Category Archives: Training

RUDE! The Three Essential Rules of Open Workout

With the SassyPants/Das Push Showcase coming up TOMORROW (yaaaaaaaay!), I know many of my Dear Danglers have been hoofin’ it to rehearsal a few times a week. That work shows, friends! BUT, are you the person people want to stab at open workout? No? Not so fast…
 

The Three Unspoken Rules of Open Workout

  1. Don’t use open workout as a substitute for class. Open workout is a time for you to work on what you have learned in class, and feel comfortable working on by yourself. This is NOT a time for you to ask your fellow students to teach you things. They’re there to work on their own stuff! I’m not sure where to begin on how inappropriate that is – it’s like asking to borrow their underwear – you just don’t do it. If someone offers to show you something, that’s a different story (just be careful you don’t pick up all their bad habits).
  2. Show up. Did you agree to be there – either through the space or through the organizer? Your butt had better be there! It’s frustrating when people RSVP, then ghost – don’t be that person.
  3. Respect other people’s work. This is a BIG one, friends! Just because someone is working on something where you can see it doesn’t mean it’s yours to use. Not many of us have the luxury of a private studio every time we need to work on our act, and I can’t count the number of times Angela and I were mid-creation on a new piece, only to turn around and see several people piggybacking on what we JUST DID!! Spare me the argument that there’s nothing new under the sun – that’s not the point. It’s about respecting the boundaries of your peers, and treating their work with appreciation, not appropriation. When you see someone working on something awesome, and you’re not sure if it’s “public domain” or not, ask! Most circus folks are incredibly generous, and will graciously let you know if they want to hold on to the move for a little while, or if it’s been around for ages and it’s all yours.

 

Just One More Thing

Your peers are just that – your peers. They are not your teachers. They may or may not have good technique, they may or may not have an inkling of how to spot you, they may or may not know the contra-indications of a particular move, they may or may not have a clue…. you get the idea.

In closing, DO go to open workout! DON’T be a douche when you get there. 😉 Love and pull-ups, Laura
 

 

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Warming Up – You’re Doing it Wrong

OK. That thing you do where you come into a class, half-heartedly reach for your toes for 30 seconds, and gossip with your besties is not a warm-up. It is not is not is not. It blows what little mind I have left when my darlings jump in the air with little more than a neck roll and a shoulder circle. Warming up is YOUR responsibility (even if your instructor leads a group warm-up), and a non-negotiable if you want to stay injury free. Miss Laura’s about to drop that hammer! (#hammertime)

 

 

Why Do I Need a Stupid Warm-Up, Miss Laura?

Because your body needs to be prepared for the feats of super-human strength I’m about to ask it to do, that’s why! A good warm-up:

  • warms the muscles and prepares them to work efficiently
  • lubes up your joints
  • takes your body through it’s anticipated range of motion
  • gives you a heads-up about “creaky bits” that may need special attention today

Why is Stretching Not a Warm-Up?

Stretching can be part of a warm-up, but stretching alone ain’t gonna do it. Sorry. I know passive stretching feels nice, and (frankly) doesn’t involve that much effort, but that’s the point: a warm-up involves a little effort. I personally like to see a teeny sheen of sweat on your little brow before you hoist your butt into the air! Here’s a good place to start from Altitude Aerials.

 

 

This isn’t the first time you’ve heard from me on this topic (shocking!!!!). Have a look at the links below if you have the sneaking suspicion that your warm-up may suck. 😉 Love and pull-ups, Laura

Quick-n-Dirty Warm-up for Aerial Warriors

Aerial Warm-Ups 101

 

 

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“I Am Surely About To Die” – Pre-Show Jitters and How to Cope

German Wheel Wishbone

 

Hello Dear Danglers! I’m writing in hopes that you may recognize a bit of this in your own pre-show musings, and realize that everyone – everyone – has moments of doubt, paralyzing terror  fear, and despair when it comes to doing what we love in front of Other People.

 

Terror Wheel

I’m currently in Chicago, preparing to compete in German Wheel national trials. If I don’t fall on my head (you laugh, but this is an alarmingly real possibility), I may do well enough to join Team USA in Italy in June to compete against top German wheelers from around the world – the thought makes me want to guffaw and barf all at the same time. See, this time, my performance has real consequences. Usually, the worst thing that happens with a crummy run is that my ego is bruised, but here – OMG – I WILL ACTUALLY, LITERALLY BE JUDGED BY PEOPLE SITTING BEHIND A TABLE SCORING MY WORK WITH POINTS! POINTS!!!!! Is that not the most horrifying thing you’ve ever heard? (#hyperbole) To say that this is producing a bit of anxiety in me is like saying that the Pope is a bit Catholic, or that my students are a bit sassy. It is the most astonishing amount of very real, very tangible fear. So, how will I make it through without crying copious quantities of hiccup-y tears? …. I don’t know.

 

What I DO Know

Different things work for different people at different times, and I don’t know what will be most useful in the coming days, but I DO have a little grab-bag of coping strategies! Here are a few that have kept me sane thus far.

  • Everyone wants you to succeed. Really. Your audience wants you to succeed! Even if you’re in competition with others, your competition does not really wish you ill (they just want to do better than you – it’s not the same thing). Imagine them all cheering you on, and watch for all the little “thumbs up” you find yourself seeing all over the place.
  • Staaaaaay present. I am the worst – the worst – at this. Anxiety is all about “futurizing” – projecting your fears into an imagined future. It’s not real. Remember – while this kind of thinking is encoded in your DNA (it was veeeeery helpful if you were a caveman on the savanna), it’s not going to help you now. Go google “how to stay present” and do all the things. All of ’em. Whatever it takes. 😉
  • Focus on others. It’s really hard to wind yourself up too much if you’re focused on others. How can you help? The more you can get your mind off yourself and onto serving, the less time you have to rev your engines and flood your body with more stress hormones!
  • Rally the troops! Call your people! Huddle with your show partner, post about your fear on social media, call your mom, whatever. People want to be there for you, so let them! Feel the love.
  • What’s the worst that could happen? Sometimes, this question has sobering answers (“You could land on your head”), but more often than not, the answers are more benign (“I will look like an idiot”). Try to really talk this through. “I will look like an idiot. OK, maybe people won’t look at me and go “she’s such an idiot”. It’s more likely that they will feel bad for me that I missed my trick – they know how that feels. I will be disappointed, but that’s treatable with ice cream. And, in five years, will this matter in my life in any real, meaningful way? Probably not. I will look back and be proud of myself for competing and doing my best.”
  • Try not to ruminate. Go – do whatever you have to do to break the cycle of winding yourself up. Go help someone, go jog, listen to music, watch “Real Housewives, etc.
  • Get spiritual. Pray, meditate, chant, twirl – whatever floats your spirit boat.
  • Everyone is feeling this way. Look around. See your fellow cast mates? Your competitors? Yeah – they’re right there with you. You are not alone.
  • Speak kindly to yourself. Fear is natural and healthy, and can clue you in to things you need to pay attention to, but don’t use this as a time to abuse yourself. Even as I write this, I hear, “You are going to humiliate yourself in front of so many people” We can be astonishingly cruel to ourselves! And, we can choose differently (note: it’s hard, and can feel like you’re lying. Takes practice, start now). I can change that to “I’ve trained hard, and I’m among friends. I choose to have an uplifting, amazing experience of competition.”
  • Be proud – you chose life. You chose to do the hard thing. You chose a big risk, with a big pay off. Just by choosing action – performance – over fear, you are winning big.

 

B&W slam wheelWelcome Home!

Pre-show “jitters” – doesn’t that sound innocuous? Almost like a candy (“One large bag of popcorn and a box of Jitters, please!”). But oh – when you’re in the throes of anxiety, you know there’s nothing cute or sweet about it – it tastes like pure misery.

What must we remember when we find ourselves here, staring wide-eyed into an unknowable future? You are not alone. In fact, you are now part of a remarkable tradition of courageous people, going back thousands of years. Think of the millions who have stood where you are, thinking the same thoughts, feeling the same smallness, hearing the rush of blood in their ears and wondering how they will survive the next ten minutes. We are a part of a legacy – part of a long tradition of People Who Chose to Really Live. Welcome to the tribe! Welcome home. Love and pull-ups, Laura
 
 

 

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Right! I Mean, Left! I Mean… Oh, Crap. Direction in Aerial Instruction

Jenna Kidney Squisher“Now, move towards the free leg. No, the free leg. NO, THE FREE %$*&#! LEG!!!!!”

“Bring your leg behind you. That’s in front of you.”

“OK, now reach your right hand down…. your other right…”

Conversations like this can be heard in every circus studio across the globe! It’s not just you. 😉 So, how do you make reliable sense of directions given in the air? Why do we get so darned stubborn about our understanding of orientation? See below. No, scroll down. OK – scroll up. Ugh – just keep reading.

The Student’s Challenge

When you’re learning a new move, particularly if it’s a brand new one, or if you’re new to circus, the whole process can  seem Entirely Overwhelming. Here are a few things that may help.

  • Work the position low and slow. If you are a student who routinely tries to place new things up high (*climbs up to the top* “OK, now what do I do?”), I want you to seriously rethink that choice. Not only is it a safety issue, but a) I don’t like hollering instructions up 15 feet, and b) you miss out on having the benefit of my hands to guide you through the move.
  • Stop, listen, and think. We often just want to move and try stuff, but if you stop for a second, really listen to what your coach is saying, and think it though, you’ll have better results (Hint: think more zen tortoise than chimpanzee on meth). One thing that helps me tremendously when I’m trying to master a new move is repeating the coach’s words back to myself. “Bring tails to poles, and key to the wrapped side”, “move towards the free leg, and continue the rotation”. You get the idea. Sometimes, just saying it out loud deciphers it in your brain.
  • Take the time to get familiar with your teacher’s particular orientation vocabulary. It’s kind of like learning a foreign language! It’s likely that you’ll hear key phrases again and again – once you’ve cracked the code, you’ll be fluent in this teacher’s “aerial-ese”.
  • Perception can be crazy subjective. BUT, some things are always the same! The front of your body is always the front of your body. Towards the floor is always the same direction (unless you are living in an alternate reality, in which case please disregard). This is more of that stopping and thinking business – just because you’re upside down doesn’t mean the floor becomes the ceiling or your front becomes your back!

The Teacher’s Challenge

Every student learns and hears things differently, so it’s a helluva challenge to come up with instructions that make sense to most of them, let alone all of them. A lot of verbal cuing is trial and error as you seek to find “magic phrases”, but here are a few things I’ve found helpful.

  • I personally shy away from directions of right and left, mainly because of the sheer chaos that ensues when they need to switch sides. I prefer using body or silk landmarks (“towards your free leg” or poles/tails).
  • If you are using a phrase repeatedly that’s just not getting the desired result, no matter how logical it is, the problem probably isn’t the student. 😉 True confession: I struggle with this so much! I find myself just saying the same thing over and over (and louder and LOUDER) as if I could just yell it into their bodies. Le sigh. The more ways we have to explain things, the better the chance they’ll understand.
  • The “tag” method. If it’s a particularly weird wrap with lots of go-here-then-go-there-and-wrap-this-and-flex-that, I position my hand so that the student has to tag my hand with the specified body part, thus (ideally) leading them through the move. Doesn’t work every time, but it can help.

 

Question time! Students – what verbal cuing do you find most useful? What frustrates you the most? Teachers – same question! What have you found that is particularly helpful in regards to direction? Where do you struggle? Post your comments below – let’s get a great conversation going!!!! Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

  

 

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30 Days to a Sassier Straddle – NEW and Improved!

Miss Hannah's gorgeous straddle!

Miss Hannah’s gorgeous straddle!

 

Hello Dear Danglers! You asked, I answered. Here is the NEW AND IMPROVED, very shiny, fancy, glittery 30 Days to a Better Straddle PDF! Enjoy! Love and pull-ups, Laura


Click here for all the stretchy, straddle-y goodness! 


 

 

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Your Nails and Jewelry Are Destroying the Apparatus

Pop Quiz!

This is a quickie today, Dear Danglers! Multiple choice pop quiz!

  1. Do you wear jewelry when you train? (watches, rings, belly-button rings, intimate piercings, etc.)
    • Yes – every damned day.
    • No – I remove the metal from my body before I train.
  2. Do you have long finger (or, gross) toe nails?
    • Yes – I love my long fingernails!
    • No – my nails might make a manicurist weep, but they’re great for aerial work.

 

GripAnswer Key

If you answered anything other than NO to the questions above, you are probably responsible for at least one tiny hole in my fabrics. Watches, rings with protrusions, and long nails frequently snag fabrics, interfere with grip, and get in the way of certain wraps. Necklaces can get caught and tighten painfully around the neck, belly button rings can tear out (I’ve seen it – it’s horrifying), earrings can tear out of lobes, and intimate piercings can, well, use your imagination. Ouch.

What’s fine? Plain rings (think wedding bands) with nothing that could snag the apparatus, and small stud earrings. Nails – toe and finger – are best kept short-ish. If you don’t want to take your belly button ring out (I get it!), cover it with athletic tape or something similar so it can’t get snagged. If you have intimate piercings, you may just have to bow out of certain moves, depending on the nature of the piercing and the move being contemplated.

So, play nicely with other people’s things! No jewelry + short nails = a happy coach! 🙂 Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

 

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Junk in the Trunk – Haulin’ Your Butt Over Your Head

Hello Dear Danglers! If you’ve ever been in my class, you know there’s one aerial habit I despise above all others.

“Straighten your damned leg!”

Nope. Not that one.

“Point your toes!!!!”

Nope. Not that one either.

“Put your boob back in your unitard!”

Nope. And that’s not a habit (I hope… unless it’s SassyPants Friday Night!!!!).

The thing I hate above all else is…….. HAULIN’.


Haulin’ – verb – when, instead of executing a complete inversion, you cut it in half – inverting only far enough to haul your leg over the fabric.


 

Why It’s Dangerous

Haulin’ can easily become a habit (hey – it’s way easier to only invert half way!). But, aside from being an eyesore in the air and making us look awkward and heavy, it’s also dangerous.

  • You are more likely to hook your knee too close to (or on top of) your hand, resulting in too much weight on your digits. No bueno.
  • Inversions are among the most vulnerable moves in aerial fabrics; if your grip fails, you are likely coming down. Sloppy technique increases your risk of an injury.
  • If you’re tired or rushing, I’m more likely to see you try to heave your leg up, or just go for it – even when you shouldn’t. Grip fatigue or a feeling of panic do not pair well with aerial silks.

 

How to Make Haulin’ a Thing of the Past

If you’ve been cleared to invert in the air, I expect a complete inversion, or we have more work to do on the ground. In the early days, you may need to use a foot-assist to get your tushie up – totally fine! You’ll get that snappy, clean invert soon. In the meantime, don’t cultivate any bad habits!

  • Every time – EVERY TIME – you invert, make sure you complete your straddle (even if it looks like a spastic chicken in windstorm)
  • I often see haulin’ when students are tired. Tired is one thing, but if you can’t fully and safely execute an inversion, you’ve got to try this one close to the floor. Period.
  • Make inversions a regular part of your conditioning – it’s foundational.

And there you have it! Let’s make haulin’ a thing of the past, cause ain’t nobody wants to see all that. 😉 Love and pull-ups, Laura
 
 

 

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The Sound of… Silence? What Can You do About Aerial Queefing?

Ghetto StrapsOh yes, I absolutely am going there.

A lovely Dear Dangler recently sent me this query, and I wanted to throw this out to you, Hive Mind.


Queef: noun: an expulsion of air through the vagina.


 

“I am stressed and embarrassed about doing straddle inverts, as well as other general invert moves.

The problem is that with the damage from my pregnancy when I invert my organs move down towards my head causing a vacuum and sucking in air, caused the dreaded queef.

I love silks, it is my joy at the moment but I was so mortified the first time it happened.  I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but I am constantly stressed about it. 

Do you have any recommendations to help solve the problem???”

 

Pre-pregnancy, when I would base trapeze, sometimes this would happen to me (we called me “Queen La-Queefia, and joked that I could propel our roll-around-the-bars with the force of them). It tended to happen when we were returning to trapeze after a short hiatus, so I suspect I was allowing my pelvic floor muscles to to relax a bit.

Does anyone have any words of wisdom for this quizzical queefer? It’s awful when something like this stands in the way of something you love. OK, Hive Mind! GO!!!! If you have any thoughts or recommendations, please leave them in the comments below! Love and pull-ups, Laura

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Last-Minute Gifts for Your Favorite (Nicely Naughty) Aerialist!

Stayin' tight with the Baby Janes! Photo by Kenneth Feldman, www.pfdigital.com

Stayin’ tight with the Baby Janes! Photo by Kenneth Feldman, www.pfdigital.com

Ho ho ho! A deliciously sassy seasonal greeting to you all! Just in case you’re like me, and have left every bit of your holiday shopping until Christmas Eve, here are my top-pick last minute gifts for your favorite aerialist! Enjoy!!! Love and pull-ups, Laura

  1. Gift certificates for circus classes!!!! (shameless self promotion) In the spirit of giving more experiences and LESS CLUTTER, I am a huge champion of gifts that encourage sassiness and bad-assery.
  2. Streaming circus stretch videos! Fit & Bendy has come out with two great stretch videos (streaming, or streaming + DVD). “Get Bent” and “Bendy Body” – check ’em out!
  3. Dyna-Flex! This funky little contraption strengthens grip, and shores up stabilizing muscles in the wrist, elbow, and shoulder. I love mine!!!
  4. Thera-bands Plus Door Anchor! Do your conditioning anywhere – perfect for the aerialista on the go.
  5. Rock rosin! I sew pretty little baggie-covers for mine. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, it’s a fun way to add a personal touch.
  6. Kettle of Magick’s Muscle Salve! Made by an aerialist for aerialists. I can’t wait to try it!!
  7. Massage or acupuncture certificates! Check around for recommendations in your area.
  8. Etsy handmade aerial goodness! Everything from necklaces to aerial prints, you also support artisans and craft-makers.

 

Happy shopping!!! 🙂

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ACL Tears and Other Injuries: Guest Blogger Chriselle Tidrick!!!

Chriselle Tidrick, Above and Beyond Dance

Hello Dear Danglers! This week, I bring to you……. A GUEST BLOGGER!!! The amazing Chriselle Tidrick from Above and Beyond Dance recently shared her ACL rehab story with a reader, and generously allowed me to reprint it here. If you’ve torn your ACL, or have another serious injury, I hope her words inspire you to keep going, heal up, and be smart about it! I’ve seen her work recently, and you would never believe she’d ever had an injury. She was incredibly diligent in her PT, and made healing her second job. I love how she doesn’t sugar-coat it! Love and pull-ups, Laura

I unfortunately, do have a lot of experience with knee injuries.  I tore my ACL in 2012, and I hate to say but it’s a very challenging injury to deal with.  You can certainly get through this and return to a full performance life.  (Thankfully, I have.)  But, it takes a lot of time and a lot of work.
 
In terms of the injury itself, let me share a few things which you may already know, but which I wish I understood more fully when I tore my ACL.  Every orthopedist has a slightly different method of bringing you back after ACL surgery.  I happened to have a very conservative orthopedist.  The drag of this choice is that it took me longer than many others to make a full recovery.  The good thing is that he was really making an effort to protect me from re-tearing the ACL.  My understanding is that if you re-tear the ACL, your chances for making a full recovery are significantly diminished.  Like you, I asked very early in the process how soon I could expect to return to aerial.  My doctor recounted a horrifying story about how one of his patients returned to aerial too soon and completely ripped out his surgery.  Needless to say, this kept me from pushing too far too fast.  For me, it was a little over a year before I was back to training, and even then, it was a gradual process of strengthening and rebuilding my comfort level in the apparatus. (My knee is much more sensitive to torque than it used to be.)  For a long time, I had to switch to doing a lot of elements on my non-surgery side (which is also my non-dominant side).  That said, I understand it makes a difference whether you opt for an autograft or an allograft.  If you have an autograft (the doctor uses your own tissue– usually hamstring or patellar tendon), I understand that the healing time is shorter than for an allograft (donor graft).  I opted for an allograft because I had a previous injury on the leg with the ACL tear, and I didn’t want to further compromise that leg.
 
Right after surgery, you are going to spend a lot of time on a knee machine which takes your knee passively through range of motion.  I think I was on that thing for something like 6 hours a day.  If your orthopedist functions like mine, it will be a week or so before you start PT.  You will be shocked to discover how quickly your leg muscles atrophy.  Your early PT exercises will be very gentle and very simple, and you will very gradually build up to more full movement.  Once I was able, I spent about 2 hours a day, 5-6 days a week doing my PT exercises.  I quickly discovered that my desire to keep my aerial muscles in shape was supplanted by a desire to get my knee functioning properly, and my time and energy was mainly directed to doing as much PT as my body could handle.  I could carefully do chin-ups, chin holds and shoulder shrugs, and I used a rope pulling machine at the gym, but I really opted to keep my focus on the knee rehab.  As soon as my knee was stable enough, I did spend a lot of time also doing floor barre and Pilates.  Since you have a doorway bar, you can probably add in L holds pretty early on, but just be careful not to stress out your hip flexors too much.  They’ll be pretty stressed from schlepping around on crutches!
 
I am sure this doesn’t apply to you, if you are already asking about aerial training. It sounds like you are the kind of person who will regularly do her PT.  But, honestly, for anyone not serious about keeping up with PT, I’d seriously consider living life with a brace and not doing the surgery.  Granted, this choice means you will never be able to return to aerial training, but if you don’t do your PT you won’t be able to go back to it, either…
 
Let me also stress that it’s important to work with PTs accustomed to dealing with dancers/athletes as you go through this process.  Our rehab needs are different from people who have more sedentary jobs, and you will definitely need guidance about what is or is not safe for your knee as you return to training.  I was lucky that one of the 2 PTs I worked with at Harkness Center for Dance Injuries does aerial training.  She really walked me through my return to aerial.  Her suggestion to me was that I start with static trap/lyra and then progress into fabric.  I will say that there are definitely more positions involving uncomfortable torque in aerial fabric, so you’ll want to be really careful (go slowly!) as you explore those.  I am sure your PTs will tell you this, but hamstring strength is key as you return to aerial.
 
What can I tell you about coming back to aerial after being away for so many months?  Well, it was such a gradual process that, even though I was weak, I could gradually add in more and more strengthening activities at a pace that basically matched the kinds of skills I was allowed to do.  For conditioning, I mostly worked shoulder shrugs, chin holds, chin ups, inversions (bent arm and straight arm), and I did a lot of Pilates.  The hardest thing was rebuilding my endurance once my knee was strong enough to execute choreographic sequences, but that came back too, as it certainly will for you.  I am sorry to tell you that this will be a really slow, annoying and frustrating process, but everything really will come back.  At this point, I am as strong as ever and enjoying having a full performing life as a dancer, aerialist and stilt dancer.  
 
Wishing you a smooth recovery process.  Believe me, I feel your pain! – Chriselle 

 
 

 

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