Category Archives: The Biz

Are You Ready To Go Pro?

Hello, Dear Danglers! This week I have such a treat for you – the FABULOUS Allison Williams! Enjoy!


 Are You Ready to Go Pro?

GripIt finally happened. Someone clicked the contact button on your brand-new website and asked you to come perform at their event. This is it—the big time. Your teacher has finally said, “Yeah, that act is ready to perform.” You’ve joined some Facebook groups that talk about professional practices; you’re up to date on Laura’s blog. And you’ve noticed, Hey! Professional rates are pretty high! I’m gonna make bank! Or at least finally pay myself back for the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on training…

Whoa, Sparkle-Party! Don’t throw that triple yet!

It’s true, there’s a substantial push in the aerial “industry” for charging appropriate professional fees. Being aware of the going price, not undercutting your fellow performers, and being willing to say to a client, “That’s what aerial entertainment costs. I’m sorry you can’t afford me.”

But are you ready to be in that price range? Are you, in fact, a professional? Find out with this simple quiz!

TRUE or FALSE?

  • You know the market rate for different types of event, and you’re comfortable asking for it. You can assess the non-cash value of certain performing situations.
  • You own your own equipment and rigging. If you offer a particular act, you own all necessary equipment to execute that act.
  • You are comfortable rigging in a variety of situations (ceiling points, exposed beams, freestanding rigs). Even if you don’t rig your own equipment, you are able to judge whether a rigging situation is safe.
  • You can adapt your act to a variety of heights, moods, themes and performance lengths. You know when to say, “Sorry, that act won’t fit, I’m out.” Or, “Sorry, that act won’t fit, how about this other act?” Or, “I don’t do that act, but Cindy-Lou does, why don’t I put you in touch with her?”
  • You can guard your own safety at the event by being kind but firm about what un-contracted extras you are willing/not willing to do. You are flexible and try to give the client value for money. You will sometimes do un-contracted extras that are safe and a minimum of hassle, or in exchange for something else that was contracted.
  • You don’t ask if your friends can come to the event.
  • You own costumes suitable for varying levels of formality, and can adapt to many themes or color schemes. You have a list of your measurements that can be provided by hitting ‘reply’ when the costume person asks for your measurements, rather than four days later after you go buy a tape measure.
  • You own necessary accessories/consumables like rosin, tape, dance belt, theatrical makeup, hairspray, and clean, modest, whole cover-up/warm-up clothing.
  • You have a hairstyle that works with your costume, the theme and the act, and you can do your hair in the time allotted. You have a makeup look that suits your act, is visible from the audience, and stays put.
  • Your warm-up adapts to the available space and cleanliness of the warm-up area.
  • You know not to hand your own card to the client and you know why. You know not to talk to the client unless you are there alone or you are the designated person who talks to the client.
  • You have a short, “agent-friendly” (no contact info) video clip when someone needs to show you to the client before booking or for performer approval. In the clip, you are wearing a costume and performing a routine.

 

BONUS: You are able to smile at the client and say “of course!” when they ask if you “do that thing where you wrap up and come down real fast.”

11-12 TRUE: Congratulations, you’re ready to ask for professional rates in exchange for your professional-caliber performance!

Less than 11: Sorry, you still have some things to learn!

 

The good news: these aren’t difficult to learn. If you’re not ready yet, start putting in the time. Ask professional performers if you can come to a gig as a stage manager or gofer, be genuinely useful, and watch how they work. Ask your school for performance opportunities where you can go as an intern or junior performer, and work on someone else’s equipment and wear someone else’s costume while you learn how to do the job. If you’re young enough to work for crap pay, apply for an official internship.

Start saving up for costumes and equipment. Take a rigging workshop. Practice makeup in the mirror (that’s the fun one!). Next time you’re in a student show, make sure you get good video from a couple of angles. Ask your teachers about their most recent performances. Role-play responding to client requests, reasonable and unreasonable (it doesn’t feel dumb when you do it in the car).

Most of all, be brave about being ignorant. If you see something you don’t understand, ask (privately, politely, and after the gig). Read online discussions. Listen more than you talk. Be humble. Be helpful. We—your fellow aerialists—want you to learn these things. We want you to be professional. It makes us all look better.

Allison Williams is the Artistic Director of Aerial Angels. (www.angelsintheair.com)

 

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.

 

Face Palm! When Performance Goes Horribly Wrong

Ghetto StrapsStory time! So, this past week, I saw an old flame for the first time in about 12 years. Now, I’m a blissfully happy married lady, but you know how this works. No matter how much of a douche he was, no matter how happy you are now, you REALLY want to look amazing when you see him. With this in mind, I booked myself an afternoon at the salon to get my color done (it’s quite the ordeal). When the poor stylist took the foils out of my hair the first time, my streak was half yellow, half lilac. I sh*t you not. So, the guy puts Extra Strong Heavy Duty Super Terrifying Bleach on my hair to try again (by this time, I was just hoping that my hair would actually stay attached to my head). We rinsed again, and success! Glorious color! But now, it was too late to blow my hair out to the sleek, sophisticated do I’d envisioned.

 

 “I know!” said my stylist. “I’ll make it all Burnadette Peters fabulous! The higher the hair, the closer to Jesus!”

 

He proceeded to tease and spray my hair until it stood a full four inches off my head. Instead of cool and collected, I looked like the Wild Woman of Borneo. To top it off, there was a gale-force wind outside. By the time I saw my old dalliance, I looked like a homeless woman who had been though a hurricane. Oh – it was so bad. Instead of the, “Damn! I can’t believe I let that get away!” I had hoped to inspire, I’m fairly certain he thought, “Damn! Dodged THAT bullet!” Awesomeness fail.

 

Aside from a bruised ego, I was fine, of course. But what on earth does this have to do with anything aerial, you’re asking? Well, I’m a-tellin’ ya. Have you ever had a performance go very, very wrong? Messed up your routine? Got tied in a knot? Or (worst of all), gone Big Boom like our friend below? When you feel completely humiliated, it’s HARD on the ego. Grab some cawfee and a prune danish. Let’s tawk.

 

When You Just Want to Die

Performances are funny things. Rehearsal is meant to prepare you for every eventuality, but when you’re confronted with an audience, nerves, lights, loud music, and a host of other things you didn’t have to contend with beforehand, stuff can get weird. Fast. When you finish a performance feeling more mortified than marvelous, keep the following in mind:
  1. It’s almost never as bad as you think. The audience may have had a COMPLETELY different view of your act than you did! Find a sounding board you trust, kvetch a bit, and let them console you. Very therapeutic as long as it doesn’t become a habit!
  2.  If it was, in fact, as bad as you think, try to put it in perspective. Other than your ego, is anything else in shambles? Unless there was a Cirque du Soleil scout in the audience, chances are that this one performance won’t have any major repercussions in the grand scheme of things.
  3. If you clearly and meaningfully injure yourself (intense pain, a blow to the head, etc), stop immediately and, as gracefully as possible, exit the stage. It’s tempting to try to keep going, but adrenaline could be masking more injury than you think. Really be conservative on this one. If you destroy your body, where are you going to live?

 

Prepare the Right Way

I’m big on troubleshooting and preventing problems before shows. Not everything can be anticipated, but here are some good places to start.
  1. Rehearse your ass off. If you’re a seasoned professional, you can push your limits a bit. But for the student or green performer, you’ll want to make sure you can easily complete your act three times in one hour. Can’t do it? Make the piece shorter or put in more resting moves.
  2. Make sure you’re totally 100% comfortable with the elements of your piece. Performance is not the time to bust out the stuff you’re struggling with or just learned yesterday!!!! This cannot be overstated. Know what you’re doing onstage.  
  3. If you’re doing ambient work (nightclubs, for example), don’t just wing it. Prior to the event, string together lots of sequences that are second nature for you. Not only does this keep you safer, but it keeps your work dynamic so you don’t keep repeating the same four moves ad nauseum.
  4. Check your lighting. Make sure you have enough light to consistently see your apparatus (and the floor if you’re doing fabrics or a flying apparatus, especially if it’s a dark floor). You also want to make sure you’re not being blinded or disoriented by bright lighting. Talk to the LD (lighting designer) about your needs. For us, we request a basic wash on the apparatus (and floor if we need it), about 70% brightness for stage shows, and no strobes, fast-spinning gobos, or unexpected bally-hoos with the lights. Beyond that, they can have fun!
  5. Make sure the sound person is really clear on when to start your music. 
  6.  If there’s time, do a quick sequence on your apparatus in the space. Just a little “check in” can make a big difference in how comfortable you feel.
  7. Do a good warm up and make sure you’re hydrated and fueled! Eat a light meal about 90 minutes before the show, and make sure you’ve been sipping water regularly. A warm-up should elevate your body temperature, take your muscles and joints through their anticipated range of motion, and get you feeling strong and ready.

 

 

Enjoy the Show! Do a good prep, do your best onstage. If the piece goes Very Wrong, take heart: we’ve ALL had awful shows. Truly! Take a good look at what happened, and learn from your experience. Then, go have Dance-on-the-Table-Margarita Night with your best friends, and make them all tell you repeatedly how awesome you are. Because you are awesome. 🙂 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.

 

Defensive Much? Your Ability to Deal with Criticism Determines Success in the Air AND on the Ground!

Truth? Criticism is hard. It can hurt. Even the most constructive of comments can sometimes land wrong, and let’s not even get to the shooting-straight-from-the-hip kind! What’s a sensitive artist soul to do? Armor up, Gorgeous – criticism is a gold mine.

Why It’s So Valuable

I recently gave a student (who wishes to go pro) some rigging corrections, and if looks could kill, I would have forks stabbed into my eyeballs and at least 20 knives impaling key organs. Instead of asking questions and embracing an opportunity to learn, girlfriend shut down. What a shame! The older I get, the more I realize that the world is FULL of people with oodles of things to teach you if you shut your mouth and open your ears (which, admittedly, I could do a lot more of myself!). Got an expert giving you corrections, advice, or critiques? JUMP on that train, friend! Even if it’s not info you can use right now, or if it doesn’t align with your goals or beliefs, come at it with a receptive heart and see what you can find. Brace yourself – you may be mistaken, working inefficiently, or seeing a very narrow slice of the whole picture.

 

When to Listen and When to Mentally Moon Them

Listen:

  • when they’re an expert and know more than you do – ask them lots of questions!
  • when they’re your target audience – listen carefully, this is marketing gold
  • when they have a very different point of view – this can shake you up and encourage you to see more than just your back yard

Moon them:

  • if they are decidedly NOT an expert
  • when they’re far from your target audience
  • when they’re abusive or aggressive (you can still consider their input even if it’s delivered in an indelicate way, just mentally moon them while you do it)
  • they are someone you suspect of having impure motives, or not considering what is best for you

 

How to Thwart the Tantrum You REALLY WANT TO THROW

Truth? I really struggle with this. If I’m in a receptive mood, no problemo. BUT, if I’m having an (ahem) “sensitive” day, all criticism is like nails on a chalkboard. And you know what? I lose. When I succumb to defensiveness, and essentially stuff my fingers in my ears and scream LALALALALALALALA, I lose. When I think of some of the opportunities that have passed me by because my ego got in the way, I cringe. But – I can do better! And so can you.

  • Be a student, even if it’s just for a few minutes
  • Write it down – there’s something in the act of writing things down that makes them feel less personal
  • Speaking of, don’t take it personally – easier said than done, for sure! Especially when it FEELS very personal. State your point of view without resorting to defensiveness, and listen to see if there’s some truth in what they’re saying. Asking questions is a great way to do this!
  • If you’re getting defensive and emotional, explain that you’re not in a place to really hear them right this second, but you value what they have to say. Ask if you can continue the conversation another time, and then do it! People understand!

The more we can really listen and take good criticism, the better we get. Period. This is something I’m really committed to working on – come join me! Love and pull-ups, Laura

For more on becoming a better student, have a look at this blog post! 🙂 

Are we too thin-skinned to handle criticism? Interesting read!

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.

 

Sour Grapes: Why is SHE Working and I’M not??!!!

Good question! IMPORTANT question! Also? Complicated question. We all have “sour grape” moments, when we wonder why someone (who is CLEARLY an inferior artist…) is getting oodles of work, but we’re left out in the cold. It’s not fair, right?! Well, not so fast…

 

What Goes Into Hiring

The first thing to understand is what goes on on the other side of the casting table. For a more in-depth take on this, click here. Quick considerations:

 

1 – do you have a reputation for being easy to work with, or would you give Shannen Doherty a run for her money?

2 – are you SURE you’re as awesome as you think? How’s that technique? How’s your performance quality? Just askin’….

3 – do you only perform on one apparatus or do you have two solid acts ready to go tomorrow?

4 – ever pulled a Charlie Sheen? How’s your reputation? Are you always late? Flaky? Do you get back to people ASAP on things? Reputation is HUGE.

5 – are you chained to a day job? How’s your availability for gigs & rehearsals?

6 – have you been whining about how you don’t know ________________? (about rigging, how to get work, who to submit to, etc.) How pro-active are you at continuing your education and shoring up your weak spots?

 

What You May Be Missing

That “sub-par” performer you’re hating on must be doing SOMETHING right! Your job is to figure out what it is. Does s/he:

1 – have a great website chock full of photos and video?

2 – cultivate good relationships with companies who hire circus artists by updating them regularly on skills, acts, and shows?

3 – have at least two performance-ready acts suitable for events or shows? An aerial plus a ground act is GOLD, though two aerial acts can work too.

4 – pound that pavement? How many doors have YOU been knocking on? Producers aren’t just going to magically come to you!

5 – constantly network and surround themselves with amazing people? Make a concerted effort to learn about aspects of rigging or the business that they don’t know?

So, what if they’re working all the time because they work for peanuts? That, my friend, is another story. Don’t do that – it’s silly.

 

Stash Your Ego and Learn as Much as You Can

Here it is in a nutshell: as the circus industry floods with aerialists (and oh – is it FLOODING), only a few will work. Why? Because only a few will treat it like a business. You will not know everything day one out of the gate. In fact, you will never know everything. Some of the best advice I ever got:

1 – surround yourself with the BEST people

2 – learn everything you can. Everyone has something to teach you – even if it’s a cautionary tale.

Pay attention to what other artists are doing that seems to be productive, and take note of what isn’t. If you’re not working, you must take a long, hard look at why, and not be afraid of the answer. Find yourself getting defensive? Fear. Making excuses? Fear. Your artistic future is in your hands – how will you shape it TODAY? You have more power than you can imagine. Get busy. Spend less time chewing sour grapes, more time building AN EMPIRE! 😉 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.

 

Going Pro: Step 1 – The Most Important Decision You’ll Make

MakeupHappy Thursday, Dear Danglers! So many of you have emailed and asked the great, burning question of our times: “How do I know when it’s time to go pro? Should I go pro? What’s the first step?” Let’s take a look-see, shall we?

 

 Get Your Head in the Game

Going pro is, first and foremost, a decision that you make. It informs everything from the way you take care of your body, to your training, to the way you approach your business. Are you one foot in and one foot out? It’s fine if you are, but you probably won’t make much headway anytime soon. Going pro means being all in – heart and soul. You know you’re in that head space when you:

 

  •  Buckle down:  decide to take your training seriously, and show up every day and do the work whether you feel like it or not
  • Commit:  make the decision that no matter what – come hell or high water – you are going to be a professional aerialist. Bring it.
  • Assess: cultivate an accurate assessment of your bodys strengths and weaknesses
  • Nourish: pay attention to what you put in your body (in every sense, people. Step awaaaaaaaaaaaay from the nachos and that guy with the skinny jeans. ESPECIALLY the guy with the skinny jeans.)
  • Protect: begin training with an eye towards injury prevention and longevity. If your body wears out, where are you gonna live? Who’s going to do your act?
  • Invest: shift the focus from, “I want to be a circus star!” to “I am a part of an incredible community!” and aim to structure your future business to support that community rather than undermining it with unhealthy business practices (that make me stabby)
  • Think: begin to see yourself as a (completely amazing) product, requiring marketing, promotion, and industry savvy
  • Connect: seek out reputable mentors, check your ego at the door, and become a sponge for solid career advice. Hint: look for someone living the dream. No, the luscious guy who teaches your Zumba class is probably not an appropriate mentor (but take him to lunch anyway. And when did we start becoming appropriate?)

 

I totally wish the first letter of each of these spelled out someting cool, but I gave up about half way through my morning coffee. Just pretend!

 

Luminosity Duo Lyra

Am I There Yet? Maybe….

When you stop dabbling and really commit yourself to the insanely hard work of becoming the best damned performer you know how to be, you’re on your way.  Try to see the big picture – begin with the end in mind and structure your training accordingly. When you hit the “sweet spot” of this internal shift, suddenly everything becomes inspiration for your work, and ideas are everywhere. You will be en fuego!!! Here’s to you being unstoppable, Dear Dangler! Get to work! 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.

 

How to Sabotage Your Career and Training – A Users Guide

Oh Dear Danglers, there is an epidemic sweeping our nation. It’s a plague of the worst kind, because it’s victims are generally oblivious to it.This insidious pestilence, which has caused thousands of circus performers to lose work, and hundreds of students to forfeit their spot in class, has reached an all-time high. What is this vile contagion? Flakiness, Dear Dangler, flakiness.

How to Ruin Your Career Before it Starts

 I can think of at least five performers, this very second, whom I would love to use in shows and events, but won’t. I refuse to put myself through the endless work, drama, and general pain-in-the-ass-ness these performers put me though. Want to join their ranks? Do this:

1. Don’t get back to me quickly when I call or email you about an event.

This one is the biggie, folks! Most producers and casting directors have an A List, B List, and a C List when casting (HINT: you want to be on the A List!). Our A List performers are not only wildly talented, but they make my life SO MUCH EASIER by getting back to me as soon as they get my email with a “yes”, “no”, or “let me get back to you by _______”. I have a client waiting for answers; if you’re slow answering my email or phone call, we will pass you by, or not use you again. True dat.

2. Play coy.

If your standard rate for your act is $1000, but you’re willing to negotiate if an event is right around the corner from your house, super easy, offers sweet perks, involves luscious male models, etc., then say so! If you tell me $1000 is your absolute minimum, I will not call you for less. Say what you mean, and mean what you say; be forthright, candid, and up-front so I know when to call you.

3. Show up at my event without crucial equipment or accessories.

It’s one thing to forget your eye-pencil sharpener, it’s something quite different to forget your costume. Make a standard packing list for events, then add gig-specific items as you’re notified about them. Three days before your event, do your pack, ensuring that everything is in working order, clean, and in good repair. You don’t want to find out mid-show that the small hole in the crotch of your unitard has gotten A LOT bigger! Ain’t nobody wants to see all that.

Why Flaky Students Get Last Pick of Classes and Pay More

Do you wait until the last second to try to get into your preferred class? Do you routinely email your instructor asking for a private this afternoon? Does your teacher make money without ever seeing your face because you’re a no-show for classes? Then you, Dear Dangler, are being flaky. Quit it! If your classes are important, schedule them at least several days in advance. Got a wildly unpredictable schedule? No worries! Chat with your teacher – most of us are used to accommodating wonky schedules if we know your situation in advance, and are happy to do so.
Also? Come to class in proper clothing, get there with a bit of time to spare, and use that time to warm up. Anything less means YOU lose out – and that is no fun!!!

At The End of the Day…

Flakiness is rarely localized – it tends to bleed into every area of our lives.We all have our flaky bits here and there, but you REALLY don’t want to be known as the performer who never calls back, or the student who’s more likely to cancel an hour before the lesson than show up – it makes others take you less seriously. Flakiness may yield success for the Paris Hiltons of the world, but you and me ain’t Paris Hilton. Give yourself the edge of being really “on it” – you would be amazed at how far it goes! 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.

 

On Ninnies, Artists, and Makin’ it Rain: Final Thoughts on Working Cheap

No idea what this post is referring to? Start here! “Workin’ Cheap: How Short-Sighted Ninnies Are Killing Our Profession”

WELL, Dear Danglers – my little bloggie caused something of a stir last week! Having read some interesting comments and participated in some great discussions, I have a final thought (or four) on the issue. Is it somehow “un-artistic” to hope to pay your bills with your aerial work? Should you charge professional prices when you’re just starting out? Should you drop your prices if you’re working in a small market? GOOD QUESTIONS. Let’s discuss!

What Heartened Me

First, let me define exactly who this post was aimed at: aerialists getting into events (corporate, private, promotions, etc.) and cirque-style shows like those produced by Cirque Productions, Poet Theatricals, my company ImaginAerial, and dozens of other event companies. Small touring shows, self-produced runs, and small artistic ventures are in a different category entirely (remember: the first question to ask is, “Who is making money off me?” If the answer is nobody, well, that’s a silk of a different color!).

I got oodles of positive feedback from the established aerial community who’s been dealing with this issue for a while now. I’m not arrogant or crazy, and that $600 starting price wasn’t pulled out of thin air – that’s the general minimum we’ve been charging (and making) in events for upwards of a decade. I was also supremely heartened by the response from young aerialists who now have an idea of what the going market price is in events. When/if they’re ready to go pro in this area, they have a ballpark figure to work from. This very issue is why unions have been formed for other artistic genres (Actors Equity, SAG/AFTRA, etc) – there’s always someone willing to work cheap, but a true professional knows the value of their work.

(Note: for a touring show, you reduce your rate in the sense that you don’t just multiply the number of shows x your base rate. The more shows you do per week (within reason), the better deal you give. Too much to go into in this post – another time!)

What Surprised Me

What surprised me the most was the idea that asking for a living wage for your work somehow makes you “in it for the money”. Let’s be honest – did any of us get into this seeing gigantic dollar signs? Of course not. BUT, in order to be consistently working artists, we have to approach our work as we would any business. When you add up the cost of rehearsal space, equipment, costumes, music composition, business cards, insurance, website, travel, photographers (the list goes on and on – I’m stopping so as not to depress myself), you realize that you have to charge appropriately or fold. It really is just that simple.

We are certainly not the only industry in the throes of this problem – it’s an epidemic among freelancers in everything from graphic design to copy writing. These links make the point nicely:

F-You, Pay Me! (this one’s got some strong language – if that offends you, don’t click!)

Should I Work for Free?

There’s also a large question about what makes a professional a professional, versus a hobby trapezista, amateur, or green aerialist. Folks – if you’re awesome enough to work professionally and have all your ducks in a row (great costume, composed music, understanding of basic rigging, meticulously choreographed kick-booty 6-8 minute act, business cards, website, promo reel, proper photos, performers insurance, etc), then you are ready to run with the big dogs. And charge accordingly. (This deserves – and will get – it’s own post down the road!)

 In Closing

Good art and entertainment are valuable, and worth being paid for. The florist gets paid, the caterer gets paid, the lighting designer gets paid, the event planner gets paid, the stage manager gets paid – the talent should get paid too. You may have to scale up or down a bit depending on your regional market, but it’s up to you to make sure you’re engaging in healthy business practices by not undercutting an entire industry in your eagerness to work.

You may notice that I have left comments closed on this post. It’s not because I don’t want to have discussions, but I AM going on vacation for a whole week, and I frankly don’t want to spend the entire time moderating comments. Besides, as we’ve discovered, the internet is a poor forum for a robust discussion of ideas. So, I challenge you to talk about this issue in person with your peers, your class mates, and anyone else you care to hash it out with. It’s a discussion worth having! Here’s to artists getting paid for their work, audiences being dazzled, amazing art being created, and businesses thriving and growing in a sustainable and responsible way. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a mojito with my name on it! Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

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!

 

Workin’ Cheap – How Shortsighted Ninnies Are Killing Our Profession

Buckle up, Dear Danglers – this is gonna be a bumpy ride! Today, we will be talking about the money side of the business, specifically about working cheap. What does it mean to you and your industry? How does it affect your future ability to earn a living? Are YOU one of the performers on my I-Would-Like-To-Slap-You List? Giddyap, cowgirl – I aim to shoot straight from the hip.

How Cheap is Too Cheap?

When deciding how much I will charge for my services (that sounds vaguely naughty somehow), I take a number of things into account.

  • Is someone making money off me? (ex: open to the public shows, night clubs, agents, evil dictators, etc.)
  • How much hoo-hah and shenanigans are involved? (travel, rigging, equipment, the occasional a$$hole producer – we charge a “shenanigans” tax when we have to work with unpleasant people, costuming, custom-created work, cost of meals, scheduling, etc.) The more anticipated drama, the more we charge.
  • Are there any pretty perks? (professional photos or video which will contractually be made available to us, awesome location, swanky catering, free equipment or costumes, male models named Dante, etc.)
  • Where is the event being held? Germany is a very different market than Ecuador.
  • Is this a non-profit, fundraising event, or other event where a budget is so tight it squeaks?

 

Show Me the Money!

Taking ALL of these things into account, what is a fair and sustainable price for my work? Adequate compensation is the best defense against Bitter Business Syndrome (and oh – Danglers – I know from whence I speak).  I want you to think about the following:

  • Add up the amount you’ve spent on lessons, rehearsal space, equipment, etc. Still feel OK about charging $200 for your performance?
  • Circus is a skill worth paying for. Your abilities are unique, and you’ve worked hard for your skills. Do you see accountants, nurses, plumbers, etc. lining up to work for free? Why do you value your training and skills less? Do you feel that because you love your work it’s not worth much? New flash, sistah – you don’t have to hate your job to be paid fairly for it.
  • Do you “just want to perform”? Love it so much you’ll do it for free? Then by all means – donate your skills to local showcases and shows! Just don’t bill yourself as a professional. As in “I do this as a profession” – because that means it’s how you make a living. No $$? No living. Also? I really hope you love your day job, because you’ll never make enough to leave it.
  • When you work cheap, it gets around. People don’t value what they don’t pay for. When we hear of performers who routinely lower the bar for the rest of us, you can bet they won’t be working in any of our shows or events.

Now, I’m not saying you should never reduce your rates (we do “good karma” gigs when appropriate), or perform gratis at a benefit or local show – these can be  great places to put up new acts and get feedback, give back to your community, etc. But professional shows and events demand professional pay, and if you’re walking in the door as an aerialist for less than $600 (and yes – that’s on the very low end), you are undercutting, my friend. Make no mistake – it will kill our industry. Love and pull-ups, Laura

UPDATE: If you have any questions, may I suggest  http://www.shouldiworkforfree.com/.

 

For my final thoughts on the matter, click here!

 

ANOTHER UPDATE: a number of you sent me this – I love it! It’s directed towards musicians, but you get the point. It really highlights the absurdity of constantly being asked to perform for free!

 

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Sweet Heavens – What is that SMELL?! Whiffy Silks, Costumes, and Unmentionable Stinky Bits

Airing our pits in El Salvadore.

As a circus performer, I often find myself playing “Name That Stench”, with costumes, fabrics, luggage, etc. Today, it’s straight talk about the (less awesome) smells of circus. Oh yes – we are going there, so grab your Fe-Breeze, Woolite, and deoderant and follow me.

Story Time

A couple of years ago, we had a gig in El Salvadore. The performance was outside in 99% humidity, and it was about 1000 degrees. After the show, I put my costume back in it’s bag, packed it into my suitcase, and completely  forgot about it until we got to our next gig a week later. I pulled the costume from it’s bag in our dressing area and cleared the room. To say that everyone gave me a wide berth is the understatement of the year. Here’s hoping the following tips will help you avoid such an eye-watering moment!

  • Aerial Fabrics – Honestly? Silks (and so many other things) are best when they’re dirty. Clean silks are slick as snot! Yes, fabrics are whiffy when the weather gets warm, but a little dirt, sweat, and tears make ’em a dream to work on. When you can’t stand it anymore, use a gentle detergent like Woolite, cold water wash, hang dry. Never bleach or put them in the dryer – degrades the fibers! Also, use Fe-Breeze sparingly since the jury is still out as to whether or not it shortens the life of your fabrics. Store them in a well-ventilated spot – you’ll regret it if you don’t.
  • Costumes – fancy costumes and frequent washes don’t mix! Rhinestones, sequins, foil fabrics, etc. don’t weather the laundromat well; generally speaking, turn them inside out & hand wash them (cold water, Woolite). You can also spot clean pits and crotches, or areas with makeup stains, dirt, etc.
  • Performance under-clothes – launder frequently! For shows, it’s best to have multiples of whatever you’re using. Hand wash and rotate. FDS can work wonders on thongs and tights that are being put to work in multiple shows.
  • Working with a partner – If you’ve ever worked physically and heavily with another person in circus, you are well-aquainted with the fun places your head unexpectedly winds up. After you’ve laughed it off (and your partner has promised to buy you dinner), consider that you two will be getting veeeeeeery familiar with one another. Get really comfortable with the idea that not everything is going to be fresh as a daisy all the time. Beyond basic hygiene (see below), get over it. Also, some folks hate scented products; if you’re working with a partner, you’ll want to be mindful of that.
  • Basic hygiene – Showering is good. Soap? Shampoo? Toothpaste? All good. There’s a big difference between “a little aromatic” and “knock-you-on-your-ass BO”. Feet smell like feet, pits smell like pits. Ladies, it’s a vagina, not a rose garden. See what I’m getting at? Don’t sweat it (tee hee!) if you realize that your crystal rock deoderant isn’t doin’ it today, and cut others some slack when it happens to them. (Note: if there’s a real issue here, address it sensitively with your partner – perhaps something like this).

At the end of the day, circus is hot, sweaty, dirty, awesome work. We sweat in lots of places, and on lots of apparatus – it ain’t always pretty. Beyond a basic level of hygiene, there has to be a level of acceptance that sometimes you or your partner (or both of you) will be pretty darned stinky – embrace it! Hell, Angela and I have made a contest out of it (for the record, she always wins). 😉 So jump onto your whiffy fabrics in your stinky costume with your aromatic partner and make some eye-watering magic! See (smell?) you in the air! Love and pull-ups, Laura

Do YOU have any tips, tricks, pet peeves, or stories on this one? Leave them in the comments below!

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Stoned Love: Why Performing Aerials When You’re High Is Completely Moronic

Yup – you heard me! Tough love, Dear Danglers, but this needs to be said. Is it ever okay to perform drunk or high? What about just a little drunk or high? Is it anyone else’s business if you do? Let’s dive in.

Why Performing Stoned Is A Terrible, Terrible Idea

Unless you’re Charlie Sheen, the very idea of performing while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is so completely absurd, I’m not even sure where to start. Let’s talk quickly about what the effects on the body are:

  • depressants (alcohol, marijuana, prescription painkillers, etc.) –  temporarily slow down your central nervous system, which controls your bodily functions, blocking out some of the messages trying to get through to your brain. This results in slowed reaction time, impaired judgement, uncoordination, etc.
  • stimulants (cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines, etc.) – increase heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. This can result in confusion, heart attack, overheating, and brain damage.
  • hallucinogens (‘shrooms, LSD, etc.) – causes hallucinations. Nuff said.

So let me see…. why might this be a bad idea? Slowed reflexes, impaired judgement, confusion, hallucinations… sounds SUPER SEXY to me! Combine that with aerial performance, and you my friend are a Rock Star. Wait – I’m sorry – you are a Very Silly Individual Who Clearly Needs To Rethink Some Things.

 

What Constitutes “High” – The No Fly Zone

I myself am flying high after one beer (cheap date), and completely laid out by cold meds. Most professionals go by the Pregnancy Rule – if you can’t down it while pregnant, you shouldn’t consume it before hanging upside-down by one ankle twenty feet in the air. I personally like to save my partying for AFTER the show, when I can totally cut loose and have TWO beers (and hope nobody posts what happens next on YouTube. Priceless.)

 

Why It IS My Business, And Everyone Else’s

Let me be superty clear: I don’t particularly care what you choose to do to yourself, what you engage in during your free time, or whether you like to do trapeze stark nekkid with a lampshade on your head. I truly do not care. BUT, as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr once said, “Your right to swing your fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” None of us live in a bubble (though some of us probably should), and our actions have consequences for our community at large. So, when you choose to endanger yourself and others by performing stoned, you betta believe I’m going to weigh in! Every time an accident occurs, professionals like myself face a barrage of new “safety” regulations, codes, permits, and other red tape that we have to slog through every time we want to perform in New York City – so much fun!

So snap out of it, Peter Pan! Time to put on your Big Girl Panties (or your Big Boy Banana Hammock), and come to the party as a pro. Save the drinkie-poos for after the show – we’ll both feel better. Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

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