rock some serious straps! The other myth is that they’re excruciating. Now, I cannot tell a lie – they are very “sensational” (thank you, Luv!). But, hey – circus hurts! If you want to learn straps, trust me – you will get used to the pain.



Here’s a great conversation with Patti Miller from Aerial Animals (via Delbert Hall), who fabricates straps. Check it out!


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Help! The Fabrics Ate My Shirt!

Goodbye, shirt! Thank goodness this was a one-time thing, and that Yechiel is a super-safe student.

Goodbye, shirt! Thank goodness this was a one-time thing, and that Yechiel is a super-safe student.

One of the most frustrating moments in a class is when, after executing a lovely Plummeting Whore or Crap-tastic rolldown, the fabric eats your shirt.

“Wretched fabric!” you shriek. “Why why WHY???!!!!”

Well, because you fed it.

Please Don’t Feed the Fabric

It’s a toughie, right? You want to put on a T-shirt with sleeves for armpit-catching drops, but you don’t want to wind up dangling by a knot on your back. What to do, what to do? Fear not, friend – you’ve got options.

  • Choose a sleeved unitard or leotard with leggings. This is the best way to avoid getting caught, but not necessarily the most fashionable. That said, you won’t be performing in a t-shirt – get used to it!
  • Go up, not down. Instead of trying to slide below the knot, straddle back to an invert, arch through to a straight-legged bird’s nest, or do a nice pull-up and draw your knees to your chest. Any of these should get the fabric to release.
  • Lean out. If your forearms are toast, try this: wrap your feet securely, grab one pole, and bring your opposite arm forward between the silks. Now, reeeeeeach forward (no “forward” = caught in the knot, so don’t be half-assed here).
  • Tie up your boobies. If you’re doing crap-tastic rolldowns (aka “windmills” or “cartwheels”), and you insist on wearing a shirt, pull it up and tie it under your charms.


Getting Caught is Up to You

While I have oodles of sympathy for the unexpected ruined shirt, I have to tell you – a bad “binding” can be super stressful for teachers. Depending on the rigging situation in your studio, getting you down can be an ordeal if you can’t get yourself free, putting you in a crummy (read: potentially dangerous) situation and eating up class time. If you find yourself trussed up like a turkey on a regular basis, you are giving your poor teacher premature gray hairs. Quit it. Put on your sassiest leggings, grab a snazzy leotard, and get going! Love and pull-ups, Laura


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Home Aerial Rigs of Your Very Own!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m being lazy today and letting someone else essentially write my post for me. BUT, many (many many) of you have written and asked for info on this topic, so everyone wins!

The following is a PDF excerpt from the book “Rigging: Essentials for Aerialists” by Steven Santos, which I think is an excellent resource and I highly recommend for all aerialists and aerial students – get it here. In the meantime, dig in! Love and pull-ups, Laura

Download the PDF here!



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Awesome & Astonishing App for Aerialists!

Make gravity your bitchToday’s blog is brought to you by the letter A!

Look what I found, friends! A nifty little app called “7”. It’s a PE-style workout app that I’m loving, mainly because it’s actually getting me to work out. 😉 Thought I would pass it on!

Why I Love It

  • It alternates 30 seconds of exercise (12 sets in all = 7 minutes) with 10 seconds of rest. I usually do 3-5 rounds per day, mixing it up each time.
  • It’s free! You can either workout a lot to open additional workouts, or just buy them (like I did – I’m way too impatient) for $1.99.
  • No super weird exercises – everything is straightforward.
  • It randomizes the workout for you, so you never have to do the same thing twice.
  • No equipment necessary, so it’s perfect for travel.
  • Great for folks going through a busy spell, moms trying desperately to get exercise in before the next diaper change, etc.
  • Even on my busiest days, I can manage 7 minutes!


So, if you think it might be useful, have a look! Love and pull-ups, Laura
Google Play/Android



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Impostor Syndrome – Do YOU Belong Here?

Laura & Chris Team USADear Danglers! I’ve missed you! In case you hadn’t heard, I had the ridiculously amazing experience of competing in German Wheel World Competition in Italy a couple of weeks ago. I just got back, having spent the remaining two weeks eating my way through Venice, Florence, and Rome (climbing is going to be hilarious this week – even my most forgiving spandex is tight). Friends, this was a PEAK LIFE EXPERIENCE. Know what else it was? Terrifying, humbling, exhilarating, and inspirational. And I had a big old run in with an old pal: impostor syndrome.

What is Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is the sneaking suspicion that one of these things (YOU!!!) is not like the others, and doesn’t belong in the illustrious company you find yourself in. If you haven’t encountered it, one of three things is probably happening: either you are extraordinarily well-adjusted (in which case you can stop reading now), you are enjoying a moment of being a big fish in a small pond and have no idea what else is out there, or you are Isabelle Chasse, and are in fact a superhero. Thing is, almost everyone who’s reaching high and far has a moment where they find themselves among extraordinarily talented people they’ve been YouTube stalking for years… and then it hits. The feeling that maybe there has been a horrible mistake.

For me, it came out of nowhere. I was fine! I was excited and a little bit nervous, but I was totally good. I stepped out on the gym floor to start my warm-up, got a good look at my competition, and stopped in my tracks. I went icy cold, even though the gym was easily over 90 degrees. I have never known anything more clearly in my life: I did not belong here. I knew I was a fraud, and, pretty soon everyone else would know it too.

My coach Chris took one look at my stricken face, and nudged me towards my wheel. I started my opening moves, but something felt wrong. The floor felt too slick, but the wheel’s rubber, softening in the hot gym, felt too slow. Nothing was going over – nothing was working. Now, not only was I a baby beginner in a room full of the best wheelers in the world, the routine I had practiced for over a year was falling apart. Panic crept up behind my eyes, and they welled up with tears. All I could hear in my head was that I did not belong here.

Wolfgang saw the tears, and threatened to make me do vault if I cried. I hate vault. Chris leaned over and said, “Try everything three times. If it’s not going over by the third time, then we worry. Trust it.” So I did. Sure enough, by time number three, everything was going over just fine. By competition time three days later, everything felt just right; weirdly, my feeling of being an imposter had vanished. What had changed in those three days? Sh*t got real.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

  • In a competition where most artists were doing C & D level tricks, I was doing mostly A’s with the occasional B. I was not at their level. I couldn’t meaningfully compete with them, but I could be amazed, inspired, and caught on fire with the excitement of what was going on around me.
  • I earned my spot on the team fair and square. I worked my ass off on that routine, and I’m really, really proud of it. It wasn’t just the physical work I did, but the mental and emotional challenges I trained through.
  • I had a good run. All that rehearsing paid off, and I had a clean routine. It wasn’t perfect, but it went really, really well. I didn’t fall down, fart audibly, miss a trick, or freak out. WIN.


Moment of Truth

We all have moments of Impostor Syndrome. We want to be good, we want to succeed, we want to be worthy of the opportunities that come our way; we want to be equal to them, to have earned them somehow. I don’t really know what to say about this, except that it’s complicated. At some point, we hopefully get handed something that is just a little out of our league. And, if we are brave, we jump at the opportunity (because – what? We’re going to let it slide through our fingers? I don’t think so.). So, when we are in this place where we are so clearly the lowest rung on the totem pole, what can we do but leave our crap at the door? Everything from posturing to insecurity. If you didn’t misrepresent yourself, if you’ve been honest with yourself and others about the scope of your abilities, then drink it all in. Be a crazy sponge of learning, and soak up every ounce of the awesomeness you’re surrounded with. That kind of humility is good medicine in our business, and I look forward to more of it. Love and pull-ups, Laura



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Hey Girl – Your Bits are Sweaty and Gross

Hello Dear Danglers! The fabulous and sassy Ms Shelly Richards tossed this article my way the other day, and I just had to share.

We do a lot of sweating, crotch and otherwise, because, you know, we work hard. Light colored cotton leggings absolutely have the tendency to highlight the moisture-based aspects of our toils, and I know that makes some folks self-conscious. The guy in the video below says it all! By all means – use dark leggings or panty liners if they make you more comfortable (I can understand not wanting your crotch highlighted by sweat – I prefer rhinestones!). But when it happens, think of it as a badge of honor! Tangible proof that you are a hard-working bad-ass.

Do remember though that working for long periods of time in damp clothing can invite a whole host of delightful feminine fun (yeast party!!!!!). So, this is where panty liners can actually be really helpful, or just bring another set of training clothes for the second part of your day.

Same things goes for sweat smells – pit and otherwise! Hey – those silks don’t smell fresh as a daisy either. Beyond basic hygiene, everyone’s gonna rock some stinky bits sometimes. This is another post in itself, but seriously – don’t sweat it. 😉

Love and pull-ups, Laura




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Stop Kicking the Fabric. No – Really – Stop!

Hello Dear Danglers! Let’s chat about something that has made many an aerial instructor completely insane. Unless your fabric has done something truly unspeakable to you, don’t -I repeat don’t – kick it out of the way before completing an inversion. Is that kind of violence really necessary? I think not.

To invert with fabrics together, simply sweep the legs to one side and straddle back cleanly. When inverting with one fabric in each hand, stop – wait a minute. Hold your hands directly in front of your shoulders, and give the fabric just a second (or three) to part. If the fabric becomes tangled, and inverting with straight legs is not possible, bend the knees into a froggy-style invert.

It’s a simple fix, lovelies! Go forth, and invert like the powerful danglers you are!!! Love and pull-ups, Laura



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There’s More to Life Than Turning Tricks, Mathilda!

Tory Hip BalanceHello, Dear Danglers! I’m off to Washington to teach some workshops for C2Air and the lovely Rebecca Phillips! But before I go, let’s have a chat.

Students come to classes for a bazillion reasons – to frolic in the air, run away and join the circus, get buffity-buff arms, you name it. Part of learning a performance art (as opposed to going to a group fitness class) is the attention paid to technique, and the pursuit of excellence – you’re not just heaving your limbs around so you can cross exercise off your list for today, you’re aiming to hone a set of skills. So, my question for you today is: are you in it for the long haul, or are you just about turning a few tricks?

It’s a Process, Mathilda.

Remember last summer when you bought that super cute top? The one with the neon green fringe and the tropical flowers that you wore every day for two months (hey – I’m not judging you…..)? Now, remember the day you bypassed it in favor of your NEW neon orange top with the rhinestones and tulle? I’m sure this phenomenon has a fancy psychological term, but I’m gonna call it The Law of Diminishing Bling – when the new and shiny wears off, and the thing we loved beyond anything doesn’t beckon to us with the siren song it used to croon. When this happens with a skill we’re trying to master, we’re faced with the uncomfortable realization that the long walks on the beach and champagne at breakfast days are over, and have been replaced with beer on the couch in comfy clothes. Is your first impulse to start sniffing around for something to press your New and Shiny buttons? Oh, Mathilda.

It Takes a Damned Long Time to Get Good

When the slog of the long haul stretches out in front of us, it’s so tempting to hanker for MORE MORE MORE NEW MOVES MORE NEW MOVES TEACH ME SOMETHING NEW RIGHT NOW!!! While variety is the spice of life and all that, and it’s important to sprinkle some NEW into your work on a regular basis, I’m sad to tell you that the vast majority of training boils down to (some very un-sexy) repetition repetition repetition. I regularly see students chomping at the bit for NEW! MORE! SHINY!, but if I’m still having to give you basic technique notes on your inversions, then you need to change your focus, friend. New may be fun, but it’s not going to fix what’s broken – it just gives you new broken. But take heart, you’re not doomed to a purgatory of the same movement forever.

Keeping the Romance Alive

If you can’t have as much NEW! MORE! SHINY! as you want (and none of us can), here are a few ways to spice things up.

  1. Video. Please believe me when I say you have plenty to work on! Video your work, and/or ask your coach what one thing would make the biggest difference in your training. Set a hard and fast goal (straight legs on your inversions, for instance), and attach a reward to it’s completion (a neon yellow top, perhaps?).
  2. Explore yourself. Not that way, Mathilda! Geez. There’s nothing more exciting than watching your students become more themselves in the air – discovering their own personal style, and mining all the quirks that will make for fabulous and interesting performance. In addition to perfecting your technique, begin playing with small variations, an arm here, a leg here, opening the fabric, etc. How do YOU move? Start discovering, because the world doesn’t need any more cookie-cutter aerialists.
  3. Set a performance goal. Sign yourself up for a showcase, competition, or anything else that gets your engines revved. Not only is it invigorating for your practice, but it will strengthen performance skills, build stamina, and increase your personal levels of badassery!
  4. Keep a training journal. Anything goes! Make notes on moves, corrections, ideas, etc. This one thing will juice up your training in ways you can’t imagine.
  5. Hit the YouTubes. There’s a dizzying array of performance to inspire and excite you! Many of these artists have put in their 10,000 hours, and it shows.

What puts the spice back in your training? Comment below! Love and pull-ups, Laura


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