How do you know if an aerial studio is safe and respectable?

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Thrive blog

How do you know the aerial studio you are interested in training in is legit?

Ask questions!

Rigging this is an important question!

Who does the rigging? How often is it inspected? Where are the rigging components (hardware like carabiners, swivels etc + aerial equipment like lyras) from?

Was an engineer involved? What are your working load limits?

If the studio you’re considering does not know or have answers to any of these questions, it is reason for concern. Every studio should have an aerial rigger involved in their process somewhere. An “aerial rigger” or “rigger with aerial rigging knowledge,” as there is no certification for aerial/acrobatic/stunt rigging, is someone who is certified in theater/electric/arena rigging AND has interned or studied with a circus rigger. An arena rigger who puts together trusses all day might be a certified rigger, but won’t have knowledge about suspending a human.

Most small studios won’t have an in-house rigger, but should still have a relationship with one and have consulted them at some point. At my studio Thrive, we bring a rigger in at least once a year to do a detailed inspection. I continue with periodic inspections throughout the year and keep rigging logs to ensure equipment meets safety standards. The general consensus is that rigging components should be US made and/or be equipment with a good track record and lots of info/stats about their gear. 

 

Places like amazon should NOT be a supplier because they cannot guarantee the source of the item. There are many US based suppliers of equipment- many provide rigging for rock climbing and industrial rigging. Beware of the red flags - no engineer, “my cousin is a contractor and installed it all. He says it’s fine” “Fine” isn’t enough when safety is involved!

But wait - rigging is just the beginning!

When it comes to coaching, you must understand that there is NO aerial teaching certification. If your potential studio states they’re teachers are certified, this could be a red flag. They may be mis-using the word “certification” and you might need to do some further research. Having completed teacher trainings can show a commitment to learning the craft of coaching. As there is no overseeing body regulating aerial teacher training, it can get very tricky in discerning how knowledgeable your coach is. Have they been training for 5 years or more? Did they take class in-person or only self study? Look for aerial coaches who have been in circus for an extended period of time. They are often connected to the long lineage of circus performers, teachers and thinkers. Ask about your studio’s curriculum.  Does it include injury prevention? Skill progressions, bio-mechanics? Coaches have varying philosophies and approaches to spotting- some believing that they should not have to spot very much and will work on progressions until the student can accomplish the skill alone; while others will spot more heavily until the skill is achieved. Regardless, the coach should understand how to keep you (head and neck being the priority) and themselves safe.

Does your studio use mats? A yoga mat is not sufficient unless you are doing yoga. Some professionals perform without a mat, but students should not. Sometimes things don’t go as expected and a hard floor isn’t a great surprise. Crash mats, or mats at least 6’ thick should be used under all equipment.


I am not a rigger, nor do I carry any certifications in aerial safety. These are suggestions about how to frame your own thoughts so that you can ask the right questions and make your own decisions and keep yourself safe.

Thanks so much to Becca DeAngelis for providing input! 



12 loves of Circus

1/6/2024

The 12 loves of circus.

Hello Circus friends! I wanted to share with you some reflections about my 20+ years in circus 

 

In my first days of circus, circus gave me freedom. I was drawn to circus for its wildness and the fiercely free lifestyle it offered. These were days of traveling through Central America, making jewelry and practicing circus while waiting for sales. We met travelers from around the world, practiced together sharing skills, making music and eventually performing. The nomadic life of street performing kept us traveling to new, inspiring places,, living in the sun and carrying a heavy backpack. Today, circus still compliments a healthy, fiercely independent and dynamic lifestyle that I cherish.

 

The next layer of my love, driving my 23-year journey in circus, resides in its profound ability to foster a deep connection with oneself while pursuing strength and equilibrium. Initially, my quest for greater physical wellness was based in yoga—a modality that nurtures awareness, balance and harmony. Simultaneously, circus emerged as a dynamic, creative and interactive “yang” counterpart. In my early days, I mostly practiced fire spinning, juggling, and dance (ballet, modern and belly dance). However, for over a decade, my aerial pursuits have dominated. Pursuing higher level arial training is very demanding. I frequently traveled to Vermont for formal training at the New England Center for Circus Arts. The pursuit of circus has also inspired me to study biomechanics and follow the work of Christine Altman and Katy Bowman.  Many gymnasts and dancers also find circus to be a physical form that offers high physicality,creativity but greater longevity. Currently, my circus training is so different from the early days in the streets of Central America: now so focused on strength and fundamental skills. I struggle to bring together the pieces I love about both worlds: the raw, wild freedom of the streets with the rigorous precision of aerial training. I dance between these two loves.

 

Community. I love that circus is an individual, non competitive activity that can be practiced within a group. Though we may be on a different journey or practice, we can still jam together, create group acts, collaborate, fusing our creativity with others to create something greater, or just have company in practice. Just about anywhere in the world we can meet people who practice circus and have an instant community

 

Recently I have begun to deeply appreciate the Quiet of circus. In a time where speech is so divisive, I love that circus inspires and connects without words. Circus performances feature the physical, our vehicle for art making. We also share this form, with some differences, with all other humans on earth, inspiring introspection of the similarities and differences amongst us all. 

 

I love the absolute boundlessness of circus- it can be sweet, elegant, demure or ridiculous, raw or zany; all within one show, or a seamlessly elegant theatrical production. 

 

I love the diversity of circus. Lovers of circus are an incredibly diverse group- from juggling mathematicians, street performers of South America, acrobatic troupes from Africa and so many people who have  ”regular” jobs but find something nourishing and inspiring in circus. We are definitely a group that is unique. Many people who have not found a home in other arts or fitness practices find a home in circus’s quirky, active community. Differently abled people can also find a place in circus. We have trained and performed with people from all over the world: clowns from Spain, diabolists from Venezuela, jugglers from Argentina and so appreciate each person’s unique interpretation, practice and expression.   …

All things circus require so much dedication, time, focus and will. Some tricks will take months or years and can go completely unnoticed by an audience, but something about the skill is appealing and we keep on with it. The windmill hip key on fabric is one such skill- the audience claps for splits and drops on silks but has no idea that a pretty windmill hip key took years to perfect. But we want it, so we train. The focus circus requires is complete- stimulating for varied centers of the brain and the body. Many with ADHD find that they excel in circus as they have a unique capacity to hyper focus if movement is involved. 

 

Costuming! I love this so much. As a kid I wanted to be a fashion designer but had little interest in everyday clothing. Costuming for aerial circus has a lot of restrictions because of the technical/movement requirements but these constraints almost make the challenge more fun. Stilt walking costuming is pretty much unlimited and there are some amazing works out there! It is really fun to bring this flair and joy to all types of events.

 

Growth. There is something about circus that manages to find all of our vulnerabilities and brings them to light. Some struggle with building strength and others with flexibility- too much or too little; circus highlights these things. For some trust is an issue- circus requires that we learn to trust our community, coaches and selves in order to progress. We can take the lessons circus gives us and apply them to our our lives becoming the best versions of ourselves.

 

Circus pushes us to share pieces of the self with the audience. Circus asks us to dig deep. The most impactful performances are by artists who share something powerful, heartfelt, intense and deeply felt. Sometimes there is a story and a history we tell, sometimes it is just the joy of the prop, audience and the stage; but to connect, we must share.

 

On the very top of my list of loves is the Unique experiences and exposure to communities, people and events circus has brought me to; places my life would normally not insect with. Performing has taken us to poor rural villages in South America and mansions in Newport, RI, biker rallies and extravagant galas. I love all of these experiences and it is a great honor to be a part of these celebrations and lives. I’m fascinated by different lifestyles and people and I marvel at the similarities amongst us all.

 

One of my favorite parts of coaching is supporting others in finding their artistic expression. Sometimes in aerial work, we get bogged down in trick acquisition but I love so much to witness when students find movement and small expressions that are uniquely theirs. These might be a small flick of the wrist, or a knee lead impulse, but it is so striking and powerful when it comes from within. Seeing adolescent girls find these sacred connections with themselves and share them is one of the best things in circus.

 



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