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Category Archives: Attitude

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!

Learning is ACTIVE! The SassyPants NYC Method

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

Circus Is Active

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

My “New York Method” of Aerial Learning

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

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

When encountering something new, try this:

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

Please don’t:

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


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


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.


Impostor Syndrome – Do YOU Belong Here?

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

What is Impostor Syndrome?

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

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

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

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

Just the Facts, Ma’am

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


Moment of Truth

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



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.


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

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

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

It’s a Process, Mathilda.

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

It Takes a Damned Long Time to Get Good

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

Keeping the Romance Alive

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

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

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


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.


The Sometimes Student: Why Consistency Counts

Laura & Angela's Halloween show fun!

Laura & Angela’s Halloween show fun!

Are you happy with your aerial ninja progression? Seeing small but consistent gains in strength, stamina, and awesomeness? No? Hmmmmm. Are you perhaps sabotaging your success by popping in and out of training like a jack-in-the-box on steroids?

The Sometimes Student

If you train long enough, you will have to take a break, either because of life circumstances, finances, injury, pregnancy, the list goes on and on. It always cracks me up just a little when students come back after a hiatus and say, “Miss Laura! I’ve lost so much (fill in the blank – strength, stamina, hair, etc.)!” Of course you have, stop looking so shocked! If you don’t use it, you lose it. BOOM (that was the sound of some tough love being dropped). The remedy is simple – get your butt back to class and regain your Sassy Status – you’ve got this, and it is 100% doable. But, what about the Sometimes Student?

The Sometimes Student comes to class religiously for a few weeks or months, then drops off the face of the earth for a while. When they return, it’s all, “I’m going to be in class every day for the next six weeks! I can’t believe that I lost my invert! I’m going to train so hard!” Then, after a few weeks of training, ……. crickets. Aaaaaaaaand the cycle starts all over again.

A Fancy Quiz for You to Take – “Am I Consistent?”

  1. T/F  I do not stretch for weeks on end, then I have two hour marathon stretching sessions because I realized I lost my split and now I can’t walk because I overdid it and I’m fairly sure I tore my hammy.
  2. T/F  I haven’t done pull-ups in months, but I’m going to go do 100 of them as soon as I finish reading this post because I feel guilty. I will then be very sore and cancel my aerial class because OW.

It’s a short quiz. You know if this is you. 😉

Why Consistency Counts

If you’re swinging from the rafters solely for the sweet release of it all, or to torture your muscles in unconventional ways, then you won’t feel the Sting of Stuck-ness as keenly as someone who is really aiming to see meaningful progression. So, how do you get to a meaningful progression? Time and effort. There are truly no substitutes for just showing up and doing the work.

(** If you ARE coming to class regularly but not seeing the results you’d like, click here!)

We are an Instant Results culture. We want All The Things Right Now This Very Instant, and if I have to work for it, there must be something wrong with me, you, or it (confession: I fall prey to this, too – all the time). We want our internet fast, our weight loss fast, our food fast. But, circus training is kind of the slow food movement of the physical world. Muscles take time to grow, bodies take time to stretch, neurons take time to wire together to create amazing new patterns. Fast just won’t work here.

Sometimes, breaks are unavoidable. Sometimes, breaks are great and can actually push your training to the next level! But, if you’re not training consistently in the air, don’t be surprised when your results are wobbly. Consistency counts, friends! Do everything in your power to just show up. 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.


Le Cadre – French Training Goodness Part Deux

Silks training in Montreal

Silks training in Montreal

In Fabulousness Aerial classes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff you’re supposed to keep in your head at any given time.

“Point your toes!”

“Lift your kneecaps!”

“Stop squatting – you look like you’re pooping. Straighten your supporting leg!”

And on and on and on. We’ve already established that you can’t do ALL the things ALL at once FROM the beginning. So, what do you focus on now, and what do you worry about later? Mes amis, enter: le cadre.

Le Cadre – A Frame for Working

A “cadre” is a frame, box, or container. The philosophy is this: work on the few essentials in le cadre, and don’t worry about the rest right now. Seriously – you don’t worry about it at all – you completely let it go. C’est facile, oui? Oui. Until you forget that it’s only a few essentials that go in le cadre, not ALL THE THINGS. I know you.

Frames for training differ for each and every student, depending on the strengths and weaknesses they bring to their work. Examples might include:

  • Beginning student Coco – wings (elbows, shoulders) down, supporting leg straight, core engaged
  • Intermediate student Balthazar – point/un-sickle your toes, kneecaps lifted on inversions, hips and ribs connected on drops
  • Advanced student Pomegranate – try not to look so constipated (relax your face!), long arms on transitions, create levels and see what’s possible by expanding and contracting each move


What’s in Your Cadre?

What corrections do you hear the most? Remember – only three or four things, Mr or Ms Over-Achiever. If it’s a bad habit that needs to be re-trained, you can even focus on just one thing! Whatever floats your bateau – er, boat.

  1. _________________________________________________________________
  2. _________________________________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________________________________
  4. _________________________________________________________________


Run your list by your coach and see if they agree with your assessment. Bon chance! 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.


Awakening and Discovering: a French Approach to Training Part 1

Acro in front of the Eiffel Tower!

Acro in front of the Eiffel Tower!

Those who know me are also privy to my embarrassing (and completely irrational) love of the French. From the quirkiest Quebecois to the snootiest Parisian, j’adore les francais! As far as I’m concerned, they’ve nearly perfected l’erotique, creme brulee, and the delicious, zany humor I’ve come to crave from small French-Canadian circus companies. While I’ve never acquired their taste for stinky cheese, and I’m entirely too enthusiastic about, well, everything, I love their approach to early learning: awaken and discover.

If you take your bebe to swimming lessons in Paris expecting her to actually learn to swim, oh non – you will be disappointed. Instead, until around age 6, bebes are encouraged to awaken to the joys of being in the water, and discover the wonderful things floating will allow their little bodies to do. Then they learn to swim. C’est merveilleux!

My face when Angela tried to take my cheese away.....

My face when Angela tried to take my cheese away…..

The French coaches I studied with in Montreal differed quite a bit from my American and Russian coaches in a number of ways. In the infancy of my training, after learning the basics of foot knot, inversion, hip key, etc, I was also strongly encouraged to play and experiment, see how I could move, see what was possible. In the crush of our “do it now have it now need it now instant gratification must be perfect tomorrow” culture, I find this particularly refreshing, don’t you? Early on, you will be dreadful (oh trust me – you will). But, perhaps getting better immediately isn’t the point – it’s a time to acquaint yourself and your body with the apparatus. Training isn’t just a means to an end, but a journey that can be as rich as a triple creme brie….mmm, brie….

The next time you’re in class or in the studio, stop for a minute. As you climb, how does the fabric feel? What about the steel bar in your hands? The dull ache of your muscles after a tough class? Take a minute to savor the goodness of training. Try to get a sense of that spark – that ignition and possibility – that can translate into such richness in your work. Have you just begun your circus journey? Or perhaps you’re getting frustrated? Maybe the luster of training is wearing off. Time for some awakening. Time for some discovery. Time for some cheese…. er…. maybe not…. (though I’m fairly sure a gateau au chocolat is calling your name). 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.


“Hey – I Can Do That!” STOP! You’re Not as Awesome as You Think… Self Efficacy in Circus

… or, maybe you are. But one of the keys to mastering any apparatus? Having an accurate estimation of your abilities. Without that, you may think you’re more of a badass than you actually are, OR you may be way too hard on yourself without reason. Knowing “where you are” allows you to direct your training by:

  • understanding whether you’re ready to attempt moves or train by yourself
  • gaining a sense of which tricks you’re ready to tackle
  • playing to your strengths (strong shoulders, flexy back, etc.)

 The Process of Learning Circus

Learning a single move goes something like this:

“I’m excited to learn this! I don’t know what the f*ck I’m doing yet (and OOOWWWW!!!!), but this is cool!

“OK – it’s not pretty, but I’m getting through it without dying! I still need a spot or eyes on me though.”

“I can do this on my own! I’m comfortable with how this goes, but my knees/feet/wrists, etc are ugly. Needs cleaning.”

“I don’t hate this on video! My lines are clean, and I’m super comfy.”

“This feels like part of me. I can trouble shoot it easily, and I want to play. Time to dance it and make it my own!”


Learning an apparatus follows a really similar arc.

“This is amazing! I am so bad! But I love it, so I don’t care.”

“Look at meeeeeeee! I can do stuff! I still suck, but I’m seeing some progress!”

“Ugh. This is hard. I am seeing no progress. I should be BETTER than this by now! I must be the worst at this. Ever.”

“HEY!!!! I GOT IT I GOT IT! That thing that I’ve been working on for 25 weeks! I got it! Maybe I don’t suck?”

“Seeing some progress! I’m not the best, but I’m surely not the worst!”

“OK! I’m working comfortably. I have a lot of vocab under my belt, my instructor doesn’t have to tell me to straighten my arm/leg/etc.”

“I’m pretty good at this! Time to create an act.”


Self Efficacy in Circus

Seems pretty straight forward, right? BUT, what happens when you get hung up in an “I suck” loop? Or, you go right from “I pointed my toes today in class!” to “I’m a pre-professional student!” Both mental states suggest that you may have an inaccurate understanding of where you fall in the learning arc. That inaccurate understanding can lead to injuries, feelings of intense defeat, and/or wildly inefficient training.

The best way to keep yourself “real”? Check in with your (professional) coaches, and talk to them about the training arc in your discipline. Video yourself. Watch the best performers you can on YouTube. Ask for feedback. Be aware of how you talk to yourself. Research your industry. Train train train. And put on your listening ears.

Here’s a fantastic article by the NY Times about how self efficacy affects training in regards to injury (you have to make an acct, but it’s quick, easy, free, and WORTH IT).

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.


When Training Hurts Your Heart

Photo by Masaru Watanabe

Photo by Masaru Watanabe

So, Dear Danglers, I know I promised you a bloggie on class etiquette (it’s coming!), but I find I have something else on my heart today. Indulge me, won’t you?

Tough Training – When Your Heart is Breaking

Going “back to school” with German wheel lessons was one of the best (and hardest) things to ever happen to me as a teacher. I cannot wrap my brain around what I’ve learned about myself as a student, person, teacher– literally every lesson is a revelation. I would love to say that it’s been a series of pleasant discoveries, but it’s mostly been a lot of “ugly crying” and sheepish apologies. *sigh*

I went to Wheel Weekend in Chicago this past weekend– love it!!! I get to spend time with the superstars of wheel and train with some of the best coaches in the world. I wound up being spotted by a top-level coach I hadn’t worked with before. I was nervous, so I chose a move that was working reasonably well, but I still didn’t feel comfy doing alone. He tried to teach me a new technique, but I just couldn’t get it into my body, and failed again and again… and again. After about ten tries, he threw up his hands and said, “OK – I think we leave this.” And he turned abruptly, and walked away.

He didn’t come back to spot me that day, or the next, or the next, spending the majority of his time with the advanced students. I was OK with that. What I wasn’t OK with was being given up on – designated unteachable. Sounds like such a little thing, doesn’t it? But I was left breathless with hurt. I felt all my shortcomings and failures as a student rushing up at me.  Something broke in that moment.

Teachers – Your Words Carry More Weight than You Can Imagine

Today, I am left with a Very Uncomfortable Feeling. How many times have my careless words bruised a sensitive student? How many times has a heart been broken because I’ve had a bad day? How often have my students – who I LOVE – felt the full measure of my frustration, either with them or with my inadequacies as a teacher? How often has a student left my class with their light a little dimmer?

It’s a horrifying thought – that in a moment of frustration or carelessness, I might create scars that last for years, if not forever. That I might unwittingly kill the spark of love a student has for the work, and replace it with the kind of dull, sick feeling I have now whenever I look at my wheel. We forget – we forget how much responsibility we have been given to keep them safe – not just their bodies, but their spirits. Their heart for the work.

I jumped into Johannes (my beautiful wheel) last night for the first time since The Incident. Let’s just say it was a hard class, for a number of reasons. I’m a pick-yourself-up-dust-yourself-off-and-get-your-ass-in-gear kind of person, but every time I rocked, my failure rose up to meet me. I found it more painful to be in my wheel than out of it.

For the Student – Moving On

I’m not exactly sure what to say here, because it’s new territory for me too. I cannot bear the thought of a life without wheel, so I suppose forging ahead is the only option.

Speaking as a teacher, I can tell you this. We have horrible days, frustrating moments, times when you terrify us. We have times when we feel like we’ve tried everything, and that we are failing you. And that is our shit, not yours. And it’s unacceptable when we make it yours. So, when you find your light a little dimmer, when your hand on the fabric or the bar feels more like condemnation than joy, here is a piece I come back to again and again:

“To Have Without Holding”, by Marge Piercy

“Learning to love differently is hard, love with the hands wide open, love with the doors banging on their hinges, the cupboard unlocked, the wind roaring and whimpering in the rooms rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds that thwack like rubber bands in an open palm.

It hurts to love wide open stretching the muscles that feel as if they are made of wet plaster, then of blunt knives, then of sharp knives. It hurts to thwart the reflexes of grab, of clutch; to love and let go again and again. It pesters to remember the lover who is not in the bed, to hold back what is owed to the work that gutters like a candle in a cave without air, to love consciously, conscientiously, concretely, constructively.

I can’t do it, you say it’s killing me, but you thrive, you glow on the street like a neon raspberry, You float and sail, a helium balloon bright bachelor’s button blue and bobbing on the cold and hot winds of our breath, as we make and unmake in passionate diastole and systole the rhythm of our unbound bonding, to have and not to hold, to love with minimized malice, hunger and anger moment by moment balanced.”

Sorry if I’ve overshared, hope it’s not awkward when we see each other next. 😉 Keep your heads up, Dear Danglers. 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.


New Years Revolution

Dear Danglers, I LOVE making New Years resolutions. Love it. I dream big, and New Years has always seemed like the perfect time of year to construct lofty, towering goals for myself. Take flamenco lessons? Check. Institute Family Game Night? Check. Get my Flying Ass Grinder on the German wheel? ….. hmmm….. well, I can make that goal, but what happens if my wheel and/or body doesn’t cooperate? How do I establish realistic goals in my training without setting myself up for disappointment or harsh self-criticism if I try hard, but don’t make them?

A Different Approach This Year

I can easily tackle things that are within my control (1. Stop eating pie for breakfast. 2. Do not put the Brita back in the fridge empty. 3. Do not cut your bangs when you’re angry.), but training this year is going to require a different approach. I jumped into German wheel assuming it would be easy for me – after all, I’m reasonably muscle-y, have a great sense of my strengths & weaknesses, am somewhat flexible, etc. Turns out, success in wheel depends on exactly none of those things. As my (long-suffering) coach can tell you, because of my unrelenting focus on “goals” in the traditional sense, I’ve had something of a rough go of it. I beat myself up and frequently sob, “But I should be faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarther than this! How is it possible that I suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck so much?” Then, inevitably, he winds up with snot on his shirt, and I have an emotional hangover the next day. Perhaps there’s another way?

Meaningful Goals – How We’re Doing It This Year

Instead of focusing exclusively on where we want to go, maybe it’s time to give equal attention to where we’ve been. That push and pull of past and future helps us to keep our perspective on the days our leggings get wrapped around the trapeze, or our thigh fat gets caught when we’re doing a drop. Try this:


  • What can you do now that you couldn’t do this time last year?
  • Do you have a favorite training or class memory from this year? What really stands out?
  • Whenever you have a success, write it down. Date, move, how it felt.
  • Now, NOW, you can write your goals.

I see you struggling with this too, Dear Dangler. I watch you wrestle with your (fill in the blank) – getting it one week, losing it the next, or just working to get off the ground. I watch you fly through early training, then hit the wall in a certain area. I watch you thinking you have it all figured out, until you see the next level looming and realize you might not be the hot sh*t you thought you were. I see the thought written all over your face: I should be able to DO this! I thought I would be farther! I keep trying, but I’m just stuck! WHEN WILL I BE AWESOME?????” But we often forget how far we’ve come. When reaching for the stars starts feeling like getting a root canal, it’s time to get some perspective, friends. Remember how far you’ve come, and let it whisper softly in your ear….”gravity is for suckas…..” 😉 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.