2021 Reflections (Part 1): 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.



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.

As we are no longer accepting comments on this page due to spam, you are invited to comment on the Facebook page of Born to Fly Curriculum at https://www.facebook.com/aerialdancing. Drop us a message to let us know what you thought of this piece!

Stocking Stuffers for Circus Enthusiasts

Do you have someone in your life that does circus? Does their hobby brink on obsession? If you do, then this article will help you with your holiday shopping. The article is separated into types of circus folks to help guide the buying, but honestly many aerialists fall into multiple (or all) categories. Links have been included, but Born to Fly is receiving no proceeds for including them from the vendors of the items. Many were picked intentionally, but many are just quick looks via Amazon.  We’re just trying to make your holiday shopping SIMPLE as PIE! Enjoy!

The Aerial Addict

Let us begin with a more general group and move into some more specific types of practitioners. The Aerial Addict can be new to the circus, or a long-time enthusiast, but they have a burning passion for aerial and all things circus. When regular muggle things are turned into circus things, their heart soar and squeals may occur. Below is a fun list of things that you can give to help this soul rep their circus love loud and proud:


Circus tanks
Leggings/leg warmers
Water bottle/coffee mugs
iTunes/music gift card
Training notebook
Circus coloring books

These gifts are a great way to infuse circus into the everyday aspects of life. I know when I see these little things around I have found my people. These items are available in the rabbit hole that is Etsy but also fun things to creatively customize on your own for a more personal gift.

The Aches and Pains Athlete

This is our hardcore aerial addict! They are always striving to accomplish difficult things and working hard, resulting in all the muscle soreness that can be achieved by an individual. Along with aches, other pains often manifest from apparatuses “kisses” in the form of bruises, burns, or partial calluses. This person is dedicated to their work, but less so in their rest. The best gifts for this type of aerialist provide ouch assistance by helping them recover from their constant training. Consider the following:


o Tiger Balm
o Salonpas patches
o Tegaderm
o Bath bombs/Epsom salts
o Elbow sleeves
o Ankle booties
o Wrist wraps

Tiger balm or any type of muscle cream is great for larger areas of tenderness if an individual can’t make it home to soak their weary body in a hot bath with the relief of a bath bomb or Epsom salts for recovery. I, personally, love Salonpas patches. These are a great help for those “trouble spots” that haunt many aerialists. These give a constant tingle to a small area for a longer period. I have a spot on my upper trapezius that gets angry some days, but if I throw a patch on there, it relaxes up and doesn’t inhibit my training. Tegaderm is useful for more aggressive abrasions and scrapes that occur. These are far more helpful than Band-Aids because they stay on during high-intensity fitness activities. Ankle booties, elbow sleeves, and wrist wraps are all gear to wear during training for those painful skills these intense athletes strive for: ankle hangs, elbow circles, reverse flag, etc.

The Tool Gathering Guru

This aerialist has all the training accessories a person could ever need! Their apparatus alone will not suffice and various things get purchased to assist in developing that hard to target muscle for strengthening or flexibility. For these individuals, consider the following:


Peanut/Lacrosse balls
Resistance bands/loops
Yoga blocks
Back Warmer
Finger extensor strengtheners (rubber bands, live strong bracelets, etc)
Grip strengtheners
Rosin spray/powder/grip aids

While many of these can be purchased at a general fitness store, some of these are more obscure, like the peanut. If the aerialist your love is primarily a flyer, they might need to balance out their grip with finger extensor condition. If they are a handstands fanatic or hand-to-hand acro enthusiast, consider the reverse and give grip strengtheners. Many aerialists can be picky about their grip aids. Chalk, powder rosin, rosin spray, dry hands, dew point, etc. Invest here with a little caution, but if you know their grip aid of choice, then it’s an easy investment to include in a stocking and will get used happily.

The Budding Performer

This individual has found their expressive stage through the circus life! Signing up for every studio showcase, auditioning for every aerial slot available, this soul is meant to run away and join the circus. Taking classes is a mere tip of the iceberg for their expressive heart. Performing comes with its own list of special things and here is a good start for gifting to your circus ham:

Budding Performer

False eyelashes
Face jewels
E6000 Fabrifuse (non-toxic)
Nude Fishnets
Makeup remover
Facial masks

Things that make them dazzle are key! I love using false lashes when I perform, but I’m terrible with putting them on and mess up the glue EVERY time, so I personally use magnetic falsies. Full DISCLOSURE: I am a brand ambassador for the ones linked, but am not being paid to recommend them. I will, however, share my discount code for anyone that wants to try them (MCKELL10). Rhinestones are also their own animal. Swarovski and Preciosa are the best, but glass DMC is a more budget-friendly option while maintaining decent quality. Also, since performers often have fabulous makeup on all the time, a great skin care regimen can be crucial, along with items that help maintain their beautiful faces.

The Equipment Accumulator

This individual might also be referred to as a Circus Investor. Attending classes is not enough, they want their own apparatus, they probably own a portable aerial rig, they scope out ceiling beams and carabiners with a lusty hunger in their eyes. For these folks, I recommend giving these wonderful gifts:

Equipment Accumulator

Athletic tape
Hollow blocks
Carabiner keepers
Etching tool

If the circus love of your life is an equipment accumulator, beware, they are the most expensive circus artists to support. While many of these items might *fit* in a stocking, they can range significantly in price. When my husband gave me a stainless-steel Rock Exotica swivel, I swooned! Partially because it’s beautiful and spins forever, but also because it was a $200 investment, I hadn’t let myself make for ages. I do highly recommend giving the gift of an etching tool for any equipment hoarding circus dragons that love their shiny toys. Etching tools are inexpensive, but help promote long-term equipment marking and inventory management. (Is it obvious that this in my clan?)

In a very short period, this list has become very long.  Personally, I belong to most of the groups listed above and have some experience with most of the things listed.  Others (like rhinestones) I took the feedback from other glorious friends I have that use them.  Hopefully, it includes a few things that will be helpful when picking up goodies for your passionate aerial friends.  Do you have other favorites, not on this list?  Do you have a specific brand you swear by that we missed?  Comment and tell us what they are!


Fall in Love with Rope

Join us this Fall 2014 for a series of Rope Videos starring Rebekah Leach and Rain Anya of Paper Doll Militia. We are currently working on compiling moves for a Rope Manual Series. Volume 1 is anticipated to be released by the end of Winter 2015. Videos will be released as they completed (edited and all, etc).

To kick off our journey of the Corde Lisse, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the rope rockstars who inspired my own journey through rope. In no particular order, they are: Continue reading “Fall in Love with Rope”