True Story: I’m An Aerialist

This is one of many True Story interviews, in which we talk to people who have done interesting/amazing/challenging things. This is the story of Sarah and her work with silks and the flying trapeze! 

 

Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m Sarah. I’m
28-years-old living just outside of Detroit with my spazzy rat terrier,
Slayer. I split my time between working as a circus performer and as a web designer.
I recently quit my full-time corporate design job to pursue my two
passions on my own terms. When not in the air or behind my computer I
can be found brunching at one of the bajillion amazing restaurants in
Detroit, parked on my deck in the sun with a book, or blogging my little heart out about all things nerd.When did you start doing aerial work? How did you get into it?
I
started taking aerial silks and static trapeze classes in January of
2010 at a circus school in Detroit. A blog friend had seen their troupe
perform and since I was looking for a dance or yoga class to take, she
suggested we try this crazy circus class instead.

During
the first class I could climb the silks pretty easily, but due to my
complete lack of upper body strength, I could not get on the trapeze on
my own at all. In fact, it took me well into my second session to be
able to do so. The thing I remember most about my first class was waking
up the next morning and barely being able to dress myself – my arms and
shoulders were so sore. But, despite the sore muscles and myriad of
bruises, the challenge of learning new tricks and pushing my mental and
physical boundaries kept me coming back.

How long had you been doing it when you started performing professionally?
We booked our first paid show in February 2011 – so I had been training for just over a year. My trapeze partner, Irina, and I performed a duo routine (two people on one trapeze) at a student showcase a few months before. Her boyfriend was kind enough to pass the video along to an event promoter who booked us to perform at an art festival five nights in a row. A couple months later we booked a second gig and added Cheryl to the group, officially becoming The Weird Sisters Circus.Can you tell us about the logistics surrounding your performances?
We book shows a few different ways. We’re very connected to the local circus community, so when our friends put on elaborate shows they hire us to perform. We recently performed as the alien queen triumvirate in a three-night, B-movie, alien invasion production. We’re also contacted through our website and Facebook by event planners and we work with a circus production company that books us mainly for corporate events.

We have a number of set routines: duo trapeze, duo lyra, triple lyra,
triple hammock and chandelyra. We also have solo routines on each
apparatus. We generally work from these base routines, adding in a new
move or two and adjusting things to go with whatever music we’ll be
performing to. If the client wants ambient entertainment, we freestyle
to whatever music they might be playing, which has ranged from
repetitive, cheesy circus music/no music at all, to full-on club music.

Have you ever hurt yourself on the silks? Do you ever get nervous?
I’ve never had a bad injury, but training and performing generally leaves one with a fair amount of fabric/rope burn (I have a couple scars on my leg), bruises (the backs of my knees almost always have a few purple spots and my shins currently are a lovely shade of green) and sore hands/back/shoulders.

When I started taking classes, climbing six feet in the air onto the “high” trapeze was terrifying. It took me months to stand up without shaking and sweating. Now I can scale the silks 30 feet in the air without thinking about it. I’m always aware that what I’m doing is dangerous, but my body knows where it’s going and I completely trust it. (But don’t ask me to climb a ladder that high – still terrifying!)

Tell us about your favorite performance to date!

This is the most difficult question! There hasn’t been one show we’ve be involved in that I haven’t loved. Our first really important show was a mammoth Halloween event called Theatre Bizarre. They took over an entire gothic building in downtown Detroit and filled it with bands/burlesque/fire performers/suspension/carnival rides. Room after room of scary circus fun and every single person was decked out in the most elaborate costumes. We created a 15 minute production which included a synchronized blindfolded silks routine performed to a song a friend write entirely for our show. It was one of the most stressful and rewarding things I’ve ever done!

How do the people in your life feel about your aerial work?
The general response to my leaving my corporate job (aka a secure paycheck and health insurance) and literally running away with the circus is that I am crazy, brave or inspiring. The people closest to me are aware that I have a strong drive to go after the things I want and am very self-motivated, so they really support me. Of course my parents are slightly worried that something will happen and I’ll get injured or lose my house, but they’ve never deterred me from my path.

What advice would you give to others looks to try aerial work?
I’ve been surprised by the number of people who write to me that they’ve started taking aerial classes as well, so there are definitely lots of places all over the place to take classes. Some aerial yoga classes are just that, yoga practiced on an aerial hammock, so if you want to learn tricks, make sure to ask if that’s what they teach.

And then, get a pull-up bar! Upper body strength is the most important thing to build when learning aerial. You can definitely gain strength in class like I did, but going in with a little bit of muscle will definitely help! Core exercises are great for being able to flip yourself upside down and sitting in stretches for 5-10 minutes at a time will build flexibility.

Thanks so much for sharing, Sarah!  Have any of you tried aerial work?  Would you?

7 Comments

Ailsa

Sarah's one of my favourite bloggers! I recently took up pole dancing and ended up a little inspired by Sarah's dedication to getting stronger and more flexible during the course of her aerialist career- there's a lot of similarities between the two sports.

Reply
Chelle Lynn

You are not kidding about the upper body strength! I went to a couple months of aerial classes, but my arm/back strength was so lacking that I took another couple months off to strength condition so that I could move on to a more advanced class.

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Nikkiana

I've considered trying to take some aerial classes, I'm a burlesque dancer (though I've been out of the scene for a bit) and I feel like aerial could be a pretty complementary skill but the expense is what's largely holding me back.

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Elise Duran

I'm an aerialist/variety performer based in Baton Rouge and can definitely sympathize with the burns :)I cut the toes off long socks for an extra layer of protection (the heel of the sock over your kneecap, fits perfect!) Love your gold costumes!
-Elise
http://www.eliseduran.com

Reply
Udoka

I love this so much. I'm a pole aerialist, but would like to get into silks because people will hire you for a variety of shows

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