Category Archives: Attitude

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.

 

Training When You’re Pregnant – the 1st Trimester

Month 2 – no bump yet!

Hey mamas and potential mamas! Here’s my take on pregnancy, training, and hauling your butt back up into the air after The Blessed Event – three part series. Hearing the pitter patter of little feet? Let’s get started!

The First Trimester = Your Head in the Toilet

In 2009, I got to suffer through enjoy the miracle that is pregnancy. My pregnancy was super healthy, but my body reacted STRONGLY to the hormones, leaving me with a condition called hyperemesis. This meant that I had the delightful experience of vomiting 6-12 times a day for nine months. FUNZIES! The likelihood of you having a similar experience is very small, but rule #1? Expect the unexpected. Pregnancy is WILDLY different for everyone. Having said that, let’s chat about the changes you can probably expect in the first trimester.

    • Nausea! Around weeks 6-8, you can expect to feel anything from a faint nausea to full-blown head in the toilet fun. The downside? Obvious. The upside? This is a sign of a healthy pregnancy, and 100% normal – it means your body is cranking out those hormones!
    • Swelling! You may start to notice a general “puffiness”, and even a little tummy pooch as your body retains fluids and the uterus expands rapidly to give the fetus room to grow without squishing it.
    • Exhaustion! Your body is working double time to increase your blood volume, and progesterone soars. This means fatigue, and often a general feeling of malais.
    • Super sore boobies! Seriously – like glass. Hormones again!
    • Lots of trips to the potty! You pee a lot, even in the first trimester.
    • Food aversions or cravings! Things that previously smelled or tasted wonderful may now send you running for the loo. I gave up coffee (coffee!) in the time it took to walk into the kitchen and moan, “Ugh! Coffee! Nooooooooooooooooooooo!” I craved anything in a cream sauce. Oh dear….
    • Heartburn & constipation! The peristalsis muscles that move food through your digestive track are affected by hormones too – they slow down, often resulting in more digestive fun.
    • Crazypants emotions! I was completely psychotic – crying over toilet paper commercials, screaming at my husband because he “forgot to put the seat down and does he really want me to fall in and get stuck and be there for hours and lose circulation in my legs and have to have them cut off and then I’ll be the mommy with no legs and…” You get the picture.
    • Happiness! Through all the barfing, peeing, cravings, and crazy, the most wonderful knowing that you will love this little person to distraction, and that you will never be the same.

 

Training Through the 1st Trimester

First things first! You and your midwife or OB/GYN need to have a frank discussion about your training. This blog post is in NO WAY meant as a substitute for medical advice – I am not a medical practitioner, and I am not advising you to pursue any course of action. What I can do is tell you about my experience, and share what helped me along the way, but you’ve gotta check with your doc!

I was able to train safely throughout my pregnancy (I went into labor while teaching a silks class!), and many, many aerialists with healthy pregnancies  have been able to do the same. Here are some things which you may find useful:

  • If you are part of an aerial or circus duo, have a conversation with your partner (ideally BEFORE you get pregnant) about your plans and how it may affect your work. It’s great to have a person in mind who can take your place during your absence so your partner doesn’t lose too much work.
  • To combat nausea, you’ve got about 1000 options (Google it!). Snacking FREQUENTLY on crackers and other dry, tasteless foods may help. For me, the only thing that really did it was acupuncture – worth a try if your nausea is severe!
  • If you’re swollen, but have to perform, Spanx to the rescue! Use two pairs if you need it. 😉
  • Actively schedule more downtime – rest is your best friend.
  • Plan your potty breaks before a show – try to wee 10 minutes before you go out so you don’t encounter any surprises.
  • Find the softest bra you can – try to avoid padded, push-up, or underwire contraptions.
  • Cry whenever you need to. Get crazy, get happy, get dreamy – it’s all part of the ride.

Our first look at Sebastian – boots & rock & roll hand courtesy of Daddy!

And there you have it! First trimester fun! You may have all of these symptoms, you may have none – it’s just one big guessing game. You may find that you feel fantastic! You may find that you feel like you have the flu and have no interest in training whatsoever. Just keep in mind that your body is REALLY good at setting limits now – respect them. Now is not the time to push hard (that comes later), just take really, really good care of yourself. Tune in next time for the 2nd trimester – the happy zone! 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.

 

You’re Too Fat for Circus Training (and Other BS You May Believe)

Me in my dancing days!

Me in my dancing days!

Many years ago, in ye Days of Olde, I made like a ballerina. I danced quite a bit from elementary school through college, and a little when I moved to NYC (nothing terribly amazing). Man – there is nothing like staring at yourself in a leotard and tights in a full length mirror for four hours a day to make you painfully hyper-aware of your body! See, I’ve always been just a little too much in every way – a little too loud, a little too opinionated, a little too big for pointe shoes. Then, I found circus. And suddenly, I was just right.

 

What’s the difference? I mean, let’s be candid – I’m expected to be fit and and fabulous for my job. Why did I feel like I had struck body image gold? Because suddenly, the emphasis was off my body shape, and onto the amazing things I could make it do. Instead of looking at fellow artists and wondering how I could get that thin, I wondered how I could get that strong, or flexible, or engaging. I cried with joy (and pure amazement) when I did my first full pull-up, and it felt like Christmas morning every time I found a new muscle. It felt so good to celebrate my body instead of fight it!

 

Body Beautiful: Learning to Appriciate Your Miracle

One of the things I love most about circus is the sheer variety of bodies and the incredible things they can do. Long and willowy, compact and powerful, generously sensual, tight and angular, and everything in between. Not to get all woo-woo-touchy-feely with you here, but there really is only one you – one body just like yours. Try this (actually do it  you’ll be glad you did).

 

  • where are you strong?
  • where are you flexible?
  • where are you weak?
  • what is uniquely beautiful about your body?
  • what do you love about the way you move?

 

That – right there – is the blueprint for your training! Train to your strengths, work on your weak spots, focus on cultivating your own beautiful style. I’m not going to lie – if you are significantly over or under weight, very tight in the muscles, or are working around a dodgy fill-in-the-blank, the work has to be modified. But so what? It doesn’t mean you don’t start. It means you modify.

 

Circus has room for every body, every age, every creative soul who just doesn’t feel like being bound by gravity today. Don’t get me wrong – I still love to dance. And I understand the emphasis on body shape. I do. I’m just opting out, and I invite you to do the same. Are you more lush than lithe? More angular than agile? More chutzpa than hero? There is room for you in this wonderful community. Circus doesn’t demand that you start with a certain shape, or that you be able to do 20 pull-ups on day one while sitting on your own head. It DOES demand that you put in the time, do the work (without whining), and understand that amazing things take time to train up to. Here’s to the journey!  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.

 

Private Dancer: How to Get the Most Out of One-on-One Lessons

Hello Dear Danglers! I trust you all survived the delicious, delicious pie and your family insanity (FUNZIES!). Today, we’re chatting about how to get more bang for your buck during a private lesson. You work hard for the money, so make it count! With a little planning, you can turn that solo session into magic time.

 

When Should You Shell Out the Cash for a Private Lesson?

Well, whenever you want! (Hey – THANKS Captain Obvious!)
Sorry – let me narrow that down. Some great times to consider a private:

 

  • no group classes fit into your weird work schedule
  • you’re putting together a piece for an upcoming show
  • you’re really struggling with a few particular moves
  • you need to get your ass whooped (always happy to oblige!)
  • you’re creating a professional piece
  • you want to define your personal style (especially important in silks – the world does not need another cookie-cutter aerial act)
  • you just want me all to yourself – understandable! 😉

 

Plan Ahead – Fabulousness Takes Thought!

Even for your earliest training, come in with some direction (“I would like to learn the basic building blocks of trapeze” or “I would like to focus on moves that highlight my ability to sit on my own head” for example). Start with a list. Here’s how I structure my wheel privates:

 

  • Warm-up  – this is where I trot out moves I’m really comfortable with so Chris can nitpick
  • Medium skilz – a couple of medium-hard moves I’m working on. Not perfect, not sucky.
  • Ass Whoopers – tricks that need a lot of spotting or that I’m really struggling with. DON’T put these at the very beginning when you’re not warm enough, or at the very end when you’re too tired. About a third of the way through your lesson is the best time to bust ’em out!
  • Back to Medium Skilz – a couple of things I’m doing reasonably well or that I love to do (to make me feel better after the ass-tastic disaster that was Ass Whoopers)
  • New and Fabulous – one or two new things/variations on other moves, or a bit of choreography
  • Last call – conditioning, last fun move, or a pep talk when I wind up in a puddle on the floor wailing “I’ll neeeeeeeeeeever get it, I suuuuuuuuuuuuuck! Why do I dooooooooooooo this??!!!” This is Chris’s favorite part of class (favorite like a fork in the eye is a favorite).

 

I’ve certainly done my share of sessions with no planning, but I find I spend an alarming amount of time wracking my brain for what I need to work on, and staring off into space going, “uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmm…..” – NOT SEXY. Be sexy – come with a plan! It’s an awesome feeling to leave a private knowing you worked hard, stayed focused, and kicked some serious tushie. Love and pull-ups, Laura

PS – HEY! What do YOU want to hear about? Upcoming topics include training during pregnancy, training around an injury, and how to go pro. What else should we talk about? Lemme hear you!

 

And now, some footage of me in my beautiful wheel, Johannes. I still suck, but I’m sucking way less, and THAT’S the important thing. 😉

 

 

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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.

 

Be Very Afraid: How Fear Makes You a Better Aerialist

Blog Confession: I have a lot of fears. I have a fear of falling and getting badly hurt, a fear of being run over by my German wheel, a fear of Brussels sprouts (they are EVIL), the list goes on and on. Is there a time when fear in aerial work actually increases your awesomeness potential? Let’s discuss.

 

The “Let Go” Guy

I had a student a few years ago, let’s call him Sam, who had zero fear. I mean zero. Zero fear, zero hesitation, and zero natural normal totally healthy instinct for self-preservation. He would get into the air, maneuver into whatever position we were working on, and then just LET GO, or something equally ridiculous. He was super fun, but I had to wear Depends to every class because he made me pee my pants each time he went up. Eventually, I had to stop teaching him because his lack of fear made him wildly unsafe.

 

Healthy Fear versus Uncontrolable Terror

A little fear in the air keeps you safe. Having a healthy respect for heights, correct rigging, and the aerial acrobatics themselves is a GOOD THING!!!!

There is a recent trend in aerial training, in which a teacher has a student get into the air, then instructs them to let go and fall, all in the name of “getting over your fear of falling”. Allow me to be candid: this is wildly stupid. Hear me now, peeps – I WANT you to have a concern about falling, the same way I want you to have a concern about electrocuting yourself, stabbing yourself repeatedly in the eye, or getting a venereal disease. If your class is raining students, time to find another instructor – yours has probably taken one too many blows to the head as they were “getting over their fears”.

Your fear becomes way less of a good thing when it’s crippling, keeps your from progressing, or is just making you miserable (please believe me – I know from whence I speak). If this is something you’re struggling with, here are a few things to try:

  • Go slooooooooooooooooowly. Almost every move under the sun has a way to progress inch by inch.
  • Identify the scariest part, then assess with your coach whether it’s a reasonable fear or not. For example, I was worried about rolling over my leg during a move in wheel class yesterday, until my instructor pointed out that it was physically impossible unless I lay on the floor and deliberately had someone repeatedly roll the wheel over my leg. Fear gone!
  • Share your fears with your teacher, your classmates, and anyone else you know will be supportive; it’s a little less scary when everyone is chanting, “ROCKSTAR! ROCKSTAR! ROCKSTAR!”

 

In closing, please know this: your fears are fine. Your fears are normal. Your fears are reasonable. You CAN do aerial work with a fear of heights, or a fear of falling, or even a fear of Brussels sprouts. We work with them (the fears, not the Brussels sprouts), and eventually they diminish or change.  So own ‘em, state ‘em, appreciate ‘em, and then whoop their asses (well, just enough so they know who’s boss). Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

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Where You Go From Here Is Entirely Up To You

Hello Dear Danglers! I came across this on the F-Books today and thought I would share it. Inspirational, and a great reminder that determination (just showing up & doing the work!) is 90% of the battle. This guys story is pretty amazing – I hope it lights a fire under your tush! Never give up. Big love and pull-ups, Laura

 

 

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Shut Up, Feelings! Disappointment in Artistic Life

First, let me thank the effervescent Sarah Novotny for today’s title – girlfriend is wicked funny.

Now, let’s talk about feeeeeeeeeeelings. Nope, we’re not going to do any navel-gazing, armchair psychiatry, or crying; but we are going to talk about disappointment, art, and the business of art (which sometimes seems like it has absolutely nothing to do with art). Do your feelings help you? Light a fire under your behind? Make you go all “Black Swan”? It’s an important conversation, so grab a glass of wine, and lie down on the couch.

Getting Some Perspective

Everyone on the planet has moments of disappointment, but does it ever seem to you that as an artist you have weeks of it? If you’re a performer or a student in hot pursuit of a dream that seems a bazillion miles away, I’ll bet you’re struggling with some right now. Didn’t get that move in class? Didn’t get the gig? Made the mistake of watching yourself on video a little too soon? Here are some things to keep in mind that might take some of the sting out:

1 – It’s not personal. Speaking from the other side of the casting couch table, I can very confidently tell you that if we do not cast you in a show, or if I give you some tough correction in class, it isn’t personal. Unless you’re an a$$hole, in which case it is.

2 – You have no idea what they’re looking for. Sometimes, we need a killer stage presence more than perfect technique. Sometimes, we need really tall people. Sometimes we need someone who’s really, really easy to work with. Do you see what I’m getting at here? You’re not going to be right for every show, so find your strength and WORK IT – when I need someone who can juggle flaming badgers while wearing stilettos, I’ll call you.

3 – You may need to step up your game, or consider some alternatives. Sometimes, it is you. Maybe you need more training, or your competition was particularly tough. Maybe you’re not strong enough to do that move, limber enough to kick yourself in the head, or you’re a complete PITA to work with. BUT – you can always get better.

4 – Make it all work for you. Let that disappointment light a furnace under your tush! They didn’t ask you to audition? Nerts to them – you’re going to train your patootie off and they will have missed the best aerialist this side of Texas. Get stronger. Get better. Get going.

5 – Success – true success – takes time, and crazy effort. The most valuable thing you can bring to the table is an accurate assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. When do you shine? What do you need to improve? What is working? What is NOT working? It takes courage to ask these questions, and even more to answer them honestly and make the changes they demand.

 

If you’re not failing big, at least occasionally, you’re not trying hard enough. If you’re failing all the time, ask the hard questions and figure out why. Sometimes, we have to be willing to let go of what we thought our dream would look like, and let it build into something better and more perfect for us. It’s a lot like the difference between squeezing into clothing off the rack, and slipping on a couture gown made just for you. So take that disappointment and make gold. Make magic. Make mistakes, and make ‘em big.  Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

 

 

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On Being a Good Circus Student: An Ode to Teach-ability

What makes a “good” student? IS there such a thing? Is your crappy attitude getting in the way of your training and making your teacher crazy, or are you the student your coach can’t wait to work with? Take my little quiz and find out!

Deep, Dark Circus Confessions

Oh, Dear Danglers, I have a confession to make (savor this moment, because it won’t come often). Remember that little post I wrote about circus being hard and not expecting instant results? Yes. Well. Ahem…. I may or may not have disregarded my own advice, and pitched a crying, screaming hissy fit in German wheel class when I felt I wasn’t progressing fast enough. BUT, in my defense, my mojo had fled about half an hour before (it was scared), and I’d been working really hard and I hadn’t eaten because I’m on a diet and….. yeah, you’re not buying it either. So what should I have done when I hit that wall of frustration and was ready to spit nails and start a bar fight? (Hint: it wasn’t swear, snap at my coach, or bitch slap somebody. I did a lot of the first and a little of the second, but only thought about the third – that’s gotta count for something, right?)

So, are you a superty awesome student, or a giant pain in the ass? Let’s find out!

True or False

  1.  I accept instruction and critiques graciously and enthusiastically.
  2.  I take the work seriously, but almost wet my pants laughing when so-and-so’s pants fell off while doing the Full Monty (that was funny, yo).
  3.  I understand that mojo comes and goes. It’s elusive, like a ninja.
  4.  I try to leave my crappy day/crazypants/BO at the door.
  5.  I smile and laugh, laugh and smile. When I do it while twitching, people back away and I get more silk time.
  6.  I take myself super seriously. I tell myself that I will DIE if I don’t get this trick today. Because I will. I know I will. And I’m NEVER GOING TO GET THIS, AM I?  YOU CAN TELL ME THE TRUTH! I CAN TAKE IT! I SUCK, DON’T I?
  7.  I often infer that there’s some secret that my teacher is not telling me that’s preventing me from getting that trick – it has nothing to do with practice. (Tell me, bitch! Before I cut you!)
  8.  I often cry, get really mad, and sulk. I do my best work when I’m really pissed off.
  9.  I frequently argue with my coach when he /she give me corrections. They love that.
  10.  I find complaining to be an excellent mode of expression.

If you answered TRUE to 1-5, congrats! You are a superty awesome student. If you answered TRUE to 6-10, there’s room for improvement. Get on that.

The Nekkid Truth

At the end of the day, it’s really about an Attitude of Gratitude, isn’t it? I am so grateful to be learning so much from someone so skilled. I get to use (and break) my body in unexpected ways, play with others who are just as “eccentric” as myself (that’s the nice way of putting it), and roll around in a giant hamster wheel and call it art.

There’s freedom in allowing yourself to suck, even when you want so badly to be good. From here on out, my only response to correction will be “thank you”. When I want to scream, I will throw up my hands (or maybe just throw up) and laugh instead. I will love this flippin’ apparatus wastefully and extravagantly, and put my focus squarely on the work where it belongs, instead of on me (where I really want to put it). Join me, won’t you? Everybody wins. I’ll see you and your awesome self in the air! Big love and pull-ups, Laura

 

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