Tag Archives: Corde Lisse

New Year Aerial Resolutions: Work Hard, Play Hard

This has been a particularly difficult year for me. My thesis major corrections has been a big blow to my confidence, but I am grateful that I am slowly coming out of it with the help and support of good friends.

The aerial side of things has been completely different from my academic work. I feel stronger, more motivated than ever, and feel much closer to my dream of teaching aerial one day. I completed a 12-weeks Silks Level I evening course at the Circus Space this term and never missed a class. That’s a back and forth two-hours journey to London once every week. Once every week might not seem much, but when you’ve got a thesis correction schedule to chase, spending the afternoon and evening on the road feels like a sin. But I feel it has kept me sane, giving me something to look forward to and be excited about. We had a very good teacher for our silks class. She’s methodical on wraps and this has helped me become less afraid of drops.

So my new year resolutions is simple: work hard and play hard. When I work on my thesis I won’t think about my next aerial class (this is very hard considering the amount of time I get distracted doing “aerial research” on YouTube). When I train I won’t think about my thesis. Piece of cake. I need to come up with a more efficient schedule to fit the one thing that I absolutely have to pull through, and the other thing that I love.

A few of my favorite aerial things this year:

1. The curly-wurly drop:

This is my first two-rotations drop. I first learned this drop on the silks and then transferred it to the rope. I’m still bewildered every time I do it: your eyes are open all the way through the drop but you don’t see anything because one, gravity is pulling you quite quickly, and two, you’re concentrated on keeping body tension. I’m always amazed at how different a drop feels on your body compared to seeing someone doing it. I might be side tracking a bit here, but this is one of the reasons why you should NEVER, EVER try to replicate a drop from YouTube. Admittedly I tried to copy a double-knee hock drop that I saw on the internet when I was a beginner/improver. I thought, “Hey, how difficult can it be?” I was tangled up with the rope squeezing me out of air. NOT a good idea. My point is that taught safely the curly-wurly is a fun drop to do.

curly wurly!

curly wurly!

2. Becoming less afraid of split silks:

When I started learning aerial, I didn’t have a preference of apparatus, but I’d get more confused on the silks than on rope. For me silks wraps are more complicated… with two strands of fabric you have more to think and wrap yourself with than one vertical rope. I turn around and left and right are no longer the same. Darn. Slowly I steered towards the apparatus that felt more natural to me. But doing a course on silks this term has helped me become less afraid of the silks. Some split silks moments:

neck balance on a split silks sequence

part of a split silks sequence

3. Gaining better spatial awareness:

Working with split silks means that your relationship with the apparatus is slightly different. I love being able to grab a bit of fabric and lay out. The material of the fabric offers alternative ways of movement. I feel that my spatial awareness has actually improved by gaining more vocabulary on the silks. It also feels really good to be able to work on another apparatus when the rope is giving me a painful hard time.

a moment of

I’m also working on my straight-leg propeller and flare-into-catchers. They’re getting there!

So with these reflections I conclude my last post of 2013. Thank you for reading/following my blog. See you next year!

EADF photos and video released!

The photos and video for this year’s EADF (European Aerial Dance Festival) have been released! I’ve been looking forward to these and was happy to find they’ve finally uploaded them. Browsing through the photos reminded me of what a great week it was. The weather was unusually warm even for July-August in Southeast England, so it finally felt like a proper summer. The workshop also helped dispel my post-viva trauma blues. I did the workshop with a couple of friends. We train together on a regular basis so it was great fun to do the workshop together.

The EADF is a week-long aerial workshop that takes place in Brighton, UK in the beautiful Brighton Dome every August. These classes include counter-weight, static trapeze, corde lisse, silks, and harness. I haven’t tried the counter-weight or the harness classes yet because I don’t have the equipment to practice with afterwards, but I’ve heard they’re a lot of fun.

When I did the beginners/improvers corde lisse workshop last year, I already had one year of aerial experience, but I still found it very challenging. I’d never trained for five days consecutively, so by Wednesday my muscles were incredibly sore and tight. It was the first time I dreaded doing aerial. I felt weak in the air and I was afraid I’d lose grip. Luckily my friend Michael was in the same class so he kept spotting me.

This year I decided to go for the beginner/improvers dance trapeze and intermediate/advanced corde lisse workshop. It was still very tough, but I managed to keep up. Since they scheduled the corde lisse workshop over the weekend, by the time we started the corde lisse class I’d already done five days of trapeze. I didn’t realize how tired my body was until Saturday. I know this is a piece of cake for circus students, but it’s the first time in my life that I’ve done physical training for a whole week and managed to survive. I did get injured and I had to go for a couple of sports massage sessions afterwards, but it was a huge improvement from last year so I was very proud of myself.

If you’ve been doing aerial for a while and are thinking of adding new vocabulary to your routine, learning technique from a different teacher, or wonder what it’s like to train intensely, I’d recommend trying the EADF. The teachers are patient, generous, and know how to teach.

Besides, it’s Brighton and the seaside in the summer, what can go wrong?

How Aerial Kept Me Sane

I’ve started doing a silks evening course at London’s Circus Space this term. If you want to do evening classes at the Circus Space but didn’t start at their Circus Level 1, you’re required to take an assessment. I did my assessment in July, and was lucky to be offered a place as their waiting list can be very long. I was hoping to book a rope class, so when they called me to say they had a cancellation in silks I was hesitant to take the place. The student canceled her booking two weeks before the course started, so the woman who called me wouldn’t let me think it over night as they needed to confirm places as soon as possible. If I didn’t take the place she’d had to move on to the next person on the list.

“Can I at least have ten minutes to think about it?” I asked.

“OK, how about I give you twenty minutes, and I’ll call you back.”

I was taken aback by the situation because the woman was a bit pushy. But I decided to take the place since I might not have this opportunity again. There aren’t any aerial classes open to the public where I come from, so I’m trying to learn as much as I can.

The evening course is a two-hour class that takes place once a week and includes a warm-up session. The Circus Space is almost militant about asking students to arrive on time to warm-up. If you arrive late, you’re not allowed to join the class. I guess this arrive-on-time policy is implemented with the good intention to lessen the students’ chances of getting injured and minimize disruption to a class, but it makes me a bit nervous because it takes me an hour on the train to reach London and the trains are often delayed.

Inside the Circus Space

Inside the Circus Space

(Photo above from Alan Parish.)

You also have the choice of booking inclusive supportive classes that comes with the evening course such as stretching and aerial conditioning. It’s a shame that I don’t have time to go to London twice a week so I haven’t been to these.

Before I started doing the course, I thought going to London once a week would be no hassle, but now I realize I hadn’t taken into account the time it takes me to get to the train station, which is already about half an hour. I need another half an hour from London Bridge to get to the Circus Space (even though it’s only six minutes on the tube). I surprised a girl in my class when I told her I was taking the train back the same evening. “I know, it’s a bit crazy,” I said. “We’re all a bit crazy,” she sighed. Turns out she’s doing three courses at the Circus Space this term.

I’ve been doing aerial for a couple of years now, and I’m still hungry for more. My friends have been surprised at my enthusiasm and dedication. I’ve always enjoyed sports but I’m not athletic, so I think they don’t exactly associate me with holding my body weight in the air. In fact, I love being in the air to explore the possibilities of body movement that seem to defy gravity. I also love the expression of body language. Different people favour different movements and tricks, so when you see a routine you can usually infer something about the performer’s personality through his/her choice of music and choreography.

Me in an angel on rope.

Me in an angel on rope.

Training has also helped me become more self-aware about my body in general. I need to sleep and eat well in order to have a good training session. This doesn’t always happen, especially not when I wake-up at three o’clock in the morning in cold sweat worrying about my thesis, but I know where my fitness level needs to be in order to execute a routine. I’ve become stronger and for the first time in my life, I have shy abs.

Even though training leaves me sore and tired, aerial is my highlight of the week and I rarely miss a class. It has kept me sane through the multiple setbacks of the Ph.D. When I get depressed thinking about my thesis corrections, aerial gives me something to look forward to. I struggle with finding self-confidence in the stuffy academic environment these days, but last week a girl in my class (the same one doing three courses at the Circus Space this term) asked me, “You have beautiful lines, were you a gymnast?” I secretly thanked for helping me feel better about myself.

Since I’ve been training consistently, I know most of the aerialists in the city I live in. I regard myself as a friendly outsider learning about the difficulties they face balancing training and working, performing and paying the bills. The economic recession has been cutting to the arts sector, so the work of performing artists has really suffered from the lack of funding. I’ve learned that being in circus is not only about a profession, but also a lifestyle and attitude. Most aerialists I know hold a couple of part-time jobs, but they love aerial and circus so they stick with it.

I don’t know how far I’ll go with aerial, but at the moment I still get very excited when I see a move I want to learn, or put a routine together to the music I like.

I only wish I’d done it sooner.

Trying to Spot an Injury Before Getting Injured

It was a good thing I went for a sports massage today.  The masseur told me I had torn a muscle on my shoulder (an area closer to my neck) which healed, but the knot had split into two.  He said it was very peculiar.  I’ve had sports massage sessions with him for over a year and he’s never described my knots as “peculiar.”  I didn’t know whether to feel proud or worried.  The right shoulder, arm, and chest muscles are also very tight.  I felt a tiny needle pain in my chest when I inverted yesterday, and he thinks it’s because my chest muscles are beginning to compensate for the tightness on my shoulders.  This would explain why I’ve been having a weak grip: my muscles are not working together effectively.

Knots in the muscles? Not nice.

(Photo above from Rebecca Dongallo.)

I have a slight idea on how I tore my shoulder muscle even though I didn’t feel it when it happened: we were moving furniture around in the flat to make way for the desk in the bedroom and a sofa bed in the living room.  It was like playing tetris but in 3-D.  We have a small flat, so moving the desk into the bedroom meant we needed to move the dining table, the shoe cupboard, and a chest drawer out of the way before we could even start moving the desk.  We did this the next day after I came back to training from having a week off, and the heavy use of muscles probably aggravated the fatigue from the week-long workshop which I hadn’t completely recuperated from.  But it could also be from learning a new move with the rope resting on my right shoulder.  Maybe that’s where the split knot came from, hmmm.

But in general I feel ok.  I’ve had a worse injury before, which also took place after last year’s workshop.  I was learning a front balance to a hip lock on my right side, and I thought I needed to train my left arm strength in order to pull up.  It turned out I was crossing my legs the wrong way, and that’s why the rope kept slipping.  I was using my left forearm so much, that I developed this constant soreness and pain which stopped me from falling asleep at night.  I had to use ibuprofen gel to relieve the pain.  I was quite depressed because I was forced to take two weeks off at the start of term, and thought I could never do aerial again.

The two weeks off turned out to be a good decision, because coupled with rest and a few sports massage sessions the pain went away.  This was a very new experience for someone who has never associated herself with “sports injury.”  I’ve always liked sports but was never athletic, so the notion of “sports injury” was very alien to me until then.  When I started discussing this issue with an athletic friend who runs marathons, I felt I was venturing into unknown territory.  My friend V. said I should think of “injury prevention” rather than “I’m not injured.”

Since that injury, I’ve learned how to pace myself.   Sometimes it’s difficult to find the balance between pushing yourself and knowing the limits, because it’s tempting to go through that move just one more time.  What I try to keep in mind is if a move keeps evading me, it probably means I’m not using the right technique or I’m not strong enough yet.  I leave it out of training for a couple of sessions, then come back to it after coming up with a new way to approach it.


“I knew this… but it doesn’t make it any easier.”

I learned this morning that in order to be re-registered full-time and do my corrections, I need to pay the tuition fee of the full academic year.  This is A LOT of money.  I’ve spoken to friends who’ve received major corrections before, and have never heard anyone speak about the full year’s tuition fee.  There are two options under “major corrections” in the report: one says “continuation” and the other one “full-time” student.  I was never a part-time student so  when my examiners informed me that I would need to re-register full time, I assumed they meant returning to continuation status.  It was only when I received the report yesterday that I realized it might actually mean paying the full tuition fee again.  So the option I have left is to revise as much as I can next term, and see if I can submit earlier than the one year deadline in order to save money.

As a result I’ve had to inform our subject head and the convenor that I can no longer teach next term.  If I want to do my corrections as efficiently and as well as I can, I will need time to revise the thesis carefully.  I was going to teach a new module next term (Film Theory) which was pretty exciting, but I’ve had to pull out with very short notice due to the new circumstances.  I haven’t taught Film Theory before, and from my first-time teaching experience last year, I know that teaching a new course would carve out half of my time, and I can’t afford to lose time at the moment.

It was a very hard decision to make.  I hate to disappoint people on such short notice… especially if it’s faculty from your department.  I’m afraid to leave a bad impression, but I really have no choice.

All this shock took place after I finished training this morning.  The new ropes that our instructor got two weeks ago have softened up so they’re much easier to climb and grip on. Last week they were still as hard as poles, and I couldn’t beat on them because my grip was weak.  Today I tried inverting into straddle with straight legs, then pencil, and straddle again (as can be done on the silks), and it was much better than last week.  I think the right side of my body is still fatigued from the week-long aerial workshop I did in August, so rather than feeling super strong I’ve been sensing a few needle pains on my right forearm and  shoulder.  I booked a sports massage for tomorrow to alleviate the tension.

As hard as a pole, this one was.

As hard as a pole, this one was.

I’ve been thinking about whether aerial is more difficult, or the Ph.D.?  I’ve concluded that I’m not at an advanced level in aerial yet, so at the moment the Ph.D. is more difficult because I’m trying to write criticism at an academic level, a.k.a. “professional” level in the terminology of the real world.  I came across this video the other day which explains why doing a Ph.D. is so hard.  The speaker says that from primary school to master’s, the school curriculum is structured so as long you study hard and are good at taking exams, you will be able to pass.

With a Ph.D., however, you’re expected to do research, so the result is open ended, leading to unmanageable expectations to do well.  There’s a part where he says “… the most intelligent people who go on to do a Ph.D….”  I’d just like to reiterate that at this particular moment, I don’t feel intelligent at all.  I may be able to see through nationalist ideologies using cultural studies theory, but it’s taken me a few hours to calculate exactly how much fabric I need to make a cover for our sofa.  I’m also a terribly messy cook.  I suspect an intelligent person would be much better at coming up with a system to keep the kitchen tidy.

Anyway, my friends’ reactions to this video were: “I knew this, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”  True, so true.