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Category Archives: Training

How Old Is That In Cirque Years? The Truth About Aging In Circus

Sebastian’s First Silk Lesson at 7 Months

At the ripe old age of twenty four (you can’t see me right now, but I’m snickering in a very snarky way), I decided to run away and join the circus. Among the many sensitive and caring questions I got from friends and family was, “Aren’t you a little old for that? I thought you had to be born into the circus!”. The short answer is no, I wasn’t, and no, you don’t. Let’s unpack this, shall we? Here’s the straight talk about age and circus.


The Downside of Starting Later

You want the bad news first? You got it. Now, when I say “later”, I mean anything after sixteen (brutal, right?). If you are lucky enough to be born a Wallenda, you start training practically in utero. Some lucky kids get hooked up with awesome youth circuses like Circus Smirkus or Circus Juventas, and are performing at a professional level before they’re out of junior high. But what about the rest of us who didn’t discover this wacky world of circus until (gasp!) their twenties? Thirties? Forties and beyond?
The downside is this: you have to work much harder, and the older you are, the longer it takes to bounce back from injuries. Jumping in without a warmup is no longer an option, and you may find that you spend more time with frozen peas taped to your shoulders that not. BUT. That’s it. That’s the whole downside, people  – hard work and some frozen peas.

The Upside of Starting Later

I began my training with the utterly extraordinary Tanya Gagne, one half of the Wau Wau Sisters and owner of Big Sky Works/The Trapeze Loft (awesome space – check it out).  When I kvetched about my age, she set me straight in a hurry. She told me she had never felt so strong (seriously – you could bounce a quarter off her tush), or had mastery over so many skills; she assured me that with patience and hard work, I could have my dream.  She was right! There are real upsides to starting later: intense focus, greater vision, perseverance, resources, and more. Did you know that your thirties are a spectacular time to pack on major muscle? Our perceptions can age us faster than our bodies ever could.
 So, what are you waiting for, friend? Here’s a quotable from Julia Cameron:

“Question: Do you know how old I’ll be by the time I learn how to play the piano?
Answer: The same age you will be if you don’t.” – Julia Cameron, “The Artist’s Way”
Deep thoughts, people! If you’re using your age as an excuse not to try aerials, or anything for that matter, knock it off. Get going – there’s living to be done! Love and pull-ups, Laura
PS – check out this quick video from Marie Forleo about this very thing – highly entertaining! And comment on this post with your success stories of starting to train a little later – I wanna hear you!

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, FB, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are posting things these days!

Corporate Goddess By Day, Aerial Ninja By… Weekend

Trio Triangle Capitale

Triangle Trap at Capitale with ImaginAerial


Friends, do you ever find yourself asking, “What’s it all for?!” Not so much in the existential crisis way, but in the “why-am-I-suffering-through-my-third-silk-burn-of-the-evening-and-practically-wetting-my-pants-trying-to-execute-a-planche” kind of way. Are you in it for the hot circus bod? The fun factor? The performance opportunities? The sparkly costumes?

Defining Goals

It’s actually a really important question to ask, because if you don’t know what you hope to get out of your training, you’re cheating yourself out of some powerful motivation. Goals/Visions/Dreams can carry you through the pain, the exhaustion, the disappointment. They should be super concrete (“I want to execute this planche without wetting my pants”), attainable (“I want to perform in Laura’s awesome student showcase in November”), and have some emotional oomph behind them (“I want to quit my corporate job and become an Aerial Ninja”).

The How-To

  1. Define your Big Dream. Nothing is silly or wrong – if you want to run off with Cirque du Soliel, lose ten pounds, perform at your sister’s bat mitzvah, etc – keep it close to your heart.
  2. Set smaller goals for training. For example: one pull-up, stringing four moves together, a flat split, etc.
  3. Make yourself accountable. Meet a friend for training or class, sign up to do a show, buy that 10 class card, whatever you need to do to get yourself going!

Along this vein, here’s an email I recently got – if this is you, check it out! Sounds like it could be a very fun project! (BTW – Submissions must be in TODAY!)  Love and pull-ups, Laura

Image: Joshua Sherer


My name is Betsy and I work with Morgan Spurlock (30 Days, Super Size Me, A Day in the Life ) on a new documentary series and we’re looking for New Yorkers with Big Dreams.

This series, “The Failure Club” will be a fly-on-the-wall docu-series where we follow several New Yorkers as they overcome their fear of failure and strive to achieve their ultimate dream! The show is all about the idea that if we face the fear of failure head on and don’t let it control us then we will learn and grow and do amazing things!

We are looking for real people who aren’t yet living out their full dreams but are finally ready to take the plunge… and maybe they have already started making baby steps. For example, someone caught in the 9-5 corporate grind that has always wanted to be in a cirque or aerial performance.

 They do have to be based in NYC or the tri-state area :). This is going to be a really wonderful series that will encourage and inspire people everywhere to follow their dreams.! All the details and the application are at




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Sitting On Your Own Head: The Joys And Perils Of Increasing Flexibility

I am not a contort-y person. For the last twelve years or so, I’ve had a recurring dream in which I sit on my own head (a perfectly reasonable dream for a circus performer, I assure you); I kick up into a chin stand, bend my knees, and my feet just gently float down to the floor on either side of my head – I can actually FEEL my ankles in my hands! Well, my dreams is the only place I will ever do that,or someone will have to call an ambulance. Today, we’re going to chat about the bendy-flexies, and what you can do to increase the likelihood of a Gumby Moment. Join me, won’t you?

Mahself and the fabulous Angela Jones in a toe-to-the-head moment


Not Fitting Into Your Genes 

Alas, genetics are the greatest factor in determining the bulk of your flexibility. Some folks are like walking rubber bands, others have to chant, visualize, and sacrifice a virgin once a week to be able to touch their toes. What gives? Your genes, my friend! They affect:

  • thickness of spinal cartilage (the biggest determining factor in back flexibility)
  • the structure of your joints
  • length/tension/attachment of connective tissue

ALL of which play a huge role in whether you’ll be billed as Courteney the Contortionist or Rodney the Rigid.

Why Bother To Stretch If It’s All Genetics?

Because it’s NOT all genetics, Negative Nancy!  It’s a good thing to know where you are in the Great Pantheon of Stretch-iness, as it can help you keep your expectations realistic; you can’t change the thickness of your cartilage, but you can stretch your muscles. Here’s what I recommend:

  • work those muscles hard! And then streeeeeeeeeeeetch them out. Don’t stretch cold (put a rubber band in the freezer, then try to stretch it and you’ll see why). Save your deep stretching for AFTER your training.
  • NEVER stretch to pain – only to sensation. Why? Because if you tear the muscle, it creates scar tissue which is less flexible. And that sucks. Some days will be tighter than others – work with where your muscles are TODAY!
  • be consistent
  • be patient – it takes muscles and joints a very, very long time to truly become more flexible. Don’t get frustrated, it will just make you all mad and reckless and then you decide you’re going to do a split right this second and you do it and pop your hamstring and then you can’t do a split for the next 8 months. Be patient, Grasshopper.
  • generally speaking, slow, sustained stretching is best. Ballistic (bouncing) stretching has it’s place, but can result in significant tearing if you don’t know what you’re doing.

 Many of us in the circus world are reasonably flexible – we may not all  be able to sit on our own heads, but we can trot out a decent splits and get at least one toe to our noggin after morning coffee. Flexibility differs from joint to joint, day to day, even hour to hour. Remember: the goal is not to be able to trot out a cool trick at a party (that’s just a fringe benefit); your goal is to keep your muscles and joints healthy, and increase the possibilities in your work. With that in mind, work consciously, consistently, and  gently – you’ll be straddling your ponytail in no time (or at least be one inch closer). Happy bending, mah peeps!

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, FB, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are posting things these days!

The Most Important Exercise On The Planet

GripAs an addendum to my previous post about circus being durned hard, I wanted to address one very concrete thing you can do TODAY to begin to ramp up your training. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you (cue confetti canons)… the Humble Pull-Up. That’s right – hauling yourself up and down using your superty-buff arms is my number one essential training tool, and it should be a part of your regular training at least every other day.

A matter of discipline

Yes, I’m aware that you hate pull-ups. I don’t leap out of bed every morning shrieking, “YAAAAY! I get to do some pull-ups today!!!!” either.  Thing is, it doesn’t matter whether or not you hate them – you just have to do them. I’m willing to bet that one of the biggest reasons you hate them is because they’re really tough and they hurt and you suck at them. Am I right? It’s OK! It’s OK that they’re tough; it’s OK that they hurt, and it’s OK that you suck at them, but that will change. I promise you – train them, and they will suck so, so much less. First, you’ll do one, then another, then another, until you are kickin’ some serious tushie.

A matter of skill

I would say a solid 75% of aerial work hinges on variations of the pull-up. It’s that foundational. True – you can crank out some reasonably solid work without being able to do a traditional up and down, but you’re cheating yourself in a huge way. I’ve been around the professional block a few times (that doesn’t sound quite right, but you know what I mean), and I can tell you this: in all my years of performance, I have NEVER worked with a professional aerialist who couldn’t do a pull-up. In fact, the very idea is absurd. So, if you are serious about moving beyond the realm of student or amateur, get to work. TODAY.

A matter of safety

It’s not just a matter of strength; it’s also a matter of safety. Many of you have had the panic-inducing experience of getting into a bad knot on your fabrics, or finding yourself below your trapeze or hoop with little reserves to get back up. This is where your training – the muscle memory, the strength building, the endurance drills – is absolutely essential; it could mean the difference between a successful recovery to a safe position and a nasty injury for you (or someone else if you’re working with a partner). Be responsible and do the work, even if you hate it.


Here’s a great resource for how to properly execute a pull-up, and a link to the bar I have at home (no installation required). If you’re a beginner, try putting a chair underneath and giving yourself just enough help to go through the full range of movement; start slow and small, Rome wasn’t built in a day. For more advanced folks, you can try varying your hand positions to work the muscles from different angles and keep things interesting. In closing, know this: if you train your pull-ups consistently, you WILL be successful. Surprise and amaze your friends! They’ll think you’re a total Bad Ass Rock Star. Because you are.

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, FB, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are posting things these days!

Suck It Up, Buttercup! Circus Is Hard

The number one question I’m asked by new students? “What can I do to get better? I feel like it’s taking so long!” It’s a fair question, I mean, who doesn’t want to excel at what they’re pouring their hearts and pocketbooks into? But, for many, what they’re really asking is, “Why haven’t I picked this up in ten classes?” Um… because it’s difficult, Buttercup! Ask yourself: would you waltz into a ballet class, having no dance training, and expect to be turning triple pirouettes three weeks from Sunday? Of course not. Then why would you assume that you can do that in an aerial class?

Wise Saying From Laura #1 – You have to be willing to suck at first. A lot.

Perhaps it’s our culture’s growing appetite for Instant Results , or maybe spill-over from the Club Med “make a catch your first day” mentality (not knocking Club Med, it’s just a different animal altogether). Whatever it is, let me be very candid: if you want to get really good at something, whether it’s aerials or accounting, you have to work your ass off for a good long time. That girl with the beautiful lines? She’s been dancing since she was 4. That guy with the bone-crushing grip? He’s been rock climbing for the past 5 years. They’ve all put in the time, just not in my class.

Wise Saying From Laura #2 – Just show up.

I have yet to meet a student who was a truly hopeless case – just about anyone in reasonable health can become proficient in an aerial discipline. I’ve watched some students throw themselves into classes, train on their own, and fight for every victory they got on the silks. That kind of hard work inevitably pays off. I have one student who couldn’t even hold on her first class, and cried in fear the first time she did an ankle hang; she’s now performing beautiful pieces in showcases and making me proud. She showed up. She put in the time (several years, to be exact). She’s reaping what she’s sown. You will too, Grasshopper.

Wise Saying from Laura #3: It’s an awesome adventure, babe. Quit focusing so much on the destination.

Here, in a nutshell, is how to get better, and enjoy the journey.

  • quit taking yourself so damned seriously, it ain’t the Peace Corps. A light heart and the ability to laugh at yourself will make training more enjoyable (for both of us). Frustration is a roadblock, laughter is a detour.
  • be a student. Check your ego at the door, and be willing to be really, really bad at something. Think of it this way – you can only get better!
  • just show up – to class, to workouts, to your training time. I strongly recommend at least one class and one practice session on your own each week. Regular workouts can be tailored to support your air time – Pilates, deep stretching, weight training (PULL-UPS), and more can make your class time more productive.
  • don’t compare yourself with others (thank you, Miss Stephanie!!!)
  • CELEBRATE EVERY VICTORY!!! Don’t sweep it under the rug, you worked hard for it!

It’s not Insta-Aerial, ya’ll! It took me over a year of training almost every day to get to a reasonably professional level on fabrics. You can do it. Here’s what I can promise you: show up, do the work, and you’ll see results. Now, suck it up and get to class! There’s work to be done and fun to be had! And no whining. Love and pull-ups, Laura


As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are posting things these days!

Tuf or Buff: How Spray Rosin Can Sabotage Your Training

I have such a love/hate relationship with spray rosin (aka Tuf Skin or Firm Grip). On the one hand, I love the awesome flypaper effect it creates when I’m performing doubles and my partner is being so inconsiderate as to actually sweat. On the other hand, I hate watching my students douse themselves in it in hopes of Velcro-ing their hands to the fabric. So, when is spray rosin a blessing, and when is it like the friend who brings over a pie when you’re dieting? Let’s discuss.


Spray rosin, mostly powdered rosin (pine tree sap) and alcohol, can be a God-send when:

  • You’re working with a partner and need a little extra grippy oomph
  • Smoke, fog, or haze will be used during your performance (this can sometimes leave a slick coating on your apparatus)
  • You’re pushing your limits of endurance in your piece, are working at altitude, or are performing multiple acts in a show and want to be conservative with your grip strength
  • It’s seriously hot or humid and you’re sweatin’ like a whore in church, causing you to slip and slide in alarming ways


When is it not a good bet? During your daily or weekly training. Two of the most beautiful aerialists I know don’t use ANY sticky stuff – not rosin, not Tuff Skin (shout out, F & J!). How is this possible, you gasp? They’ve trained their grip, pure and simple. If you coat your hands in aerial super glue, don’t be surprised when your grip is noodly. I have banned spray rosin in my class for this reason (but I KNOW some of you still use it…). The stronger your grip, the more confident you’ll be in the air, and confidence is beautiful!

So kids, the moral of the story is this: use as little Sticky Awesomeness as possible during your training – this will encourage a stronger grip. Use what you need to be safe, but actively train those fingers to hold tight. You’ll thank me one day when you can hang on to a trapeze with one finger. While sneezing uncontrollably. Over a shark tank. Booyah! Love and pull-ups, Laura


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