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Category Archives: Training

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:


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.


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.


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?
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:


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.”

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 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?


“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!

Watch a SassyPants Beginner Demo Class with Steve from Refinery29!

Hello Dear Danglers! This past week, I had the enormous pleasure of putting Steve Doss from Refinery29 through his paces in this short class demo. If you’re curious about what it all looks like, take a peek! 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 Easy Fix for an Ugly Transition – “The Slice”

As a teacher, I see a lot of (ahem) “creative” transitions. Like angry-badger-in-a-whirlpool level creative. The vast majority are a natural part of the learning process which we ALL go through (and let’s face it – they’re HILARIOUS on Instagram). But, what if I told you that you could take one move from unseemly to unbelievable right this minute? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…… The Slice.

What is “The Slice”?

The Slice is an easy and glamorous way of bringing your torso between the fabrics. Instead of recreating the extra-terrestrial birth scene from the movie “Aliens”, two small adjustments can make that no-no say yes-yes. It creates better lines, and is much safer than that weird grabby thing you do. Try it!

  1. Both arms up, then “slice” one arm through the fabrics and press it back.
  2. Shift the other arm through, press back.
  3. It’s important to apply pressure to the poles of the fabric with the back of the upper arm – do NOT let your arms sweep forward, or your shoulders round.



When Should I Use It?

Use The Slice any time you need to get your bubbies forward and your hips back (going into crucifix, for example). And the best part? You need zero skill to do it – it’s something you can rock on day one. Go forth and Slice, friends! 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.


Flex for Jesus! Don’t Get Slingshot-ed Off Your Apparatus

If you’re a dancer, or if your feet go into spasms when you have to point one and flex the other, you’ve likely struggled with the dilemma – to point, or not to point? Friends, that IS the question.

During some moves, my students regularly hear me holler, “FLEX FOR JESUS” while they’re whizzing around in the ceiling. It’s a reminder to commit to a strong, well-placed, deliberately flexed foot, which goes a long way towards keeping your butt safely in the air.


Hold the Phone – Shouldn’t I ALWAYS Point Everything in Circus?

Well, no. There are a few reasons you might not want to point your foot!

  • When your flexed foot is keeping you alive (example: single ankle hang).
  • When you’re being “contemporary”, and using ALL the flexed feet.
  • When you’re having a leg spasm in the air because you haven’t been to class in a month. Ahem.


20150224_201325_Hagrid_GrungeWhen to Rock a Flexed Foot

To every thing there is a season, and that goes double for feet (HA! Folks, I’ll be here all week). There are times when a flex is not only appropriate, but essential.

  • When…it…just is! Some moves just work best with a strong flex. Now, while rules are meant to be broken, and many “flex only” moves can be modified to look pointy, leave it to the super advanced students.
  • When you need a larger margin of error. When you’re first learning a traditionally flex-y-foot-y move (kidney squisher, for example), commit to the flex! You want to increase your margin of error, not decrease it by using a sickle-point, which can pop off unexpectedly. If a move is working really well (pssst – ask your coach – your definitions of “working really well” may differ), it might be time to play with….


The Sneaky Sickle-Point!

Some moves (think “crochet up the pole”) should start with a flex; once you and this move are besties, you can safely sneak your foot in a sickle-point. It really is a matter of personal preference – a strong flex is a clean, often aesthetically pleasing choice, so commit to one or the other and do it loud and proud.


What does a Good Flex Look Like?

In a strong flexed position, the heel should be pushing towards the ceiling, with the shin flush with the fabric or rope. The knee should be pressing straight (again, push like you’re trying to leave a heel print on the ceiling), and the foot should NOT be sickled – it should be nice & straight. Make sure you’re not doing YOGA TOES, where you press through the ball of your foot (also called demi-point).


What does a Good Sickle-Point Look Like?

You want a nice strong foot (VIAGRAVATE IT), with a sickle that corresponds to the level of “OH CRAP” you will experience if your foot comes off. For example, if it just means your foot pops off & the fabric slides up your hoo hoo, well, it’s not the best, but it’s not catastrophic – a light sickle is fine. On the other hand, if the oh-crap level is high, as in you get slingshot-ed 20 feet off the fabric, you might want to play that one a little safer.

All in all, don’t be afraid of the flex, make it your friend! Trying to sneak into a sickle-point before you’re ready, or forgetting to flex enough, can have unexpected consequences (chiefly, you splatted on the floor). Go slow and steady, and check with your coach before leveling up to the sickle-point; or, just enjoy the flex! Love and pull-ups, Laura


Special thanks to my lovely foot model Megan Harris!

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.


Should You Go to Circus School?

Blue Trapezium EditSeptember is here, friends, and with it, the start of a new school year! Even though I haven’t seen the inside of a formal classroom since Methuselah was a boy, there’s something about September that makes me want to buy a pencil box and enroll in something. It might just be me, but judging by the uptick in my classes each September, I suspect I’m not alone.

Many of you have written with questions about whether you really need a structured program if you want to pursue circus professionally, or if you can design your own curriculum and still get ahead. Not surprisingly, much like circus, there’s a lot of room for flexibility (HA! Did you see what I did there?) and creativity.

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.”

– Lewis Carroll, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

It Depends on What You Want to Do

When you picture yourself performing in that far-off future, what do you see? Are you twirling on fabric in all your spangled glory for a corporate event? Are you in street clothes and performing with 7 Fingers or Eloize? Are you busking on a sidewalk in France? Swallowing swords on Coney Island? Teaching and running a successful aerial fitness studio? Touring Asia with Cirque du Soleil? Each of these avenues can unfold in ONE career, if that’s something you want. Only interested in corporates? Sweet – you have a niche! Are you more sideshow than side split? Break out the bed of nails. There IS no correct path to becoming a circus artist (it ain’t med school) – you’ve got options.

What Are My Circus Education Options?

  • Circus “College”
  • Pro-track Program
  • Choose Your Own Adventure


Cirque Face B&WCircus College

When most of us think of “circus college”, we think of structured 3-4 year programs, similar to regular college, but with a lot more sweat, sequins, and physical therapy. In this type of program, your first year is usually spent learning everything from hand balancing to trapeze to unicycle, the goal being to a) help you determine a specialty and b) create a strong multi-skill base, resulting in artists with tremendous range (ex: a trapeze artist who juggles, tumbles, does lyra, silks, and a bit of contortion).

Example of Circus College – Ecole Nationale de Cirque

This is a great option if you are at the early end of your career, and hope to join up with established circus companies (or create your own). For a great example ensemble work beyond the biggies (Soleil, Eloize, 7 Fingers, etc.), check out Flip Fabrique – that’s a cast of 6, not 40.


Pro-track Program

Pro-track programs are usually 1-3 years, and are a popular choice, offering intense, focused training in a variety of disciplines. They are generally more flexible than “circus college” tracks, and a fantastic option for many students.

Examples of Pro-Track Programs – NECCA Professional Circus Performance Training Programs, Aloft Full Time Training Program

A Pro-Track program is a great option if you’re at the beginning of your career (or looking to reinvent your work), and hoping to join ensemble shows, corporate performance, or pursue circus education as a career.

Choose Your Own Adventure

The world is your oyster, friend! I knew – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that I wanted to be a fabric artist (this was back in the olden days before everyone was a fabric artist). I didn’t want to learn flying trapeze, unicycle, juggling, tumbling, none of it – I  wanted to do fabrics fabrics fabrics. ** So, I worked privately with top coaches in Montreal, and did exactly that!

When you choose your own adventure, you put together your own curriculum, perfectly suited to your interests and goals. The downside? You don’t know what you don’t know (ex: should I have theatrical training?), perhaps don’t have access to the top instructors in each area, and this type of training can cost more than a program, depending on where you are. It’s also easy to get side-tracked, and discouraged about your training, especially if you’re surrounded by recreational folk. The upside is that you get to do exactly what you want to do, it may take less time, and you can fit training around a full-time job, or a traditional college.

This is a great option for people starting a little later, working around a job, school, or family, performers looking to add only one or two skills to their repertoire, or pursuing skills that fall outside the common circus curriculum (fire, for example).

Examples of Choose Your Own Adventure – training with ME (or your local aerial/circus studio), traveling for intensives and workshops, supplementing with dance and theater classes, business classes, specialty skills workshops and courses like Sideshow School.

** Side note – the days of only having one act are long gone (in fact, they only lasted a brief moment). If you really want to work, make sure you have an aerial act AND a floor act. Two aerial acts (with flexibility on additional apparatus) can work in a pinch, but I wound up with the career I had only because I teamed up with my better half (Angela Attia) and we could provide two double acts and additional solos between us.


In closing, there’s no one path to becoming a circus artist. In fact, the skills are only 50% of the equation (yep – you heard me right). The rest is sheer hustle, business savvy, people skills, and creativity. BUT, hopefully this helps you get a sense of your options – a program or school is a great option for some, but certainly not the only way. Brainstorm your options, evaluate your resources, and see what is the best fit for YOU! Love and pull-ups, Laura

Recommended reading: “The Art of Non-Conformity” by Chris Guillebeau


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.


What the Heck IS Proficiency in Aerial Teaching, Anyway?

Photo by Brigid Marz.

Photo by Brigid Marz.

I’m so glad you asked, Dear Dangler! If you missed the first post in this series, click here; otherwise, carry on.

Proficiency – a high degree of competence or skill; expertise.

We live in a pretty DIY time, with resources positively oozing from every nook and cranny of the internet. With a click or two of my keyboard, I can learn to re-caulk my shower, save my dying succulents, get that stain off my new white shirt, and learn advanced moves on aerial silks. All in an afternoon!

Something I find myself coming up against in the USA again and again is our disregard (and sometimes blatant contempt for) expertise (great article here). WHY should I hire someone to re-caulk my shower if I can do it myself? Well, in this case, it depends on how nice I want it to look and how much time and effort I wish to spend. Besides, the worst thing that could happen if this goes terribly, terribly wrong (and, if you know me and home improvement projects, it definitely will) is that I get a really messy, caulk-y shower and my husband gets cranky.

What about things like aerial silks? Does it matter where we learn it or who we learn it from? (I’ll give you a hint: YES. It matters quite a bit.) We expect that the person imparting the knowledge has a firm grasp on what they’re teaching, and isn’t just winging it with a “How To Do Aerial Silks” manual and a YouTube video. And by the by – if you don’t expect that, perhaps you should. Raise your standards.

Realistic Levels of Proficiency in Aerial Coaching

The first question has to be: what are you teaching and to whom? Let’s be very candid – teaching summer camp kids three moves on a static trapeze is a far cry from coaching at Ecole Nationale de Cirque. I generally think of it in the following levels:

  • Three Trick Tallulah – You know a handful of moves inside and out, and are able to teach and spot them with confidence. You do not call yourself an aerial teacher, but you are comfortable putting on this hat for an hour every day at camp.
  • Assistant Teacher Alastair – You are on the teacher track, and actively working as an assistant under the guidance of a teacher training program or a well-established professional instructor. You’re not ready to strike out on your own, but are working to increase your understanding of spotting, methodology, essential technique, communication, and other teaching essentials.
  • Recreational Rainbow – You have hung out your shingle as a Teacher to the Masses. You have a thorough understanding of the foundational moves on your apparatus, and how to teach them in a variety of ways to suit different learning styles. You understand the how AND why of technique, are well-versed in applicable anatomy and injury prevention, and are confident in modifying moves for varying bodies. Your students are primarily recreational.
  • Professional Petunia – You mostly train folks with aerial stars in their eyes, or very serious students. You have an incredibly broad vocabulary, and are an innovator in your field. You are an aerial problem solver – from technique to choreography. You demand excellence, and know how to get the very best out of each and every student. Your resume is extensive.
  • Elite Eloise – You are a badass. You are the teacher we all aspire to be, and will jump at the chance to train with (Master Teacher). You live and breathe this apparatus, and have for years. Your teaching resume is a mile long, and you are very well respected throughout the industry. You are a first-class leader and expert, and I probably stalk you on social media.


Many of us probably fall somewhere between two levels. Where would you be? If a professional watched you teach and evaluated your class, would they agree? Note: if you’re very nervous about being evaluated by experts in the field, you probably know that you have some work to do. Pay attention to that feeling – it’s like an arrow pointing towards what needs improvement.

Staying Within Your Scope of Practice

When I got my personal training certifications, there was a phrase that was frequently bandied about: “scope of practice”. I love – LOVE – this phrase, most often used in the medical field. To me, it’s the bedrock of honest teaching. If we co-opt it for aerial instruction, the premise is simple: teach what you know well. It varies for everyone – whether it’s 5 moves or 500. For example, I hated open drops when I was in circus school – hated them. Consequently, I only really worked on a hand full, and I consider many of them to be beyond my scope of practice. I teach the ones I’m supremely confident in, but, beyond that, it’s a no-go, even when my students beg and plead and bring me pie (but keep the pie coming, guys – someday I might cave!). Pretending to know more than you do, not understanding that there are areas beyond your scope of practice and not knowing what they are, or “winging it” puts your students in very real danger.

False Advertising

hell nawM’Kay. Shade warning (for additional shade, please see below). If you know yourself to be a Three-Trick Tallulah, but advertise yourself as a Recreational Rainbow or a Professional Petunia, we’ve got a false advertising problem. If you think it goes unnoticed, newsflash – it doesn’t. Now, most of the time, I think it’s an issue of ignorance – Tallulah just doesn’t know that she’s got a lot more to learn. But if you’re doing it deliberately, that’s not OK, and here is the face I make when I encounter this. Now that you know better, do better.

So yes – proficiency is a Big Topic, and this is a Little Blog. Here’s my action step for the week – please join me if you feel so inclined! I’m going to go through my general progressions and curriculum, give everything the “scope of practice” check, and identify 3 areas that could broaden my practice (open drops for sure, roll-ups, and planches over here). What are your areas? Post them in the comments below!

And now, for no other reason than it came up in my feed as I was searching “shade”, here is your daily dose of Ru Paul, to be watched in 6 inch heels. Werk! 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.


What Makes Someone Qualified to Teach Aerial Arts?

Well, Dear Dangler, I’m so glad you asked! As you can imagine, it’s not a simple answer, but good news – it’s not astrophysics either. So many new instructors think it’s just about turning a lot of tricks, which makes seasoned veterans a little lot grumpy. There’s a bit more to it!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be addressing each area in a series of blog posts. The main goal is to spark reflection and conversation, and point us all in the direction of resources that can shore up our weak spots (and make no mistake – there’s not a teacher alive that has no weak spots). Today’s list is not meant to be exhaustive, but more of an outline of what we’ll be jumping into. I can’t wait!

Core Areas of Competency in Aerial Instruction

For the purposes of the blog, I’ve narrowed it down to the following areas, listed in no particular order. Imagine a pie chart, in which each piece is essential and delicious. Mmmmm….pie…. This is geared towards individual aerial teachers and those hired by studios, as opposed to the studios themselves (for a great list of standards & guidelines for studios from ACE, click here). Again – this is a general outline, not a curriculum, hold your emails for the moment.

  1. Aerial skills
    1. Proficiency on the apparatus being taught
    2. Understanding of essential technique
  2. Rigging
    1. Basics (can identify equipment & it’s proper use, understands common rigging terms such as bridle, basket, choke, etc., can tie common knots such as the bowline and figure 8, etc.)
    2. Equipment maintenance & inspection, keeps a rigging inspection log
    3. Standards in place for retiring equipment
    4. Understanding of how shockloads in dynamic movements affect the body
  3. Spotting & Safety
    1. Comfortable with a variety of hands-on spotting methods
    2. Understands and informs students of contraindications for moves
    3. Solid base in injury prevention for the chosen apparatus
    4. Certified in First Aid/CPR
    5. Utilizes appropriate matting
    6. Has a student rescue plan and an emergency plan in place for each space in which you teach
    7. Upholds a set student/teacher ratio, particularly in regards to situations involving hands-on spotting
    8. Has aerial teaching insurance if not teaching through (and covered by) a studio
    9. Understands and enforces the space needed for the execution of moves (minimum/maximum height, area around apparatus)
    10. Requires students to sign a waiver, and ensures that they are well-informed as to the risks involved in aerial work.
    11. Pursues an environment & culture of safety.
  4. Communication & Environment 
    1. Strong verbal cuing skills
    2. Consistently conveys authority, and enforces risk/behavioral agreements with students
    3. Comfortable advocating for student safety
    4. Nurtures and strives to create an atmosphere conducive to learning
    5. Has and upholds a strong policy on substance use/abuse
    6. Clearly communicates boundaries and expectations when teaching a new skill
  5. Pedagogy & Methodology
    1. Employs a well-thought-out curriculum
    2. Teaches established, commonsensical progressions
    3. A written mission statement or teaching philosophy
    4. Consistent evaluation of new and continuing students
  6. Anatomy, Physiology, Kinesiology, & Continuing Education
    1. Has a good understanding of basic anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology (what it is, what it does, and how it moves)
    2. Actively pursues continuing education in related areas


Where to Next?

ACTION STEP check out the ACE Safety Program, and, if you meet the criteria, get the process started! If you don’t meet the criteria, start addressing that. For the record, I am not affiliated with ACE, just a member. But I DO think that the safety program is a phenomenal step in getting the aerial community on the same page, and hey – there’s power (and influence) in numbers. If you do nothing else, read their Circus Arts Program Guidelines; they are incredibly comprehensive, and well worth a read.

If you’re a well-established teacher, let’s also take this opportunity to review our practices & procedures, identify areas that need improvement, and get on that! I will be spending the next few months working on my verbal cuing, and brushing up on my anatomy. What area will you be working on? Comment below! Love and pull-ups, Laura

HUGE thanks to Bev Sobelman and Liz Cooper who are (very patiently) allowing me to bounce ideas off them, and kind enough to offer their wisdom and insight! It takes a village, yo.

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.


Solid Aerial Technique vs MORE MOVES – Are You Just Looking to Turn Some Tricks?

20150224_201325_Hagrid_GrungeHappy Thursday, Dear Danglers! This week, I had a great conversation with another instructor about the fine line between cultivating excellent technique by refining what you know, and feeding new stuff into the mix. How perfect does it have to be exactly before you get to do the cool stuff and add a double wedgie drop to the end? (my condolences to your naughty bits)

How Good Does My Aerial Technique Have to Be, Anyway?

Well, let’s look at why technique matters in the first place (hint: it’s not just to make you look fancy).

  • Safety first! Good technique runs the gamut – it can keep you from little ouchies (fabric burns, bar bonks, atomic wedgies) and the big ones (whiplash, sprains, breaks, and worse).
  • It’s foundational! Like a pair of Spanx, good technique smooths the lumps and bumps out of your work, making it sleek, efficient, and BOOM-level hot in spandex.
  • It makes stuff work! Physics, ya’ll. Here – try this experiment. Take a pencil, wind a string around it, and watch it roll down. Now, do the same with a glob of Silly Putty, a flailing badger, and a gummy worm. I rest my case.
  • You’ll use less energy! Remember the badger from our last experiment? First, he’s really pissed at you. Second, he’s just used up a LOT of unnecessary energy flailing. When those furry little knees are slightly bent in a foot lock? Those muscles have to work so much harder to keep him upright. Balance, energy expenditure, and efficiency are all tied up together. Sometimes quite literally.
  • It makes you look amazing! Straight legs, pointed toes, lifted assets, and boobies pointing to the sky create gorgeous lines that will make you (and your long-suffering coach) very proud. Don’t let a droopy kneecap or sicled foot ruin your moment of Instagram glory!!! (speaking of Instagram, I’m finally on it! Follow me!) #shamelessplug

Your technique doesn’t have to be “perfect”, but you’re really swimming upstream if you ignore it. Everything is harder, looks less awesome, and crap technique often results in injury.

Finding The Balance – The Zen of Learning Aerial Circus

What would you say if I told you that you could work

on technique AND learn new skills?

mind blown

Variety is the spice of life and learning, so please don’t think I’m trying to sentence you to nothing but foot knots and hip keys forever. Learn new stuff! Yearn for ALL THE MOVES! But balance that with an equal passion for excellence. It’s like chocolate – do you want to be the generic m&m’s or the Godiva? If you pick the former, please slap yourself.

Technique keeps you safe and makes things look glamorous. If you’re just looking to turn a bunch of tricks, you’re really selling yourself short. Don’t do that. Love and pull-ups, Laura

How has technique made a huge difference for you? Did you have an AH-HAH moment? Share it in the comments below!


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.


Blech! Heartburn and GERD in Aerial Training

Hello Dear Danglers! In aerial class, have you ever been in an upside-down position (with straight legs and pointed toes and boobies to the sky, of course), fabric perhaps wrapped around your waist, when all of a sudden…. UGH. No bueno. Must come down – ugh. Burning. Feels like I’m gonna puke. Uuuuuuugh. You’ve just become rather intimately acquainted with Our Friend Stomach Acid! It’s going to be a long-term relationship, so you’ll want to buddy up. 🙂

Stomach Acid, Heartburn, and Aerial Arts

What goes down can, I’m afraid, come back up. When you eat, food travels down the esophagus, and snuggles into your tummy. Ideally, a sphincter muscle at the top of the stomach (heh heh – I said sphincter) called the esophageal sphincter keeps food squarely where it belongs – in your belly; but when you’re upside down, all bets are off. That sexy burning/barfy feeling is the contents of your stomach (acid, food) making their way back into your esophagus, and making you feel miserable.


“But isn’t there some kind of exercise – like a throat Kegel – to strengthen the muscles?” – Miss Brigid (said with a wink)


Why Me?

Why not you? Every aerialist will have moments or “seasons” of reflux. Sometimes, it’s as simple as pinpointing a meal you ate too close to class; but for some, it reoccurs almost daily, and stretches out for several weeks. Repeated bouts of reflux can create inflammation, creating more reflux, creating more inflammation, in a really unfortunate cycle. Blech on every level.

What Can I Do?

Eating to close to class is an easy culprit (as is drinking a lot of water during class). If you find you’re “feeling the burn” rather too often, here are a few things you can try:

  • Give yourself a two hour no food window prior to class or training.
  • Step awaaaaaaaay from that deep fried pickle! Certain foods – fried, chocolatey, caffeinated, cheesy, basically all the good stuff – can trigger heartburn. Also? No drinky-poos.
  • If you’re in a recurrent “season” of heartburn, stay away from moves that wrap around the stomach (craptastic rolldowns, I’m lookin’ at you). There are plenty of other things to focus on – fear not!
  • Have you recently gained pounds? Thanks, holidays! Well, here’s another reason to get back to your fightin’ weight.
  • Quit making like a chimney. If the contents of your stomach returning on a regular basis to your esophagus don’t encourage you to quit, you’re a stubborn bastard.
  • Keep a record. If you can figure out what’s causing your reflux, you can avoid it!
  • If it happens during class, ask your instructor for variations of a particular move to keep you upright. Stop immediately when you feel burny or barfy! Trust me – we would rather you didn’t tough this one out.


Good luck, Dear Danglers, and may the contents of your stomach remain firmly where they ought to be! Love and pull-ups, Laura



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Why Competing on Price Will Kill Your Teaching Business

This is kind of a serious blog. Womp womp. So. You’ve decided to start teaching – FABULOUS!!! It’s awesome. You’ve got your equipment, your insurance, your mad skilz (naturally), and now, you just have to figure out how much to charge. But, how do you DO that? If you’re like many, it goes something like this:

“Swingin’ Sisters aerial studio charges $35 per hour for classes. Mergatroyd Metz charges $30 per class. So, to pretty much guarantee I’ve got full classes, I’ll charge $20!”


Hold up, partner. You’re making one of the biggest mistakes small business owners make: you are competing on price. You are positioning yourself to be the Bargain Basement of the aerial teaching world. Slow clap. So, what’s the problem? And what should you be competing on?

The Problem With Competing on Price

If you’re starting out smart (and I know you are!!!), you’ve made a list of the costs to run your business. In the aerial teaching world, we generally fall (fly?) into two categories: 1) teaching for a studio or 2) teaching for ourselves.

  1. Teaching for a studio! Big benefits: the studio carries most of the hard costs – you generally just show up, teach classes, and collect your paycheck. The studio usually takes care of studio/venue rental, website and promotional expenses, insurance, equipment, taxes, and sign ups. Big drawback: loss of control. The studio usually sets costs and pay rate, and is in charge of who you teach, when, how, etc. Your paycheck is smaller than if you taught on your own, but you also aren’t carrying the expenses of running a business.
  2. Teaching for ourselves! Big benefits: you teach what you want, when you want, for however much you want. Big drawback: you’re footing the bill for everything (and I do mean everything).

For me, there’s no question: I love autonomy, and I love running my own business. But it does mean that I have to treat it like a business, not like a hobby, or the bill collectors will start camping in my hallway. Step one in determining how much to charge? Add up your hard expenses for a month, determine what you personally would like to make as a salary/need to live, and divide it by the number of students/classes you teach. This will give you an excellent idea of whether or not you’re working in a sustainable way. Numbers coming out a bit wonky? Consider:

  • what the market will bear. There is generally a range of pricing that will bring in students. Here in NYC, for example, it’s around $25-$35 per student for a one hour aerial class; but if you live in an area where everything costs $1, your range will be smaller. You may need to keep your day job until you have a committed student base.
  • if you’re not able to teach enough to make your numbers come out to an I-won’t-have-to-eat-ramen-for-a-year wage, consider ways to decrease your costs (sharing space rentals with another instructor, for example), or look at teaching for a studio.

Aside from simply covering your costs and making a living, competing on price will have you visiting the Bitter Business Bureau in no time. People have deep-rooted attitudes about money and value, aerial classes included. Consider:

  • People generally do not value what they don’t pay for. Be honest – you care a LOT less about sitting on that crap pair of sunglasses you got for $3 at Target then you do about your Kate Spades (or whatever you crazy kids are wearing these days). We esteem what we invest in.
  • You will attract “price hoppers”. These students are always hopping from studio to studio, or activity to activity – whatever they can get a Groupon for. If you’re looking to build a long-term community of committed students, good luck with that.
  • You’re missing the big picture (see below). Price is only PART of the reason people choose a class. In fact, if someone feels like it’s worth it, they will find that money come hell or high water.


But Miss Laura! If I Don’t Compete on Price, What SHOULD I Compete On?

Compete on reputation. Compete on skill and training. Compete on your offerings, with your marketing, or within your niche market. Methodology. Community. People consider ALL SORTS of things when deciding to take a class, not just the cost. And here’s the Deep Dark Truth about working cheap (oh yes – I’m gonna say it): your clients will believe that you are worth what you charge.

So, the question is really: what is a fair price for my offering? What will support both my career and this industry? If you want to work for $1, all I can do is shrug, and wish you luck. But I think you’re being foolish and short-sighted, and a house built on sand spontaneously combusts in a strong wind. Or something like that. 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.