Category Archives: Uncategorized

“Hey – I Can Do That!” STOP! You’re Not as Awesome as You Think… Self Efficacy in Circus

… or, maybe you are. But one of the keys to mastering any apparatus? Having an accurate estimation of your abilities. Without that, you may think you’re more of a badass than you actually are, OR you may be way too hard on yourself without reason. Knowing “where you are” allows you to direct your training by:

  • understanding whether you’re ready to attempt moves or train by yourself
  • gaining a sense of which tricks you’re ready to tackle
  • playing to your strengths (strong shoulders, flexy back, etc.)

 The Process of Learning Circus

Learning a single move goes something like this:

“I’m excited to learn this! I don’t know what the f*ck I’m doing yet (and OOOWWWW!!!!), but this is cool!

“OK – it’s not pretty, but I’m getting through it without dying! I still need a spot or eyes on me though.”

“I can do this on my own! I’m comfortable with how this goes, but my knees/feet/wrists, etc are ugly. Needs cleaning.”

“I don’t hate this on video! My lines are clean, and I’m super comfy.”

“This feels like part of me. I can trouble shoot it easily, and I want to play. Time to dance it and make it my own!”


Learning an apparatus follows a really similar arc.

“This is amazing! I am so bad! But I love it, so I don’t care.”

“Look at meeeeeeee! I can do stuff! I still suck, but I’m seeing some progress!”

“Ugh. This is hard. I am seeing no progress. I should be BETTER than this by now! I must be the worst at this. Ever.”

“HEY!!!! I GOT IT I GOT IT! That thing that I’ve been working on for 25 weeks! I got it! Maybe I don’t suck?”

“Seeing some progress! I’m not the best, but I’m surely not the worst!”

“OK! I’m working comfortably. I have a lot of vocab under my belt, my instructor doesn’t have to tell me to straighten my arm/leg/etc.”

“I’m pretty good at this! Time to create an act.”


Self Efficacy in Circus

Seems pretty straight forward, right? BUT, what happens when you get hung up in an “I suck” loop? Or, you go right from “I pointed my toes today in class!” to “I’m a pre-professional student!” Both mental states suggest that you may have an inaccurate understanding of where you fall in the learning arc. That inaccurate understanding can lead to injuries, feelings of intense defeat, and/or wildly inefficient training.

The best way to keep yourself “real”? Check in with your (professional) coaches, and talk to them about the training arc in your discipline. Video yourself. Watch the best performers you can on YouTube. Ask for feedback. Be aware of how you talk to yourself. Research your industry. Train train train. And put on your listening ears.

Here’s a fantastic article by the NY Times about how self efficacy affects training in regards to injury (you have to make an acct, but it’s quick, easy, free, and WORTH IT).

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.


Break a Bad Aerial Habit in 20 Minutes – BAM!

toothpicMany moons ago, I had the pleasure of working with the American Mime Theater here in NYC. Among the very valuable bits and pieces I picked up was a gem I’ve recently found myself coming back to: the use of “devices” to facilitate correct form. A device, in this sense, is something you employ that prevents you from continuing a bad habit and forces you into a correct one. Seem harsh? Perhaps. But, indulge me for a moment, won’t you?

Hard Core Device Use

Paul Curtis, the late director of American Mime, shared a story with us. There was a company member who could not – COULD NOT – keep his stomach tucked in. He fought with it for over two years with no success (don’t we all know how that feels). One day, he came to class with a perfectly tucked tummy. “Holy sh*t!” said Paul. “How did THAT happen?!” The gentleman lifted his shirt to reveal a series of tiny cuts and scratches across his stomach. He had created a belt of glass over the weekend, and boom – tummy tuck.

My Bendy Arm

Now, before you all go out and say, “Miss Laura told me to make a glass belt and strap razor blades to my knees and beat myself with a hammer!” I did not. The above is an example (albeit extreme) of the power of corrective tools. Piano teachers have taped popsicle sticks to students to correct droopy wrists since the dawn of time. My (okay, sadistic) ballet mistress in college would strap yardsticks to legs to combat soft knees (she would also hold lighters under our butts if we stuck them out, but I think fire is a bridge too far, don’t you?). This ain’t new. But, you may never have thought to try it with your circus training!

I had completely forgotten about the power of devices until recently. Completely fed up with an arm that would not stop bending no matter how hard I tried to keep it straight, I taped a toothpick to the inside of my elbow, poised to impale me if I bent my arm. It actually wasn’t so bad – just enough of a prick to remind me in that second to straighten my arm. And you know what? In 20 minutes, I had a straight arm. BAM.

Your Turn!

What’s your habit? Bent knees? Sickled feet? Floppy core? How long are you willing to do battle? If you’re not gaining any ground, consider employing a device. Get creative! Think of what needs fixing, and what might help force the correction. Some examples:

  • Legs need to stay together – put a penny or a credit card between your knees and keep it there
  • Straight leg or arm – tape a popsicle stick in the joint
  • Jumping off the floor to start your climbs – climb with a book balanced on your head

However you do it, don’t destroy yourself. Get creative, stay safe, and vanquish those habits once and for all! 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.


Aerial Expo this Summer!!!

The Aerial Arts and Fitness Association Expo will be held this year in the beautiful central city of Des Moines, Iowa. Aerialists from all over are coming for t
hree days and two nights of competitions, performances, workshops, shopping, networking, learning, and FUN! In between it all, hang out with everyone during the open aerial gym time. Come join the celebration of all things aerial!



July 25-27

Misfit Cabaret- Opening Night of the Expo

Central Iowa’s latest production focusing on showcasing quality variety entertainment, promoting local artists, and creating performance opportunities.

Two Different Showcases

The Aerial Expo showcases give aerialist opportunities to perform at the Aerial Expo without competing. This also give attendees and the community a chance to see a variety of artists perform who may not qualify for the amateur competition.


This is not a competition. There will be not be trophies, ranking, or scores either for showcase performers. Judges may be present as guests to enjoy and watch the show, but there will be no score keeping or evaluations.

Enjoy a spectacular show! Artists from all over the country will showcase their aerial skills. Special performances by Expo instructors. 



Accepting registration for the amateur aerial competition now!

Think you are not ready to compete? This is an amateur competition! You will be surrounded by friends and supporters and will receive feedback from the industry’s top aerial professionals! Do something for yourself! Take the leap and register today!

BONUS: All competitors receive a weekend pass and access to everything the expo has to offer!


After Party Saturday Night

Join after the competition us as we celebrate all the hard work that the 2014 Expo competitors put in, as well as the showcase performers, workshops leaders, and expo attendees.


Aerial Lounge / Open Aerial Jam

A place to hang out (pun intended) with other event goers, network, and play!



Aerial Silks, Aerial Hammock, Lyra, Corde Lisse, Doubles, Mini Aerial Cube, Aerial Straps, Kids Aerial, Intro to Aerial, and MORE!


Not to mention more non-aerial workshops like pole dancing, breakdancing, burlesque, acro-yoga, just to name a few.


Master Workshop Leaders and Judges: Suwasit, Caty Mae, Rachel Bowman, and Brett Womack

Face Palm! When Performance Goes Horribly Wrong

Ghetto StrapsStory time! So, this past week, I saw an old flame for the first time in about 12 years. Now, I’m a blissfully happy married lady, but you know how this works. No matter how much of a douche he was, no matter how happy you are now, you REALLY want to look amazing when you see him. With this in mind, I booked myself an afternoon at the salon to get my color done (it’s quite the ordeal). When the poor stylist took the foils out of my hair the first time, my streak was half yellow, half lilac. I sh*t you not. So, the guy puts Extra Strong Heavy Duty Super Terrifying Bleach on my hair to try again (by this time, I was just hoping that my hair would actually stay attached to my head). We rinsed again, and success! Glorious color! But now, it was too late to blow my hair out to the sleek, sophisticated do I’d envisioned.


 “I know!” said my stylist. “I’ll make it all Burnadette Peters fabulous! The higher the hair, the closer to Jesus!”


He proceeded to tease and spray my hair until it stood a full four inches off my head. Instead of cool and collected, I looked like the Wild Woman of Borneo. To top it off, there was a gale-force wind outside. By the time I saw my old dalliance, I looked like a homeless woman who had been though a hurricane. Oh – it was so bad. Instead of the, “Damn! I can’t believe I let that get away!” I had hoped to inspire, I’m fairly certain he thought, “Damn! Dodged THAT bullet!” Awesomeness fail.


Aside from a bruised ego, I was fine, of course. But what on earth does this have to do with anything aerial, you’re asking? Well, I’m a-tellin’ ya. Have you ever had a performance go very, very wrong? Messed up your routine? Got tied in a knot? Or (worst of all), gone Big Boom like our friend below? When you feel completely humiliated, it’s HARD on the ego. Grab some cawfee and a prune danish. Let’s tawk.


When You Just Want to Die

Performances are funny things. Rehearsal is meant to prepare you for every eventuality, but when you’re confronted with an audience, nerves, lights, loud music, and a host of other things you didn’t have to contend with beforehand, stuff can get weird. Fast. When you finish a performance feeling more mortified than marvelous, keep the following in mind:
  1. It’s almost never as bad as you think. The audience may have had a COMPLETELY different view of your act than you did! Find a sounding board you trust, kvetch a bit, and let them console you. Very therapeutic as long as it doesn’t become a habit!
  2.  If it was, in fact, as bad as you think, try to put it in perspective. Other than your ego, is anything else in shambles? Unless there was a Cirque du Soleil scout in the audience, chances are that this one performance won’t have any major repercussions in the grand scheme of things.
  3. If you clearly and meaningfully injure yourself (intense pain, a blow to the head, etc), stop immediately and, as gracefully as possible, exit the stage. It’s tempting to try to keep going, but adrenaline could be masking more injury than you think. Really be conservative on this one. If you destroy your body, where are you going to live?


Prepare the Right Way

I’m big on troubleshooting and preventing problems before shows. Not everything can be anticipated, but here are some good places to start.
  1. Rehearse your ass off. If you’re a seasoned professional, you can push your limits a bit. But for the student or green performer, you’ll want to make sure you can easily complete your act three times in one hour. Can’t do it? Make the piece shorter or put in more resting moves.
  2. Make sure you’re totally 100% comfortable with the elements of your piece. Performance is not the time to bust out the stuff you’re struggling with or just learned yesterday!!!! This cannot be overstated. Know what you’re doing onstage.  
  3. If you’re doing ambient work (nightclubs, for example), don’t just wing it. Prior to the event, string together lots of sequences that are second nature for you. Not only does this keep you safer, but it keeps your work dynamic so you don’t keep repeating the same four moves ad nauseum.
  4. Check your lighting. Make sure you have enough light to consistently see your apparatus (and the floor if you’re doing fabrics or a flying apparatus, especially if it’s a dark floor). You also want to make sure you’re not being blinded or disoriented by bright lighting. Talk to the LD (lighting designer) about your needs. For us, we request a basic wash on the apparatus (and floor if we need it), about 70% brightness for stage shows, and no strobes, fast-spinning gobos, or unexpected bally-hoos with the lights. Beyond that, they can have fun!
  5. Make sure the sound person is really clear on when to start your music. 
  6.  If there’s time, do a quick sequence on your apparatus in the space. Just a little “check in” can make a big difference in how comfortable you feel.
  7. Do a good warm up and make sure you’re hydrated and fueled! Eat a light meal about 90 minutes before the show, and make sure you’ve been sipping water regularly. A warm-up should elevate your body temperature, take your muscles and joints through their anticipated range of motion, and get you feeling strong and ready.



Enjoy the Show! Do a good prep, do your best onstage. If the piece goes Very Wrong, take heart: we’ve ALL had awful shows. Truly! Take a good look at what happened, and learn from your experience. Then, go have Dance-on-the-Table-Margarita Night with your best friends, and make them all tell you repeatedly how awesome you are. Because you are awesome. 🙂 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.


Circus Peeps – Help a Researcher Out!

Hello Dear Danglers! Got this in my in-box today. If you have 4 minutes, help a sistah out! Interesting study on how immersed you get in your work when you train.  🙂

Hello! I’m Marta Reixach, student from the University of Girona (Catalonia, Spain) and I’m fascinated with circus performance. Now, I’m doing a research work of Accounting and Finance Degree, about the flow state related to artists’ work accomplishment.

For this reason I need your collaboration by answering an anonymous little short interview (about 4 minutes).

Aerial Arts Festival in Denver! May 30 & 31

Aerial Arts Festival


Know what’s awesome? AERIAL ARTS FESTIVALS!!! Workshops, competitions, and more – oh my!
WHEN: Shows on Friday, May 30th and Saturday, May 31st 2014 at 7:00 pm


Workshops for the beginning and advanced aerialist from May 28th-June 1st, 2014

There will be a Pre-show Fun Fair  both nights. Food, Jugglers, Clowns, StiltWalkers, & More!
6pm to 7pm May 30 and May 31


Eugenia Rawls Courtyard Theater at the Kenneth King Academic and Performing Arts
Center; 855 Lawrence Way; Denver, CO 80204 – Auraria Campus

The Aerial Acrobatic Arts Festival brings amazing aerialists to Denver for two
competition shows Friday, May 30th and Saturday, May 31st. Since 2011 The Aerial
Acrobatic Arts Festival has brought over 60 spectacular circus artists to Denver. Former
participants have gone on to careers with Cirque du Soleil.

Audiences will be thrilled by daring feats of grace, strength, and flexibility on trapeze, straps, rope, hoop and fabric. Finalists are chosen in each discipline at the Friday May 30th semi-final show. Finalists compete Saturday, May 31st for the awards of Best Technical, Best Artistic, Audience Choice, and Best Overall Performance. Aspiring aerialists will have the chance to participate in workshops May 28th-June 1st to help refine their technical, artistic, and performance skills.

Produced by Lynn Coleman, former Denver Public Schools Board of Education member and second-generation Denver circus family. Artistic Director, Marshall Garfield, former head coach for Cirque du Soleil. General Director, Tatanya Hamermesh, local aerialist, third-generation Denver circus family, and cancer survivor.

Tickets go on sale April 12 – don’t miss out! Shows May 30 & 31, 2014.

For more information, to become a sponsor, or see videos from previous years, please visit the web site:


Pssssst! Are You Making Your Classmates Insane? It’s Etiquette Time!

Bee Tootsie Roll

Miss Bridget is ALWAYS a delight to take class with!

Do you make your fellow students gently insane? Are you the one your classmates change days to avoid? You might be… Time to have another chat about classroom etiquette!

DISCLAIMER: I am one of these students (guess which one!). I know from whence I speak. We can do better! 😉

The Apparatus Hog

This dear student gets SO EXCITED about working on her apparatus, she forgets to come down when her turn is over! The seconds tick by as she tries variation after variation, oblivious to others waiting their turn.

What you should know: Your classmates are thrilled that you’re having fun, but they paid their moolah too and want some air time! Your extra noodling can read as greedy, selfish, or show-off-y. Make an extra effort to make sure you’re not hoggin’ that apparatus – learn to share!

The “I Suck” Student

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar. “UGH! My splits SUCK!” (while dangling in a 12 inch over-splits). Mmmmmm-hmmmmm. Nothing will make your classmates want to slap you more than basically insulting them (pssst! many of your fellow students would kill to have your splits).

What you should know: Look – I know that you’re not trying to dis anyone! You expect a lot from yourself, and where others see a triumph, you see room for improvement. BUT, do be sensitive to the people around you. Some of them have been busting their asses for YEARS in hopes of getting to where you are. So, think before you speak, or you might get a knuckle sandwich.

The Monopolizer

Your teacher (presumably) has one mouth, two ears, two hands. They also have a limit to how many people they can focus on/spot/verbally cue/rescue from knots/correct/cheer on/answer questions from at any given moment. Do you constantly demand your teacher’s undivided attention when they should be focusing on the group as a whole? When other students are working, do you ask questions unrelated to what’s happening in the air – again pulling your teacher’s focus?

What you should know: It’s a group class. If you want your teacher’s full attention all the time, book a private. I know it’s because you’re really HUNGRY for the work – and that’s a good thing! But, just as you have to share your apparatus, you have to share your teacher. Sorry.

The Starlet

The starlet wants everything documented for posterity (or at least Facebook). Every time he or she jumps up, someone gets asked to video. I have to admit – this is a pet peeve of mine!

What you should know: your classmates are your classmates, not your personal videographers. They come to class to learn! While the occasional request is understandable, try not to make it something that happens more than once every few classes. Video can be a fantastic tool to move your forward! Invest in a small tripod that fits your phone or device, and video to your heart’s content!

Hip Key EditThe Drama Queen

OH MY – I wonder who this could be? The drama queen is awash in big EVERYTHING. Big goals, big feelings, big meltdowns…. Oh. My. It can make for an (ahem) interesting (but not at all boring!) class.

What you should know: Take it down a thousand. It’s circus, not open heart surgery! When you feel yourself, well, feeling something big, put yourself in time out. Excuse yourself, go to the loo, count to 10. Or 1000, whatever it takes. Seriously – whatever it takes, because energy in a class is contagious.


If you see yourself in any of the behaviors above, take heart. It’s just a habit! And habits can change. I’ll bet you didn’t even know that it was annoying! Well, now you do. And knowing is half the battle. Love and pull-ups, Laura

Click here for a few more thoughts on aerial etiquette!



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.


One Coach or Four? The Ups and Downs of Circus Monogamy: Part 2

German Wheel Wishbone

I call this move “Wishbone”!

Hello again, Dear Danglers! If you missed Part 1 of this post, click here. I’m asked all the time – “Miss Laura, is it better to train with one coach exclusively, or play the field a bit? Is it OK to cheat on my teacher?” Yesterday, I waxed poetic about my One and Only, Chris Delgado. But today, I need to confess… I have another man on the side. And he’s amazing, and I’m not giving him up. And here’s why.


My (Wheel) Guy On the Side – Wolfgang Bientzle

I’ve only had the pleasure of working with Wolfgang a few times in Chicago, but every minute spent learning from him is pure gold. Aside from his unparalleled mastery of the apparatus, he is an incredible coach (I learn as much about teaching as I do about wheel)! I get a completely fresh perspective – about wheel, about myself as a student, about myself as a performer. And THAT, friends, is the beauty of mixing it up!

With a new coach, you might get:

  • A fresh perspective. Got a move that’s making you tear your hair out? A bad habit that needs hammering? An aspect of the work that’s got you stumped? A session with another coach can break old patterns, teach new technique, or shine light on something that needs your attention. An occasional variation in routine or thought is essential for well-rounded training, and a session with another coach is a great way to get it.
  • A new take on yourself as a performer or student. There are two things in particular that I love about Wolfgang. First, there is NO DOUBT who the teacher is, and who the student is. This boundary allows me to relax, and just be a student. The other is that, when I work with him, I feel like there is NOTHING I can’t do or eventually learn – he makes me feel so damned capable! I am clearly a performer (as opposed to a competitive wheeler), so he encourages me to bring in more aspects I’m familiar with (aerial!), and downplays the rigid 1-2-3 progressions of competition. Another teacher will see you differently, and may encourage you to see yourself in a completely different light! Shifts in perspective are HUGE.
  • Different vocabulary. All coaches have their favorite moves & things they focus on. It’s fantastic to collect a few new tricks here and there to keep things spicy!
  • A renewed hunger for the work. This is my favorite! It’s easy for things to get stale. That new perspective, technique, and a couple of shiny moves translates into energy and rejuvenation!

Some Things to Keep in Mind

  • Don’t get freaked out if the technique doesn’t work for you (… Laura….). 😉 Give it your best shot in the time you’re there. Remember – you can take it or leave it when you get back to your regular teacher!
  • It won’t always be a love match. Sometimes, a new student comes in and it’s all rainbows, glitter, and unicorns. Sometimes, it’s crickets….. That’s chemistry, and it can’t be faked! Get what you can from the session, play nice, and you never have to do that again.
  • Stay open! I know – going out of your comfort zone is weird. Trusting a new coach is weird. Being in a different space with different people is weird. All true things! BUT – there are lots of ways to pluck a chicken. If you have your head up your ass the whole time, you’re going to miss out on some potentially game-changing stuff.
  • Don’t jump from teacher to teacher forever. It’s been my experience that students who bounce around aimlessly as a matter of habit progress more slowly (and with le poo technique), which is FINE, if you want to progress slowly with le poo technique. If you are the exception to this rule, I’m happy for you. 😉


So you see, the answer is: BOTH! Shop around until you find a coach with whom you have good rapport, and who clearly knows their stuff. Make this person your home base, and make sure to take workshops from different teachers passing through town, or just pop into another class here and there. Trust me – your “home base” won’t mind (and if they do, that’s a red flag – make sure you find out why. Anything other than a safety concern is no bueno). You don’t HAVE to train with more than one pro, but it’s certainly not a bad thing. 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.