Aerial Dance Festival 20th Anniversary

Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance hosted the 2018 Aerial Dance Festival (ADF), July 30th through August 10th, in Boulder, Colorado. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the festival coordinated by the artistic director of Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, Nancy Smith. In celebration of the history of aerial dance, the festival offered training for aerialists of generations new and old. Attendees from all over the country came with a variety of backgrounds in dance, circus, theater, entertainment, and acrobatics. The training brought the opportunity for students to learn from master instructors and explore new ways of expressing themselves through the art of movement.

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The festival offered three-hour long immersion courses, as well as, ninety-minute classes, available Monday through Friday each week. Workshops included Thai Massage, led by Yuki Tsuji, with focus on mobility for the shoulders and thoracic spine, and remedy for hips and low back. Jill Scott provided a workshop entitled, Make-up Fundamentals for the Performer. The wide array of ADF classes had varied focuses of aerial choreography, sequencing, conditioning and injury prevention, partnering, aerial improvisation and exploration, technique, emotion, vocabulary, and artistry. Mixed apparatus work, rope, sling, fabric, trapeze, bungee, lyra, aerial yoga, and handstands provided differing means of training. Big questions being asked within the aerial community were pondered amidst the physical training. What does it mean to be an aerial performer? How can you, as an artist, create personal work and yet still connect to an audience? What do spectators of the aerial arts look for in a performance? Topics such as the longevity of a performer, and how to honor the history of aerial dance, were discussed.

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Three showcase performances were presented at the Dairy Arts Center, leading into the second week of the ADF. The showcase featured group pieces, choreographed and performed by Frequent Flyers staff and students. The guest instructors were also given the opportunity to perform solo pieces that would reflect their work, and for some, the content that they would be teaching in classes. Students were encouraged to attend an event called, Intimate Encounters, on the first evening of classes. The gathering gave the opportunity for students to listen to each of the instructors/performers processes in creating the choreography for their performance pieces. The instructors/performers shared details about their artistic background, education, and experience in the aerial arts, as well as, previous instructors they studied under, which were for many the inspiration of their work. Each piece of work was unique and original to the performer, while they still came together to create a spectacular show reflecting the heart of humanity.

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As an attendee of the 2018 festival, I acquired invaluable insight into the aerial arts, gained through each activity practiced within classes. At large, group learning was practiced; however, individual and small group exercises, made training feel intimate. The structure of the festival, in addition to the education received, provided the perfect opportunity for networking and creating connections between studios and individual performers within the aerial community. The aerial dance festival experience is one that every aspiring aerialist should consider adding to their training. ADF will stand in my memory as a growing experience that inspired and compelled me to further explore my career as an aerialist.


Brittany Royce is an aerialist based out of Springfield, Missouri.  Her passion for acrobatics started at three years old when she first discovered gymnastics. She was a competitive gymnast for ten years and coached gymnastics for seven years. She discovered Aerial Arts in 2013 while living in San Diego and hasn’t stopped learning since.  It is an art form that enables her to express her faith and continue pursuing acrobatics in her adult life.  She has recently joined the team at Springfield Aerial Fitness as an instructor for trapeze, tumbling, handstands, and youth classes.

Aerialists: Which Creative Personality Are You?

While going through the blog on the Born to Fly Teachers website, we were reminded of this wonderful quiz that Julianna Hane put together just for aerialists.  Take a moment and learn about your creative style!


I’ll admit it – I love a good quiz! We all have a special “zone” in the creative process where we feel right at home. Whether working on a performance piece, building a show, or running a studio, this quiz reveals which stage within the creative process makes you shine brightest. And you know me – cited sources are at the end. Have fun!

Take the quiz!

When getting dressed for training, I:
a) Wear whatever feels right. Sometimes I don’t even match.
b) Consider my goals/to-dos that day and dress accordingly.
c) Put together coordinated outfits.

When choreographing a piece, my favorite part is:
a) Improvising! I feel at home tossing around 100 different ideas.
b) Making a statement. I want my piece to have a clear purpose and intent.
c) Refining the details. Each gesture and moment contributes to the whole.

When collaborating with others, I am the one who:
a) Brings a shoebox full of ideas to the table.
b) Reminds the group to focus on the goal of the project.
c) Shapes the vision into a neat and tidy finished product.

The training advice I relate to most is:
a) Consider all the movement possibilities within each skill.
b) Work harder and toughen up.
c) Clean lines and fluid technique make all the difference.

Which statement is most true for you?
a) I am inspired by feeling.
b) I am driven by purpose.
c) I am focused on details.

My favorite objects are:
a) Anything with texture and color. When shopping I always touch the products on the shelf!
b) Tools. Whether its a great web app or a hammer, I like things that help get a job done.
c) Frames. I like finished edges that showcase the images they surround.

One of my faults is:
a) Getting distracted easily. I have so many ideas I don’t know what to do with them all.
b) Digging in and not wanting to change, OR wanting everyone else to change.
c) Getting so bogged down in the details that I forget about the big picture.

I am most excited when:
a) Exploring a new apparatus or idea.
b) Mastering a skill I’ve been training for months, and moving on to the next challenge.
c) Showcasing what I’ve learned for family and friends.

The life stage I most relate to is:
a) Youth. The wonder of childhood reminds me to explore and be creative.
b) Teenage Years. I often give advice to those dealing with tough situations.
c) Adulthood. I enjoy seeing a career come to fruition and think often about legacies.

My favorite apparatus is:
a) Invented apparatus, or aerial fabric. There are so many possibilities!
b) Static trapeze, rope, or straps. I like the stability and linear movement.
c) Aerial hoop or cube. It frames my lines beautifully.

During performances, people come to me for:
a) Group warm-up games.
b) Advice in balancing a handstand or sticking a tricky move.
c) Scissors. And eyelash glue. And a sewing kit.

The backstage advice I give most often is:
a) Enjoy the moment.
b) Just do it. You’ve got this.
c) Your rosin is right here.

The word that best describes me is:
a) whimsical
b) methodical
c) polished

My favorite part of performing is:
a) Playing with different hair and make-up ideas. The piece is never done!
b) Setting up. I can haul chairs, pop popcorn, or do whatever job needs doing.
c) Seeing everyone’s pieces come to fruition.

I most prefer:
a) Playtime.
b) A hard workout.
c) Finishing things.

Tally your number of a’s _______ b’s ________ c’s ________

And here are the results!

Mostly a’s: The Explorer
You are an adventurer and creative to the core! Your many ideas win you friends all over, and your whimsical spirit is infectious. You dabble in many different projects, often handing off your ideas to others to finish. You tend to like mornings, youth and anything with the word, “new.” While you may have trouble deciding which projects to focus on (and can’t even fathom finishing anything), your ability to offer ideas to others makes you a prized member of any group.

Mostly b’s: The Driver
You are on a mission. Everything you do is intentional, with clear purpose. You are known for drilling tough moves again and again, inspiring others to do the same. When a challenge arises, you are just the one to get the job done. People often seek your advice when in difficult situations. Sometimes you dig your heels and resist change (or try to change others to your way of thinking), but your talent for coping with struggle is one your community can use.

Mostly c’s: The Publisher
You are a curator of the complete. You relish in seeing projects come to fruition. Your eye for finishing touches shows others that the devil is in the details. Clean lines, including straight knees and pointed feet, give you a sense of peace and calm. You are the perfect person to sew on a detached sequin, or save the day with your well stocked performance kit. Sometimes you get bogged down in details and forget about the big picture. But your talent for seeing things through to the very last lighting cue is vital to a smoothly running show.

Sources: This quiz was inspired by Dr. Charles Johnston’s Creative Systems Theory (personality types are based on Early, Middle, and Late Axes), and Warren Lamb’s Movement Pattern Analysis . Lamb, a student of Rudolf Laban, looks at movement to understand people’s decision making patterns.

What results did you get?
Tell us about it in the comments section below, and please share with friends!


About the Author: Julianna Hane traded life on a cotton farm to become a dancer and aerialist. She is the author of the Aerial Teacher’s Handbook and Director of Training for Born to Fly Productions.

Born to Fly Productions offers teacher training and certifications for six different emphases:  sling, silks, rope, lyra, trapeze, and aerial yoga.  Our providers host these training all across the United States, as well as internationally.  Check out our schedule!

Everything Hurts and I’m Dying: How Much Soreness is Too Much?

Authored by Dr. Jennifer Crane, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC of Cirque Physio.

What does current performing arts culture tell us about muscle soreness? Aches and pains? Bruises, burns, and rope rash?

“CIRCUS HURTS.”
“Train through it.”
“Tears are for home, not circus”
“Here, have some circus candy (advil/ibuprofen).” 

These are all common “circus-isms” that I’ve heard, and I want to talk a bit about soreness- is it productive? How much is too much? How do you train optimally while simultaneously avoiding OVERtraining and subsequent injury?

This is a HUUUGEE topic, and I’m only going to address a small component of it in this post.

​I was recently reading an article on implementing pitch counts in little league players (woah, #notcircus?! I know…what was I thinking…) and it REALLY got my gears turning. Not because I love baseball (…I don’t), but because one of the criteria they used for progressing pitch intensity and frequency was something I felt could also be applied to circus artists who are returning to training after a long hiatus, or even to those who are wanting to progress skill and strength levels in an efficient amount of time, without getting injured.

THE SORENESS RULE

​This criteria for training progression is referred to as the “Soreness rule.” It was initially created for pitchers, but has since been adapted and modified to fit other sports as well (running, weight lifting, etc). These rules give athletes the ability to modify their progression of skill/strength according to the soreness they experience. If the athlete feels sore, tender, or stiff, then they can use the soreness rules to guide their training for the rest of that week.

BUT FIRST…

​Here are the ground rules before I dive into WHAT the actual soreness rules are:

  1. THESE DON’T APPLY IF YOU’RE INJURED.  If you have pain that is NOT from working out a muscle, GET IT CHECKED OUT by someone who’s qualified to do so.
  2. These rules are based on stepwise progression of overall training volume, strength or skill acquisition. This means that before you get started, you need to create multiple steps/phases of training- whether its breaking a trick down into 5 phases, or just generally increasing the number of hours you train per week. For example: if you’re an aerialist that is coming back from having a baby (and have been cleared to return to aerial by all involved healthcare providers), you should first sit down and create a multi-phase return-to-full-time-aerial plan. This must be well defined, so work with a qualified coach to do so, if you get stuck!
  3. Ok, sit down for this one…I’m serious, you’re not going to like it. EACH TRAINING DAY SHOULD HAVE ONE DAY OF REST BETWEEN to ensure proper recovery and adaptation to the stimulus and load!!
    1. Yeah, I said it. The “R” word. In this context, it doesn’t mean complete Netflix and chill bedrest status for 24 hours, it just means that if you’re working on an upper body skill, to give your upper body a break the next day. Yes, handstands count. Yes, contortion counts. Yes, vinyasa yoga counts. Yes, one day = 24 hours.
  4. Each step/phase in your progression should last for at least one week. This means that you should be working on whatever conditioning/training drills comprise ONE step for SEVEN DAYS- without soreness. You must be able to do step one, completely free of any muscle soreness, for 7 days before progressing to step 2. If you have soreness during step one, you stay on step 1 (with 24 hour break between each training session) until you’re doing it WITHOUT soreness. For 7 days.
    1.  I do realize I just said the exact same thing three times. I’ve had the rest day conversation with enough circus artists to know that repetition is key, and over-defining each term is required. It is also often required for me to define how many hours are in a day, and how many days are in a week. 

CLIFF NOTES VERSION

 ​Overwhelmed? Here’s the cliff notes version: Pick a skill to work on, or an overall training goal. Break the goal down into at least 5 steps. Assign drills and conditioning for each step. Start with step 1, and don’t move on to step 2 until you’ve been doing it every other day for one week, without any muscle soreness.

Oh yeah…one more thing. WORK WITH A QUALIFIED COACH.

​PRESENTING: THE SORENESS RULE



YOU’VE GOTTA BE KIDDING ME.

Alright, there we have it. The rules. You guys, I KNOW. Your heart rate and blood pressure just spiked, and you’re getting anxious just THINKING about all those rest days, and how slowly you think you’ll progress. I’m aware that in the circus world, these rules seem SUPER conservative.

​However…as a circus PT, at least 80% of the injuries I treat are from overuse…too much training, and too little rest. These injuries tend to last upwards of 3 months (because again, no rest…) and can significantly impact performing artists career length and career quality. The kicker is, these injuries are caused predominantly by modifiable risk factors…aka, proper dosage of training and adequate rest. So yes…I understand that you’re panicking thinking about this. And yes, I understand that implementing any big change in training program is something that does NOT happen overnight, but I think these rules have a potentially huge positive impact on the overall rate of overuse injuries in circus artists, and I think there’s value to planting this seed in your minds…even if you don’t actually DO anything about it for a while!

As I said, the topic of adequate rest, proper training load and volume, as well as overall periodization of training in circus arts is a MASSIVE subject. I’ll likely have a few more posts on this topic, so if you have any specific requests, leave them in the comment section!



DR. JENNIFER CRANE, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC

Dr. Jennifer Crane is a physical therapist, athletic trainer, board certified orthopedic specialist, and published author. She has been a sports medicine professional for eight years, and has worked with a wide variety of athletes and performing artists throughout that time. Most recently, she worked as a physiotherapist living in China with the Chinese Olympic Teams in preparation for the Rio 2016 Olympics. While in China, she worked with multiple sports teams: diving, weight-lifting, fencing, gymnastics, synchronized swimming, and track and field. Of the athletes she worked with, 18 of them went on to get an Olympic gold medal in Rio.

Now happily back in San Francisco, Jen’s practice is based at Circus Center, where she specializes in injury prevention and treatment of athletes and performing artists. When she’s not working with circus artists, she can usually be found standing on her hands, swinging on flying trapeze, or spinning on a single point trapeze.

Click here to visit Cirque Physio.