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Category Archives: Shows

“I Am Surely About To Die” – Pre-Show Jitters and How to Cope

German Wheel Wishbone


Hello Dear Danglers! I’m writing in hopes that you may recognize a bit of this in your own pre-show musings, and realize that everyone – everyone – has moments of doubt, paralyzing terror  fear, and despair when it comes to doing what we love in front of Other People.


Terror Wheel

I’m currently in Chicago, preparing to compete in German Wheel national trials. If I don’t fall on my head (you laugh, but this is an alarmingly real possibility), I may do well enough to join Team USA in Italy in June to compete against top German wheelers from around the world – the thought makes me want to guffaw and barf all at the same time. See, this time, my performance has real consequences. Usually, the worst thing that happens with a crummy run is that my ego is bruised, but here – OMG – I WILL ACTUALLY, LITERALLY BE JUDGED BY PEOPLE SITTING BEHIND A TABLE SCORING MY WORK WITH POINTS! POINTS!!!!! Is that not the most horrifying thing you’ve ever heard? (#hyperbole) To say that this is producing a bit of anxiety in me is like saying that the Pope is a bit Catholic, or that my students are a bit sassy. It is the most astonishing amount of very real, very tangible fear. So, how will I make it through without crying copious quantities of hiccup-y tears? …. I don’t know.


What I DO Know

Different things work for different people at different times, and I don’t know what will be most useful in the coming days, but I DO have a little grab-bag of coping strategies! Here are a few that have kept me sane thus far.

  • Everyone wants you to succeed. Really. Your audience wants you to succeed! Even if you’re in competition with others, your competition does not really wish you ill (they just want to do better than you – it’s not the same thing). Imagine them all cheering you on, and watch for all the little “thumbs up” you find yourself seeing all over the place.
  • Staaaaaay present. I am the worst – the worst – at this. Anxiety is all about “futurizing” – projecting your fears into an imagined future. It’s not real. Remember – while this kind of thinking is encoded in your DNA (it was veeeeery helpful if you were a caveman on the savanna), it’s not going to help you now. Go google “how to stay present” and do all the things. All of ’em. Whatever it takes. 😉
  • Focus on others. It’s really hard to wind yourself up too much if you’re focused on others. How can you help? The more you can get your mind off yourself and onto serving, the less time you have to rev your engines and flood your body with more stress hormones!
  • Rally the troops! Call your people! Huddle with your show partner, post about your fear on social media, call your mom, whatever. People want to be there for you, so let them! Feel the love.
  • What’s the worst that could happen? Sometimes, this question has sobering answers (“You could land on your head”), but more often than not, the answers are more benign (“I will look like an idiot”). Try to really talk this through. “I will look like an idiot. OK, maybe people won’t look at me and go “she’s such an idiot”. It’s more likely that they will feel bad for me that I missed my trick – they know how that feels. I will be disappointed, but that’s treatable with ice cream. And, in five years, will this matter in my life in any real, meaningful way? Probably not. I will look back and be proud of myself for competing and doing my best.”
  • Try not to ruminate. Go – do whatever you have to do to break the cycle of winding yourself up. Go help someone, go jog, listen to music, watch “Real Housewives, etc.
  • Get spiritual. Pray, meditate, chant, twirl – whatever floats your spirit boat.
  • Everyone is feeling this way. Look around. See your fellow cast mates? Your competitors? Yeah – they’re right there with you. You are not alone.
  • Speak kindly to yourself. Fear is natural and healthy, and can clue you in to things you need to pay attention to, but don’t use this as a time to abuse yourself. Even as I write this, I hear, “You are going to humiliate yourself in front of so many people” We can be astonishingly cruel to ourselves! And, we can choose differently (note: it’s hard, and can feel like you’re lying. Takes practice, start now). I can change that to “I’ve trained hard, and I’m among friends. I choose to have an uplifting, amazing experience of competition.”
  • Be proud – you chose life. You chose to do the hard thing. You chose a big risk, with a big pay off. Just by choosing action – performance – over fear, you are winning big.


B&W slam wheelWelcome Home!

Pre-show “jitters” – doesn’t that sound innocuous? Almost like a candy (“One large bag of popcorn and a box of Jitters, please!”). But oh – when you’re in the throes of anxiety, you know there’s nothing cute or sweet about it – it tastes like pure misery.

What must we remember when we find ourselves here, staring wide-eyed into an unknowable future? You are not alone. In fact, you are now part of a remarkable tradition of courageous people, going back thousands of years. Think of the millions who have stood where you are, thinking the same thoughts, feeling the same smallness, hearing the rush of blood in their ears and wondering how they will survive the next ten minutes. We are a part of a legacy – part of a long tradition of People Who Chose to Really Live. Welcome to the tribe! Welcome home. Love and pull-ups, Laura


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The REAL Danger of Trapeze

Sittin’ pretty… totally unaware of the dangers that lurk just around the bar…..



Hello Dear Danglers! I’m taking a quick break from our regularly scheduled blogging to bring you one of my favorite posts ever – I actually snarfed coffee through my nose, and am considering suing the author (my aerial partner of 10 years, Miz Angela Attia) – how dare she make me laugh that hard! I could have pulled an inter-costal! I’m still working on Preggie Training – Part Deux, so keep an eye out! Love and pull-ups, Laura


The Dark Secret of the Trapeze World No One Dares Speak Of…..



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Choreograph a Super-Star Aerial Piece in 5 Easy Steps

Laura & Angela’s Halloween show fun!

Well, perhaps that’s simplifying it a bit, but it doesn’t have to be a torturous twelve year process, either! With all the Halloween shows and student showcases coming up in NYC, I’ve been hearing a lot of, “I really want to put together a piece, but I have no idea where to begin”. Fret not, Dear Dangers, help is on the way!


5 Steps to a (Potentially) Damned Good Piece

  1. Give yourself enough time to pull together a piece you can really be proud of! Two weeks before the show is NOT the time to start putting ideas together and frantically gluing rhinestones to an old leotard.
  2. Decide on a theme, scenario, or feeling for the piece. Is it seasonal? Fluffy? Dramatic and expressive? Who is your audience? The more specific you can get with it, the more inventive and creative you will be forced to be.  Yes, you CAN do a piece who’s only goal is to highlight your amazing splits and ballerina toes, but wouldn’t it be more interesting to be an alien who got gummed up in her own space goo? Or an aerialist who’s partner has just keeled over (see below)? If you’re a bit hemmed in by having to create a corporate piece, just keep in mind that, while they may not want a space-goo-ed alien, that same sense of creativity and specificity still applies (just temper it for your client/audience as needed).
  3. Make a list of your current favorite moves or bits you want to force yourself to work on. This is a GREAT way to corner yourself into tackling tricks you’ve been avoiding, while showcasing your particular brand of fabulousness!
  4. Arrange the segments in a logical order so you don’t make like a demented bumble bee and kill yourself with unnecessary transitions. Try to make sure you’re including a reasonable amount of variety (above/below/on the bar, fabric open/closed, extended/contracted, you get the picture).
  5. Work creatively to add transitions that are deliberate, seamless, and really add to the character you’re portraying or to the theme of the piece. Please (PLEASE) resist the urge to “noodle” (randomly wave your arms and legs around) – even if it’s pretty, it gets old so fast. This is your chance to really have some fun and express yourself! Don’t be afraid to really work outside the box here – you can always pull it back.


TRAINING TIP: to figure out where you’re most likely to blank on choreography, mark the piece on the ground as fast as you can; this prevents you from thinking ahead, and shows you where the spacey bits are.


Putting it All Together

Now, you run it, run it, and run it again. How does it feel? Use your Trusty Video Camera to evaluate whether some ugly bits are happening, or if there are places you could spice it up a hair. Some pieces are just for fun or for specific shows, and some are meant to be performed long-term (your corporate act, for example); we have holiday pieces we re-visit yearly. Just remember that it’s a process – you’ll work it and rework it as time goes on, so don’t get obsessed with creating something “perfect”. Just start. Right NOW! Get moving, shoo! 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.


An Artist’s Work is Never Done – Or is It?

Takin’ it back to the studio!

Hello Dear Danglers! I found the blog post below while zooming around the interwebs the other day, and thought I’d share it with you! The author, Michael Roberts, has a great site called Revive Your Creativity dedicated to helping artists get organized and “get the work done” – you can check it out here (because seriously – you need to get the work done).

As a aerialist, I have a full repertoire of performance-ready pieces, but every single one of them has gone “back to the shop for repairs” as my skills grow, my strength improves, or my artistic vision for the act changes. Ever gone back to a piece or watched video and had a giant “oh-sweet-heavens-what-was-I-thinking-face-palm-moment”? Yep – me too. As circus artists, we are in the unique position of working in what I call a “fluid medium”, meaning that many of our creations can be considered both complete (performance ready) and never finished at the same time – how awesome is that?

I really like what Michael says about our art needing an audience, what it means for our piece when we can’t find one (back to the drawing board!), and letting go of the fear of the criticism of our work. Remember: no one ever died because Jane the Circus Critic said their work was le poo and their feet were sickled. Tell Jane to go jump in the lake, take a good long look at your act, and (for the love of God!!!) fix those ugly feet. Have a read – hope you like it! Love and pull-ups, Laura

Seeking Validation as Artists

by Michael Roberts, Revive Your Creativity (used with permission)

How do you decide when you should feel good about your art? How do you decide when something is “good enough”? How do you know when an artistic project is actually done?

These are some of the questions that haunt artists. I’ve heard plenty of stories of artists who could never be happy with the work they produced. If they keep fidgeting with the work, then perhaps they will suddenly achieve some sort of perfection – even though true perfection isn’t even possible.

But why do we give in to this sort of indulgent behavior? Why do we go back for the twenty-fourth revision?

The Excuse of “In Progress”

As long as our work is “in progress”, then there is a plausible excuse for the flaws that are present. As long as the work isn’t completely finished, then we’ve given ourselves a chance to fix it. Just maybe we’ll avoid the harsh criticism of the audience. Even more importantly – maybe we’ll be able to catch the audience’s attention in the first place.

There are difficult truths we have to realize in these vulnerable stages.

We can’t be perfect. No matter how hard we try. No matter how many revisions. We just can’t do it.

We can’t improve by staying in a perpetual state of revision. Art needs an audience. If the art can’t find its audience, then that problem is telling to problems that may need to be fixed. If the art meets with just criticism, then the artist can find ways to improve for the next project.

People will always have issue with what you create. We can’t please everyone in any area of our lives. Why would a deeply personal expression like art be any different?

Accepting and Letting Go

To many artists, the toughest point of creation is letting go, of showing someone else the artwork for the first time. It’s terrifying. We put ourselves into our art, and then we readily release it to a world who may or may not appreciate it.

But, art is communication. Communication is rather inefficient if we keep it to ourselves.

There are artists who create only for themselves, but the work can’t grow. It can’t reach anyone if it isn’t shared.

If we can never overcome the fear of sharing and the fear of rejection, then we can never grow as artists.

Start small. Don’t show someone your biggest project that you’ve been working on for years. Show a quick project to someone and experience the emotions that come with the possibility of rejection. Then, build your way up.

We don’t have to throw ourselves into the worst situations so that we can somehow earn more merit by “suffering as artists”. Protect your heart. You’ll need it for all the beautiful works you’ve yet to create.

To read more cool stuff from Michael, head on over to




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Phony Tails, Spanx, and Glitter – Essential Pieces for Faux-Fabulous Performing

I write this to you from a gig, Dear Danglers, where I am minutes away from spackling on my makeup, squeezing myself into my Spanx, and gluing my lids together as I apply my lashes. Now, do you NEED all of this? Maybe, maybe not – depends on the show and your personal performing preferences. But, for today’s chat, let’s look at some of the things you may want to have in your bag-o-tricks for your average event.

  • Phony-tail . Does your hair explode into a glorious Brillo pad at the first sign of humidity? Are your locks looking a hair limp (HA!)? Enter the phony-tail! Fake pony tails or hair pieces that fit over your bun & can take you from zero to glam in the time it takes you to stab yourself in the head with a few bobby pins. Worth a look if your hair needs help or if you just don’t want to deal with it. Also? Hairspray – it can double as rosin in a pinch.
  • A wide assortment of flesh-colored seamless undergarments. Thongs, Spanx (body smoothers), over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders, tights, etc.
  • Makeup! We use Ben Nye color wheels a lot, as well as cheap red lipstick (is there any other kind?), false lashes, GLITTER GLITTER GLITTER, black eyeliner, and loose translucent powder to adhere the whole mess to your face. Don’t forget the baby wipes to take it all off.
  • An emergency bag with thread and needles (black & white), bandaids, small scissors, bobby pins, Nu-Skin liquid bandage, safety pins, duct tape, ibuprofen, etc.
  • A good bodice-ripper (trashy novel), magazine, or other reading material that doesn’t require too much concentration.
  • A hoodie and layers of warm up clothes – those ballrooms get CHILLY.
  • Snacks and Red Bull water – you never know what you’ll get at these things.

That’s a good starting place, and you’ll add things to the list as you get a few seasons of performing under your belt. Pros – what have you found to be really helpful in going from zero to drag queen? Is there anything you can’t do a show without? Leave your answers in the comments below! Love and pull-ups, Laura

 As always, if you liked this post, share it on the F Books, Twitter, your blog, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days!