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Category Archives: Training

Fix Those Ugly Lines – Ballet Beginnings For Better Aerial Extension

OK, true confession? I saw video of myself rehearsing last week and nearly wept. Time for an Aerial Extension Intervention, stat!

 Frequent Offenders

When we talk about “lines”, we’re referring to the extended alignment of the body. Some danglers have glorious lines, some of us have to chant, dance, and make ritual sacrifices to get our legs over our heads. Whichever camp you’re in, the rules are the same (unless you are deliberately distorting the line for choreography’s sake):

  • Straight legs
  • Pointed toes
  • Long, lengthened arms and torso
  • Lifted chest (when in doubt, boobies out!)

This is a small list, but it should get us pointed (ha – get it?) in the right direction.


(Not So) Fast Fixes

Alas, the road to lovely lines is a bumpy one (somebody stop me!). Gorgeous lines take a while to cultivate, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step! They are non-negotiable in aerial work, and worth every minute you spend with your trusty theraband. As you’re watching your videos, pay special attention to bent knees, sickled feet, a back that would rival Golum’s, etc. Spotting some ugly bits? Try this:

  • Bent knees – straighten your leg (duh). But often, what feels straight is still bent, so think about lifting your kneecap with your quadricep (front of the thigh) muscles, or “pretending you don’t have knees” as one delightful dangler recently suggested. Still bent? Work the exercises in the video below in front of a mirror.
  • Sickled feet – think about winging your pointed foot outward. Using a theraband can help you train and feel these muscles (again, video). I’ve always found it helpful to think about “energy out the feet” or “out the leg”.
  • Chicken wing arms – ya’ll, chicken wings are for Friday night happy hour, not aerial work. There is never a time when chicken wings are pretty, so extend extend extend, or tuck your elbow into your side when a bent arm is called for.
  • Quasimodo back – when in doubt, BOOBIES OUT! Tilting your charms slightly towards the ceiling (or floor, depending on your orientation) will keep the back long instead of rounded.


The video below shows some excellent exercises for improving your aerial lines. A strap or theraband works well for the leg stretch exercise if you can’t get your ankle comfortably into your hands, and you can probably skip the tendus if you want. We’ll look at more specific fixes for each Extension Violation in the future, but this will give you a great start. Your lines could ALWAYS be better whether you’re a beginner or a pro, so get going! Love and pull-ups, Laura



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How to Organize Your Training So You Actually Get Stuff Done

OK – raise your hand if you’ve ever reserved rehearsal space for yourself, hung your apparatus, and then spent the next 75 minutes noodling around four inches off the floor, stretching endlessly on the floor, or gossiping with Jane at the desk. Sound familiar? Yep – I thought so. Here’s how to organize your training so you maximize improvement, save money, and leave feeling awesome about the work you’ve done. Onwards!

Me the day my wheel teacher left…

My Struggle with Training (Cue Sad Violins)

Those of you who see me on a weekly basis know how painful the past month has been – my wheel instructor has been away and left me to fend for myself (sniff…). The first week was fine, I was super productive during training, and wheeling hard. Week two? Still good, but I found myself gettting a little chatty with everyone in the space, and maybe I opted out of some moves I didn’t feel like doing that day (I’ll do it TWICE tomorrow!). Week three was le poo. I was all out of motivation, hard things were still feeling hard, and I spent more time mindlessly rocking and singing “Baby Got Back” than I did actually wheeling. Training FAIL! So, I made myself a little listie that got me back on track in one session – BAM! (Because I love ya’ll, I’m sharing it with you! See below!)

How To Structure Your Acrobatic & Aerial Training for Maximum Results

1. Give yourself a specific goal. If you’re not working towards a specific goal (a show or act creation, for example), it’s tough to keep the motivation flowing. Give yourself something really concrete and important to work towards, even if it’s only stringing together a couple of moves – everybody starts somewhere! 🙂

2. Train with a friend or two! It’s more fun, you’re less likely to slack of in front of others, and it’s often cheaper to train with a crew. Also? They will tell you when something is not pretty.

3. Know thyself. For me, 60-90 minutes of focused training is perfect. Any longer and I start singin’ bad 80’s rap, and nobody wants that. Figure out your optimum training time and stick to it.

4. Video. It may be depressing to realize that wrapping one leg around your head twice doesn’t look nearly as awesome as you thought it did, but at least you know. Also? Your knee is bent and your foot is sickled. 🙁

5. Make a list. Now, I know you’ve been keeping careful notes of what you work on in class (you are, aren’t you?). So, make a Work Sheet! Include your vigorous warm-up, moves you’re comfortable with, moves you need to work on, conditioning, and deep stretching.

A little gem of wisdom I recently got. Ask yourself: what’s the one thing that, if I trained it consistently, would make a huge difference in my circus work? Got it? Ok, why aren’t you training it? I don’t know either. Get on that TODAY, Dear Dangler!


NOW, a wee giftie from me to you! Click here for a free template to get you started (no opt-in required), and the next time I see you working out, I want to see you actually working out! Big love and pull-ups, Laura



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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.

(Haha – even coaches have drops they hate – enjoy!)


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”. (Note: that said, learning HOW to fall is a different thing entirely, and a great technique to go over with a skilled professional).)

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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How To Get An Awesome Split Part 2: VIDEO

Hello Dear Danglers! Hope you enjoy watching this as much as I enjoyed making it. Be sure to watch to the end for the bloopers! Love and pull-ups, Laura




PS – this video is aimed at folks working towards a 180 degree split. If you’ve hit that, go ahead and train further! Work on squaring the hips, or elevate the front leg a bit at a time to develop an oversplit. My students and Ihave gotten the best results by holding each stretch for 10 seconds, and going through the series at least once a day. Alternatively, hold the stretch longer, but vary the angle and position (“move” through the stretch) – this prevents too much strain on one area. Consistency counts – this won’t work if you only stretch once a week.  Remember – never stretch a cold muscle!!!!!! Peace out, yo.


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How to Get an Awesome Split Part 1 – Mistakes to Avoid Like the Plague


Is your split lookin’ a little triangular these days? Yup – there’s an app for that (you wish). Kick that sorry straddle to the curb – it’s splitsville, baby!

How NOT To Increase Your Split

  • Force it – Hey, if something won’t move, forcing it’s a great idea, right? Nope. Bad. It’s not a peanut butter jar, it’s your muscles! Don’t ever force a split – be where you are on any given day (whoa – that’s deep).
  • Hold it forever – Holding a stretch for an hour is great advice if you’re in 1985. The most recent research suggests holding a stretch no longer than 10 seconds, but doing it very consistently and varying the angle. If you’re sore after stretching, that’s a Big Red Flag that you’re actually injuring your muscles.
  • Tear your hamstring – I see this ALL THE TIME. Suzie AwesomeStudent decides she’s going to get her split This Weekend, so she spends an hour a day stretching it. By Monday, her muscles are sore, her hamstring lightly torn, and her splits worse than they were when she started. So what went wrong? The short answer is that hamstrings are prone to small tears (getting one is often referred to as “popping a hamstring”). Pop a hamstring and you’re looking at a minimum of 6 months of reduced flexibility – total bummer when you were trying to do the opposite. Also a bummer? That injury is going to heal with scar tissue which is less flexible. Boooooooooooo all the way around.
  • Stretch an injured hamstring – Try this. Break a plate in half. Glue the two halves together. Every 10 minutes, pull the plate apart and try to stick it back together. How’s that working out for you? If a muscle is injured, the LAST thing you want to do is stretch it. By all means, take it through its pain-free range of motion, but once you hit the injured bit, ya gotta stop. That totally goes against our nature, doesn’t it?

OK Miss Smartypants – How Would YOU Do It?

Tune in next week to find out! I’ll even be including VIDEO of my favorite series of “increase your split” stretches! WOOT! Love and pull-ups, Laura


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Circo- Masochism – How Much Pain is Too Much?

Me experiencing some Pinchy Pain in a wrist hang at a recent event!

This week’s blog post goes out to Bethany (HOLLA!), who asked a really great question: how much pain is too much? For those of us who fold ourselves in half backwards or hang by one toe for a living, this is definitely a gray area (one of 50 shades of gray, perhaps?). So, how do you tell the difference between “pinchy pain” and “oh-my-gosh-my-ankle-is-being-separated-from-my-body” pain? How much of a masochist do you have to be to succeed in circus?

Pinchy Pain – Circus Hurts

Pinchy Pain is the sensation that accompanies most of the cool stuff in circus – single ankle hangs, toe hangs on trapeze, wrapping your leg around your head four times, etc. It can be intense, but beyond a little bruise or “apparatus hickey”, you shouldn’t be doing significant damage to your body. How do you get past it so you can smile at the audience instead of grimace?

  • as you’re transitioning into the pinchy part, BREATHE. It doesn’t get better if you hold your breath, because now you’re suffocating AND getting a bruise. Let’s not compound our pain.
  • understand that there’s a point at which the pain doesn’t get any worse, when it becomes tolerable. When you hit that level, lean into it.  (**a note for the ladies: your experience of pain intensity will vary week by week during your cycle, so something that feels Too Painful one week may be much more manageable the next)
  • RESPECT YOUR LIMITS AND INSIST THAT YOUR COACH RESPECT THEM AS WELL. I cannot overstate this. It’s your body, and if it breaks, you’re the one who has to live in it. So if your coach is pushing too much, you can say something along the lines of, “Wow – that’s intense! I’m going to work up to that!” Then back off to a level you’re comfortable (well, slightly uncomfortable) with.

Eventually, that toe hang that felt like it was severing an artery doesn’t hurt anymore, and you can move on to the next thing. Your coach will likely warn you if something’s gonna hurt, so check with him or her if something is super ouchie and you’re not sure it should be. Circus hurts, but it doesn’t hurt forever.


Damaging Pain – You Didn’t Need That Kidney, Did You?

Damaging Pain is exactly what it sounds like – pain that is warning you of significant damage to your body (sprains, strains, tears, serious bruising, breaks, bad burns, tendonitis, etc).  Pain is your body’s way of setting boundaries; it’s kind of like your body’s “safe word” – there’s a warning, then there’s the no-go zone.  It goes without saying that you want to avoid Damaging Pain whenever possible – you don’t get a gold star for injuring yourself. A little bruise or callous rip is one thing, chronic tendonitis or bruised kidneys is something very different. It can take some time to discover exactly what those boundaries are for you, so until you’ve got a good sense of it, play it safer.

  • you can feel sore in the days after a class (especially early on), but you don’t want to feel broken
  • beware of burning, grinding, sharp, or tearing pain
  • when in doubt, BACK OFF. If you take one thing from this post, let it be that.


At the end of the day, you’ve got to find that sweet spot between pushing your boundaries so you can grow, and taking care of the only body you have. You have to KNOW your body, and circus is an amazing place to learn that. Be safe, and I’ll see you in the air! Love and pull-ups, Laura

 Photo: Alejandro Garcia

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Quick and Dirty Warm-Up for Aerial Warriors


Aerial warm-ups were the hot topic this week in the blog-o-sphere. What are the essentials for a good warm-up? (chocolate, red wine, Vampire Diaries) Do you really even NEED a warm-up? (yes)  How long should it last? (depends) What should it include? (again, depends) What should you wear? (tiara) These are the pressing questions of our times, people! Come with me.

Why Warm Up, Anyway?

Well, you can certainly skip it if pulled muscles, ruptured discs, and spontaneous combustion sound like a good time to you. BUT, if you’re someone who would prefer to reduce the risk of injury (and spontaneous combustion), you would to well to do some sort of warm up before you work in the air – it will lube up your joints, get blood flowing to your muscles, and (most importantly) alert you to “creaky” areas you’ll need to be aware of during your training.


What to Include in a Proper Aerial Warm Up

Depends. Warming up for a show where you’re about to ask your muscles to go at full throttle for 6 minutes is really different from a warm-up before an aerial class, where you’re likely to do an aerial warm-up and progress more slowly through your moves. Today, I’ll focus on the latter. A good pre-class warm-up includes:

  1. Raising your core body temperature. If I don’t see a glisten of sweat on your brow, you’re probably not as warm as you need to be. Jumping jacks, jogging in place, or this clip from “The Vampire Diaries” will all raise your temperature.
  2. Taking your body through it’s range of motion. Arm/shoulder/neck circles, rolling your spine up and down, shaking out fingers and wrists, up-dog, down-dog, electric slide, you get the picture.

That’s it! Notice I did NOT say “stretching” – click here to find out why.


Why It’s Not My Job to Make Sure Your Body is Ready for Training

WHAT?! But I’m the teacher! This can’t be right! Oh, but it is, Dear Dangler. Your body is your responsability, and you know it better than I ever will! My warmup will be wildly different from your warmup, and Jane’s warmup, and Lucy’s warmup – see where I’m going here? As a physical person, you must get to know what YOUR body needs, and not rely on someone else to tell you. If you’re not sure how to get started, here’s a warm-up from Altitude Aerials that I like – it’s a good place to start. You can also ask your instructor for tips on what you should do before your class begins (even if your coach includes a floor warmup, because remember – one size does NOT fit all in this case). It’s your body – love it, protect it, and get to know it, because if it wears out, where are you going to live? Love and pull-ups, Laura

Click here for my version of the aerial warmup!  


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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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DIY FAIL: How NOT To Learn Circus From YouTube

Baby steps, yo.

This week, fellow (kick-a$$) aerial instructor Adam Woolley rocked the blog-osphere when he posted a thoughtful and well-written entry on the growing number of aerial tutorials available online (if you didn’t see it, click here – it’s a MUST READ). Adam brings up some fabulous points, and, since we’re all talking about it, I figured I would add my two cents. Wondering how to use YouTube and other online resources to further your training? Read on, Dear Dangler!

The Hunger

You’re hungry for training – I get it, I’m there right now with my wheel stuff. I will be the first to tell you that I’m a YouTube junkie – aerial and German wheel videos are like crack to me. Also? Oreos, but that’s another post entirely. I spend at least 20 minutes a day glued to YouTube, combing videos for performances and moves I like and want to steal learn. BUT – there’s a big difference between appreciating performances/variations and using video as a substitute teacher. There’s a period of time as a student where you’re just learning how your apparatus works; it’s not just a series of tricks that you’re filing away, you’re actively figuring out how to drive this thing. A wrong turn could leave you with an unspeakable wedgie, dislocated shoulder, broken neck, or worse. So, how should you use all this readily available info? With caution, friend.

How To Endanger Your Life 101

  1.  Watch videos and online tutorials.
  2. Go into the studio and try to recreate what you saw (or think you saw) on your own. You’ll earn yourself a Darwin Award.

Be Smart – How To Use Online Resources To Further Your Aerial Training

  1. Watch the masters. What is it about their performance that is so captivating? Do you see things you would like to learn? Make a note of them.
  2. Work on the material with your coach. NOTE: Do not bombard your instructor with endless links (we love them, but there are only 24 hours in a day), or bring a list of 50 things you would like to work on in a group class – most of us plan our sessions ahead of time with the group in mind. Feel free to make requests, but save the big list for a private lesson.
  3. Take careful notes in class, observe your fellow students, and video yourself if your instructor allows it. Trust me – you’ll learn more about your performance watching yourself than someone else!
  4. Soak it all up. Read the blogs, expose yourself to tons of sources, and always ask yourself who’s doing the talking. Also? Question everything.


So, watch til your eyeballs fall out! Get inspired and all revved up. I love knowing what my students would like to work on, but it’s also worth mentioning that any good coach has a methodology to their teaching. There is a real and important progression to aerial work – a good foundation is essential, and there’s no way of getting around that. So yes – tell your coach you eventually want the triple, but understand that there are a lot of things you’ll need to master before you get there.

Big thanks to Adam Woolley for very frankly and candidly addressing this – don’t forget to read his post. And don’t fall on your head. Love and pull-ups, Laura



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