2021 Reflections: A Sling Performance

I wrote a blog on my studio closing last year, but it got spammed so bad I had to take it down. No worries. 2021 was a hard year, as many can relate. Ever since 2020, it seems like every year has been hard. Heavy. Weighted. For various reasons for various people. For me, 2021 brought an unexpected end to my lease. I thought it would renew. My landlord thought not, so I was out of a studio. It was hard, but it was what was meant to be.

Before I closed, Nancy Smith met with me over zoom to chat and invite me to be a part of the faculty for the 23rd annual Aerial Dance Festival. I was thrilled and honored to say yes!! This festival was the very setting in which I first learned aerial. It felt full circle. It was my “Sweet 16” of aerial years and it was a great pleasure to be invited and teach at the festival this past year. As part of the pleasure of being on faculty, artists have the opportunity to present an aerial piece for the showcase. My studio was closing in less than a month, and my gut response was, “no way.” I had enough on my plate and wasn’t feeling up for creating anything. I wanted to give up, crawl in a hole and have a pity party. But the very moment I had that thought, a counter-thought replied “You need to dance this feeling. You need to give yourself the message that there is HOPE when this is heavy. You will get through this. You HAVE IT IN YOU.”

I found the perfect song: “Got it in you” by Banner and the piece was born. I worked on it for 3 days in my living room, creating the concept and putting together a rough draft at the studio by the end of the 3rd day. I sent off the draft to a few aerial colleagues and asked for feedback. They made some great pointers and helped me improve the piece. The main feedback I heard was to put more of my gut into it when performing, which is no problem for me!

I started the piece in a position of defeat, which was the most natural position in the world. I have my head rested back on a bench, displaying a tired body. My hands are open though, ready to receive from the great divine even though I feel like giving up. As the music starts, I feel my heart awakening as the message calls me. I feel the give and take from my spirit wresting with the coming journey.

You gave all that sweat and blood and you think your gonna drown. Dancing this out was also the most natural thing in the world, explaining how I was feeling after 5 years of studio owning. I had gotten to a point where I was burning fast. The oil in the lamp was low and I was wondering what was coming next. It was divine energy forcing my hand because I would have just kept going, even though I felt like I was drowing.

You can’t tell that you’re bigger than the sea that you’re sinking in. This took me aback. Woa. Maybe in all this leadership experience, I had grown my spirit. Outgrown my current place.

You don’t know what you got, but you got it at your fingertips. This is the motif of the piece. I danced out the realization of seeing something there that perhaps I didn’t realize. Something that had grown strong amidst the struggle. I think about how the easy, comfortable things in life are not how you grow. You grow through the things that are difficult. You grow by doing things that seem hard, that feel impossible, that make you feel like you’re in over-your-head. This is how you learn to swim. This was my rising moment in my spirit. Now, I just have to swirl it up in my body and start to live it.

Soon, I run over to the bench where I started with my downcast spirit and I leap up onto it. I’m no longer feeling defeated. I’m starting to believe that maybe there is some strength there after all. Maybe not just something left-over from being burned, but something that is being revealed because all else was burned away. I start to reach for something new, something totally different.

[Sidenote: During the run right before this one, I accidently smacked my ankle on the bench so hard, I thought it was broken. I did this last run before we closed for the night because I wasn’t going to be walking to my car anyway. I was going to be crawling. My ankle hurt so bad. I look a bit like I’m losing balance, but this ended up being the best run of the night. I dug deep to pull this off, that’s for sure!]

No one ever told you this would be so hard. Another line I felt deep in my spirit. I was going through more than just a studio closure at this time in my life. I was dealing with tendinitis in my shoulder and major lung-health issues that were causing me deep grief in my spirit. I was struggling with the thoughts of wondering if my career in aerial was closing. What this it? But I still felt like I had so much left to dance. So much left to get out in this body. But it felt impossible.

Dealing with these dark thoughts, I knew I would have to reach even higher to get out. I needed to grab a lifeline. I needed a rope from heaven to climb. I needed to look inward to find that strength to make the climb upward. That’s when I return to the bench and grab the sling for the first time. This is the turning point. I’m going to summon the strength from the divine deep within me to connect to something that is no longer connected to the ground, but to heaven. Not to the depths but from above. This is going to be different. There is new hope.

Nobody else’s words can define you. Maybe you don’t see it, but you’re quicker than the world can spin. I have always felt a bit different than everyone else, as we all should. We each reflect a unique aspect of the divine, and that’s what makes us beautiful. Instead of looking for traditional routes for my career and how I “make a living,” I’ll look upwards for that. I’ll let my prayers spiral upwards (sling twirling around me), as I find who I am by looking at who created me.

No one ever told you this would be so hard. This is the moment right before climax of the piece for me. When I look back over my shoulder, I’m looking back at where I was, where I felt like I want to be. I felt like puddling in a clump on the ground until I started sinking into the landscape. I didn’t want to get any eyes on me because I had no energy to handle the pity, the connections or disconnections. I just wanted to start disappearing and fading. But something in me rose up to fight this and say, “no.” My voice means something in this world. My contribution matters. I matter, and how I react in this moment, when I feel like giving up, matters most of all.

So I make the decision. To take the Leap of Faith. To find my voice. Not sure of any what I’m saying, I just start by swinging into the unknown, letting myself ride the wave. I have to release to get there. I have to trust. I have to move with hope. In this, I rise and release the heavy burdens I feel, releasing them to the great Creator that says I am worthy. While there’s still breathe in my lungs, no matter how they feel, I will use them to feed oxygen to my muscles to dance and to celebrate. For I have not faced defeat even when it looks like all odds are against me. I still have a ways to go, but I know I am looking upwards.

This was the last time I danced in this studio. Two weeks later, this rig was completely disassembled and placed in storage where it awaits like a phoenix to rise from the ashes.

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Rebekah Leach is the creator of more than 1,000 videos in the video library on this site and the author of 12 fabulous aerial manuals. Check them out here at AerialDancing.com (www.BorntoFlyCurriculum.com). She is the mother of 2 children and lives in Castle Rock, CO.

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