Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Blog in Which Jen Crane “Wonder Womans” My Circus Shoulders

WELL. After I decided to embark on my fancy Circus Intensive, I figured it would be good if I didn’t, you know, completely break myself the first week. Now, I’ve taken A LOT of injury prevention workshops (hell, I’ve even taught one), but I’m gonna be honest – none of them really addressed injury prevention in a way that seemed complete for me. For example, some dealt with shoulders, but shoulders aren’t the only places we’re likely to get injuries. Some focused solely on correct positioning. Mine focused a lot on preventing catastrophic injury (for example, students are more likely to get badly injured if they bring a friend to class, or when switching instructors). I needed an actual game plan for not blowing out MY body. I needed something that addressed my goals, my weaknesses, and my schedule.

Enter Cirque Physio’s resident miracle worker, Jen Crane.

Cirque Physio

Are you familiar with Jen’s work? If not, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. Get over to her website right now. Jen is a physical therapist with an addition “orthopedic certified specialist” (OCS) behind her name. This is mui impressive on it’s own, but wait for it – SHE SPECIALIZES IN CIRCUS. She DOES circus. Friends – she totally gets what we do. She gets what we do better than WE do!

I’ve been following her excellent blog for a while now, so I decided to poke around on her site to see what I could glean. In addition to programs designed to support flexibility training (see below), Jen also offers Skype consultations for injury-free artists looking to prevent injury, increase range of motion, etc. So, I set mah-self up with an appointment!

What’s it Like Working Virtually with a PT?

I know what you’re wondering: how good could a Skype consult be? Could she really see anything? Could you?

Prior to the session, I filled out a detailed form which went through my medical & injury history, career, etc. On session day, after hammering out some technical difficulties on my end, Jen and I had a great chat about where I was in my training, my injury history in circus, and what I really wanted to get out of the session. Because I had filled out the form, we didn’t have to spend forever on backstory, and were able to move to the nitty-gritty quickly.

She asked me about my training schedule, and made some great recommendations (drop an aerial class, pick up a handstand class) to balance my training. She’s also making me rest. You can’t see my face right now, but it’s not cute. Nevertheless, she’s totally right – rest is essential. Grump grump.

She then took me through several exercises to evaluate my range of motion (spoiler: my ROM was not good). From there, we went through the exercises she was prescribing for me, which she then emailed in a lovely PDF.

The whole experience was remarkably empowering! I came out of it with a good understanding of what I needed to aim for form-wise, permission to take time off from training, and a game plan for addressing my weaknesses and keeping my body zoom zoom zoomin’ along. It was EXACTLY what I had hoped for!

Below is a list of Jen’s stuff that I have found fabulously helpful, as well as a couple of other resources in my “Keep It Together” arsenal. If you’re coming back from a break, just getting started, or want to troubleshoot problem areas, I cannot recommend a session enough – the exercises have already made a HUGE difference in my ROM and stability. Five stars!

Cirque Physio

 

Additional Stuff

Happy…. well, happy injury prevention! Love and pullups, Laura

Creating Your Circus Intensive (and Other Life Choices You May Rethink)

(Photo: Chinese pole class with the effervescent Ivory Fox.)

It all started in January. I was doing my silk solo on a gig; when I reached my final inversion to prep for my drop, it happened. I audibly grunted. I AUDIBLY GRUNTED AS I INVERTED. Let the horror of that sink in for you, unless it’s too much to bear, in which case skip immediately to the next section.

Now, the audience didn’t hear it, and nothing bad happened, except for the horrible terrible realization that I was a completely and appallingly de-conditioned mess. Somehow, in the flurry of teaching, gig prep, parenting, and all the other stuff I pack my days with, I had forgotten one very important thing: training. I had let myself slide into the De-conditioned Zone, and it was a dark, dark place, friends.

I spent the next few months in complete denial. Surely, if I just demo-ed more in class, it would all magically come back. I build muscle with lightening speed, and I would book time to train on my own. Of course I would! I would absolutely NOT book time and then cancel it….. or book time and spend it all on emails that suddenly HAD to be answered right then and there…. nope nope nope, definitely wouldn’t do that… except I did.

A few weeks and more than a few glasses of wine ago, I realized I was at the tipping point every performance athlete reaches: retire or stay in the game. And friends, when that realization sank in – really sank in – I was like a drowning woman fighting for air. There was no f**king way I was ready to retire, which left one thing. Stage a comeback. Oh sh*t.


“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect, and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quindlen


Creating a Circus Intensive

Know thyself. I knew that, if this was going to happen, I was going to need way more accountability than I had previously employed. It was time for A Circus Intensive. Lots of you expressed interest in how I did that outside of a dedicated program, so I figured I’d share my process with you in the hope that you’ll find it useful! As this journey of pain and triumph continues, I’ll keep you posted – I KNOW I’m not the only one who wants to get back in the arena, but is completely overwhelmed at the thought. Or maybe I’m just talking to myself. Who knows.

Step One – Set Some Lofty Goals

OK. What do you want to do? Here are some ideas that jumped out at me, but you do you.

  • Return to circus after a long hiatus (injury, pregnancy, life, etc).
  • Explore an aspect of circus you haven’t poked around in yet (a new apparatus, a different style of performance, injury prevention, etc.).
  • Get your act together – literally.

The list could go on forever. Whatever you decide, make sure it excites you, and scares you just a little bit.

Step Two – Set Your Parameters

  • How long do you want your intensive to be?
  • How much time and money can you realistically dedicate to this venture? I’m a big believer that good training is worth paying for – be really deliberate with your spending.

Don’t skip this step! Setting parameters allows you to jump into training with your whole self. If you set flimsy boundaries, you won’t have edges to push towards. I set my intensive for 3 months, with a none-ya-business budget. 😉

Step Three – Get Your Ass in Class

Pick your classes and make your schedule! For a true intensive, you’ll want to pack as much circus-y goodness into a designated amount of time as you can. Here we go!

  • Keeping your parameters in mind, choose your classes. You can choose to make one studio your “training home”, or select classes from a bunch of schools. I chose The Muse in NYC as my home base. It’s close-ish to my apartment, has a great list of classes, lots of open workout time available, a good atmosphere, and oodles of options to suit any financial situation. I’ve been there for about three weeks now, and I’m really loving it.
  • Supplement with online training (in appropriate disciplines). I chose a couple of supplemental programs – mainly in flexibility and hula hooping. I snagged two of Cirque Physio’s programs (more on Jen Crane next week – she is AMAZING), and a bundle from Deanne Love.

Step Four – Add Sprinkles

Now that you’ve got your goals and parameters set, classes picked out, and supplemental training snagged, you’re ready to add “sprinkles”. This is the stuff you add because it just sounds like so much fun! I added a roller dance class, and a few other frills to reward myself for the ridiculously hard work I’m engaging in. My roller skates came yesterday – I am going to be a fabulous Magical Disco Mermaid! You might choose costume making, stage makeup, tassel twirling, or whatever floats your boat. Ideally, it’s a little ridiculous, and utterly fabulous.

 

And there you have it! Your intensive is real! Intensives can be one day or one year – whatever fits your life and goals. If you’re feeling stuck or lackluster about your training, or you’re looking to do (what feels like) the impossible, an intensive may be just the kick in the bloomers you need.

Stay tuned for the next few weeks as I blog about this process – opening a can of Whoop-Ass on my ego, getting my PT on, splitting my pants in flexibility class, and more. What intensive are you going to set up for yourself? Tell me all about it in the comments below! Love and pull-ups, Laura

New Stuff Happening at NECCA!

If you’re in NYC, you should come train with me. 😉

If you’re in Vermont, or looking for a great Pro Track program, you should check out NECCA! NECCA, the New England Center for Circus Arts, is expanding, which is great news for the USA circus community. Have a look!

Professional Training Program

(from Serenity Forchion)

NECCA’s newly expanded Professional Training program – With the opening of our new building (coming in June, in a few short weeks) we will have more high flying aerials (swinging trapeze and cloud swing and flying trapeze indoors and higher ceilings for duo trapeze) as well as expanded ground training with a trampoline and tramp wall and fabulous handstand, contortion and partner acrobatics coaches. The opportunities of our 40’ ceilings and new performance and training space are exciting and a higher level of facility to our high level program.

With the expansion into the new building, we find we still have a few openings in the program and I’d love it if you could point this out to any student or friend of yours who is still wondering what to do with their training aspirations. Applications are online, and we still have a few spots open and are taking applications now. Click here for more info!

New Facilities

Building a fabulous new circus facility takes a lot of hard work, and, of course, a lot of moo-lah. By investing in circus spaces across the USA, we invest in our own personal circus dreams, as well as the future of our community. Can you donate the price of a latte this week? I’ll bet you can. Click here to fund your sparkly, spin-y, flippy circus opportunities.

Help! I’m Falling and I Can’t Stay Up!

A couple of weeks ago, a young gentleman – let’s call him Gavin in honor of my recent trip to Ireland – wrote to ask about grip, and what I call “noodling out” or “bottoming out”. You know when you’re trying to wrap your feet in a foot knot or for splits and suddenly you’re on the ground with Popeye forearms and no foot wraps? Well, there’s an app – er, a fix for that.

Check Your Form

The #1 cause of noodling out is a “half mast” arm position – neither fully bent, nor fully straight. Think about it – ever tried to do a pull-up and just hold the halfway position? IT’S F$*KING HARD. You have two choices for stronger arm positions:

  1. Beginners should generally start with an engaged straight arm position – shoulders screwed into the sockets, arms overhead.
  2. As soon as you can hold yourself in a bent-armed position on the floor, you can begin wrapping this way in the air. Remember how Superman would grab his shirt and rip it off to show his delicious rippling muscle-y chest? You’re going for a similar movement pattern: separate the fabrics just between your bubbies, and move your hands to the front of your shoulders. Glue your elbows to your waist, and lift the bubbies a bit as you bring them through (like I always say: when in doubt, bubbies out!).

Werk Your Silk Grip

Look! Here are some exercises (thank you, Miss Rachel Feinstein!!!!) to help you get to “Superman” position!

Or this, if Superman’s not your thing. Sorry, I couldn’t resist (not sorry at all).

via GIPHY

Love and pull-ups, Laura

“BUT I WAS TOLD NEVER TO POINT MY TOES!” Why the WHY Matters in Circus

“NEVER point your toes in a double ankle hang.” (false – depends on the wrap)
“ALWAYS immediately trash all rigging that has been dropped.” (false)
“NEVER question your instructor.” (absolutely absurd)
“ALWAYS bring your teacher wine and chocolate!” (ding ding ding! We have a winner!)

I teach an ankle hang that allows for pointed toes. If I had a dollar for every time I told a new student to point their toes going in, and heard, “But my teacher said NEVER to point in this hang!”, I’d be a rich woman indeed. I ask, “Why not?” (…..crickets……..) The student never has a real answer, they’re just fairly certain that they’ll die if they point their toes. Now, I’m all for erring on the side of caution, but the “why” matters in circus. It matters a lot.

I’ve been teaching for 17 years (do us both a favor and don’t do that math), and here’s one of the biggest differences between unseasoned instructors, and those of us who have been around (and around and around) the block: we know our theory. We know WHY you wrap to the front. We know WHY you shouldn’t point your toes here, but totally can here. We know WHY you’re flailing around like a demented bumble bee on your split wraps. And YOU can know why too!

Understanding the theory surrounding your apparatus or discipline allows you to “get it” from the inside out. Try to:

1. LISTEN. Start listening for the whys. I (mostly) guarantee your coach drops little nuggets of theory here and there – train yourself to listen for them.
2. WRITE IT DOWN – take notes. Take notes take notes take notes. You will progress faster, and you’ll find yourself becoming a little circus detective. Write.it.down.
3. ASK – ask questions! If you can’t see an obvious reason for something, ask a question. Not sure what’s holding you in the air? Question. Maybe see another way of doing it? Question.
4. QUESTION AUTHORITY (Trust me – I’m a teacher.) – As your understanding grows, you may suspect that your coach is teaching something a particular way because that’s the way they were taught. A good coach will JUMP on a better (or even different) method – be it getting into a move, communicating an idea, or reevaluating their theory. Respectfully engage in a bit of detective work, but don’t be a twerp about it. Phrases that can help include: “I’m having trouble understanding why we do xyz this way. Can you help me with this one?” Or “Are there other ways of getting into that? Could you also….” If you’re not a disruptive poo head about it, most coaches are happy to explore.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you make your teacher want to take out a hit on you by challenging them on everything that comes out of their mouths – it’s a fine line between eager & curious and confrontational & obnoxious. But take charge of your learning! Some folks have an absurd notion that learning is a one-way street from teacher to student (all you teachers just started a hurricane somewhere in the South Pacific with all that eye rolling you just did). True learning is anything but passive!!!! Pursue the “whys” and watch your training get deep like an ocean. Now, where’s my wine and chocolate? Anyone? Love and pullups, Laura

OMG – Your Back Knee is Killing My Eyeballs! Prettify Your Split!

 

Now, I know YOU never split with your back leg slightly bent. I’m not talking to you, nope, just talking to myself….. BUT, if I were talking to you, I would tell you this…..

That ugly back leg is all I see when I look at your split.

It doesn’t matter how low you go, it doesn’t matter how good your hair looks that day. All that matters is that the line of the back leg is broken, and so are my eyeballs.

Fix It Quick!

Everyone thinks lower is better when it comes to a split, but not when it comes at the expense of lines!

  • Lift your split up. You heard me. I would rather have you higher with good lines than with your ankles at your ear level and an ugly back leg. Lift.it.up.
  • Press your back leg straight. Straighter. It’s still not straight. Think about:
    • Lifting your back kneecap – feel it sliding up as you tighten your quads.
    • Lengthening the back of the knee.
    • Pretending you don’t have knees. Yes, I’m serious. This totally works for some students!
    • Feel as if someone is pulling your legs long (like taffy) in two different directions. You can also pretend your legs are light sabers or laser beams. Add sound effects if you wish.
    • Bring your split all the way up, tighten your knees, go back down, and have someone yell at you the second they see a bend. Extra points if they do it in German – hey, it works for me on wheel!

Go forth and SPLIT, people! 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.

 

Stop Looking Down – People Are Gonna Think You Dropped Money

Look out! Point at someone!

Stop it. Stop it right now. You’re doing it again. Quit it! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

You’re looking down. At your feet, at the floor, at your bits, at I-don’t-even-know-what. Girl, people are gonna think you dropped some money! Pay attention to where you’re looking, because the audience will look where you do.

This is an issue of technique, so it may take some practice if you’re used to doing the following:

  • Nodding your head when you climb. Look where you’re going! You don’t want to crunch your neck looking straight up at the ceiling, but your chest should be slightly lifted (boobies to the sky!), and your gaze directed up. If you’re nodding like a bobble head doll as you climb, remember – your feet don’t need you to watch them in order to climb.
  • Dropping your head in splits. This is PRIME looking down time! What are you looking at? Lift your gaze to the horizon! This lengthens the neck, and we don’t just get a view of the top of your head.
  • Looking at your bits. Why are you looking at your bits? Stop looking at your bits.

Don’t Look Down, a Truly Brilliant Poem by Laura Witwer

I am not quite sure where to look,

I did not learn this from a book.

I do not need to see my feet

To know that they’re attached to me.

I will not look down when I climb,

I will not look down all the time!

I will not look down in a splits,

I will not look down at my bits.

I will not look down at the floor,

I will not look down anymore!

 

Seriously, I missed my calling. Love and pull-ups, Laura
 

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.

 

The Circus Revolution: Make Resolutions That Will Actually Stick!

happy-new-yearThose of you who have known and trained with me for years know that, after a series of small but annoying injuries, I pretty much stopped training. Everything. No silks, no wheel, no workouts, nothing. Cue inertia. The longer I went without training, the harder everything became. The harder everything became, the less I wanted to train…. Cue depression. Cue weight gain. Cue muscle loss. Cue Ben & Jerry’s (shut up, feelings!). Oh, there was lots of Ben & Jerry’s.

My wake-up call came when, at a recent gig, I audibly grunted when inverting at the end of my act. Thank God the music was loud, ya’ll, because it was NOT ladylike or glamorous. For the first time, my “easy version” of my act was hard. Not just hard – hard. Now, I have two choices: roll over and say die, or fight the good fight (guess which one I’m choosing?). The road is long and Game of Thrones-y, and I see tears and wailing in my near future, but I’m not ready to retire, so there we are!

Getting Back in the Game, or Starting a New Thing

It’s easy to set a goal or make a resolution, right? We go in with the bright shiny intensity of a thousand suns, and YES! I’m going to do it this time! This is so great! Until it starts to suck. And then you miss a day. Then two. Then it’s February and you’re no longer pursuing that resolution because BEN & JERRY’S. Shut UP, feelings!

The good news is that we can sidestep the February Fall-Out, but it means being more realistic than we might want to be (le sigh). It’s a lot like a diet – pick one that you can’t maintain day after day for a year and you’ll be snarfing a pint of Cherry Garcia in two weeks. It’s the same with resolutions. So, consider:

  • Set real goals, not fantasy ones. I have a vision of myself in my head as some yogic goddess, all glistening muscles and flat tummy and beatific zen glow. Then, I look in the mirror while I’m heaving and sweating through my BUTI yoga torture session and want to cry when I see how far I am from that picture in my head. So, I’ve started focusing on the REAL goal – to feel strong, sexy, and flexible again. Yeeeeeeeees. See the difference? One lights my fire, the other douses it with tears. Bring on the fuego, por favor.
  • Focus on process too, not just the end result. It’s great to have a mental picture of what you want to use as a yardstick (unless you’re beating yourself with it), but that end point isn’t as fixed as you might imagine. Think of training as a spectrum or continuum – you’ll ALWAYS be somewhere between the two poles. While it’s great to know where you’re going, you also have to be where you are. Deep like an ocean, people.
  • Comparison is a 4 Letter Word. OK, it’s a 10 letter word, but you know what I mean. I compete with the performance athlete I was 10 years ago; you might compete with a past self, or your best friend, or that girl with the pointy toes that would make Baryshnikov’s heart go pitty-pat. Bring it back to you, bring it back to now. You have the opportunity to manifest something that is utterly unique to you – and only you – right now. If comparing and competing gets you revved up in a positive way, use it! Otherwise, ain’t nobody got time for that.
  • Manage Your Expectations. You are not going to have a straight legged inversion by Friday. Unless you are, in which case I’m not talking to you. Make sure you’re not setting yourself up for major frustration by setting goals that no normal human could reach. This is super tied up with….
  • Don’t set a training timeline. If you were in charge of how fast you learn, how quickly you put on muscles, how fast you can make those muscles stretch, well, wouldn’t YOU be perfect! But, you’re not. It’s going to take the time it’s going to take, and you’ll be a hot mess if you set a timeline for something you only have so much control over. Instead of focusing on result here, bring it back to process: “I’m going to silks class twice a week, and stretching for 15 minutes 5 nights a week.” This is something you can actually control!
  • Trust the Process. The speed of progress may not be something you can directly control, but you CAN trust the process. If you show up, if you put in the work, progress will happen. This is how training works. If you are having trouble seeing or believing that you’re moving forward, keep a training journal – it’s very enlightening.
  • Healthy Discipline vs Letting Yourself Off the Hook or Beating Yourself to a Pulp. Being awesome, dynamic, interesting people, it’s not surprising that we also will spend a great deal of time either letting ourselves completely off the hook or senselessly beating our heads against the wall because we’re “not working hard enough”. It can be hard to find that middle ground, and it takes constant curating to make sure you stay there. Your coach can be a huge help here! Aim for a healthy discipline – you don’t get points for crying after every class.

Revolutionary Resolution Worksheet

I am working on (ex: straight legged inversions):

I will do (ex: three inversions at the end of class when I’m really tired):

My first small milestone is (ex: keeping my legs straight on the way down):

Record your results each time you train. Celebrate every small milestone, and throw a freaking party when you reach your big goal. DO NOT sweep your success under the rug.

 

Love and pullups (and belated HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!), Laura

Hey! If you’re in NYC, consider jump starting your New Years Resolution with a “Resolution Pack”! Check it out!

 

Watch a SassyPants Beginner Demo Class with Steve from Refinery29!

Hello Dear Danglers! This past week, I had the enormous pleasure of putting Steve Doss from Refinery29 through his paces in this short class demo. If you’re curious about what it all looks like, take a peek! 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.

 

HELP ESPANA STREB TRAPEZE GET A BRAND NEW AIRBAG!!!!!

Hello Dear Danglers! As many of you know, the Streb Lab for Action Mechanics (SLAM) is one of my aerial homes. They’re raising money for a new airbag, and here’s Bobby Hedglin to tell you all about it!

 

Dear Friends,

The STREB Lab for Action Mechanics opened its garage door more than 10 years ago and, shortly thereafter, the España-STREB Trapeze Academy (ESTA) was established. Over that time, we’re proud to have built a program that provides a space for exploration, development, and risk and you’ve been an important part of it all.

As a member of the Aerial community, I am writing to you to ask your support.

We’ve had our current airbag-style landing system for about 6 years now. That 800 pounds of red, yellow, blue, and black tarp has served us well, but it’s time to upgrade our equipment. After a lot of research and planning, we’ve decided on a unique system developed by Freddy Osler, a manufacturer in New Zealand. With input from Noe España of the famed Flying Españas, we have co-designed a landing system with Osler that will revolutionize the possibilities on our rig. This innovative design cradles the body, no matter how you hit the mat—head dives, belly smacks, cannon balls. Plus, the new mat comes with new motors that are much quieter than our current blowers, so you’ll be able to hear the music better, and, of course, your instructors.

In order to raise the $16,000 needed to bring this new state-of-the-art system to SLAM, we are launching a GOFUNDME campaign. We want to start off strong and are turning to you for leadership support. A contribution of ANY amount will make you a Flying Angel and will go a long way in helping us reach our goal.

Please take a look at our video!
https://www.gofundme.com/a-new-airbag-for-espana-streb
Thank you and see you in the air! And hey, “Why walk when you can fly”?

All best,

Bobby Hedglin Taylor
Director –The España-STREB Trapeze Academy