Teacher Feature: Joanna

Joanna Wright rope split | Hammondovi PhotographyWelcome to our series of blog posts featuring our beloved Sky Candy teachers! We’ve asked your favorite teachers to share their aerial history with us, and let us in on their thoughts about being an aerialist and aerial teacher- check out our third featured teacher, Joanna!

How long have you been doing aerials? When and where did you start?

I’ve been doing aerials on and off for about half of my life, so 14 years or so. When I was about 10 years old back in New England, I saw one of Circus Smirkus’ touring youth circus productions, and as I sat there looking at the pre-teen girl spinning high above the ground on the lyra, I thought, “I could do that!” I went home, and promptly rounded up my sisters and three kids from across the street, and for the next four summers we put on the “Central Street Circus” for the neighborhood, selling tickets and popcorn out of our “box office” (made of a refrigerator box), and performing feats of strength and daring on our swingset in the backyard. When I was 14, my mom sent me to Circus Smirkus’ overnight circus camp to try “real circus”, and I was hooked! I went back to Smirkus year after year as a camper, then counselor, and learned as much as I could from the circus coaches there. When I got to college, I was the only one on campus who did silks, so I persuaded the dance department to let me rig one in their studio, and I formed a circus company with my friends. After college, I took two years off from aerials to get a masters in physical theatre. When I moved to Austin in 2012, I started taking classes and training at Sky Candy, and the rest is history!

Tell us a bit about your aerial journey- what challenges have you faced? What obstacles have you overcome?

When I started doing aerials, there weren’t any studios near me- I would have had to drive for about three hours each way to attend an aerial class, which was too much for me and my parents. So I picked up as much as I could during the summer, and trained on a silks that was hung at a gymnastics studio near my house. I didn’t have very much strength or stamina when I started, and building both has been a huge challenge- stamina is still my Achilles heel! It was also really hard coming back to aerials after taking two years off- my first lesson back, I could barely hold myself up! It took four years to get from that first lesson to where I am today, and it was not an easy journey- but I am proud to say that today, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been in my life, and getting stronger all the time!

If you could give yourself as a beginning aerialist one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t worry about the other people who are stronger or more flexible than you, or who seem to have their “circus s***” together. You will probably never be the type of person who will get up at 5am to go running, so don’t worry that that’s what you “should” be doing. Go at your own pace, and keep an open mind- there are other (and maybe better) things in life than being a performer in Cirque du Soleil.

What is your favorite thing about being an aerialist?

Other than the burns and bruises? Just kidding. I’ve always been a very physical person, and I love that aerials uses my body to and beyond its limit, making me stronger, more flexible, and more articulate each time I train. I also love performing, and sharing the hard work I’ve done with an audience helps make it all worth it. Oh, and teaching! I LOVE teaching. Helping other people get started on their aerial journeys and watching them grow and develop is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I guess there’s a lot to love about being an aerialist!

What is your favorite thing about teaching at Sky Candy?

The students! I never cease to be amazed by what our students can accomplish, and I am SO proud of the folks who’ve been taking classes with us for years, and who have made such amazing leaps in strength and grace. I learn so much every time I teach a class, and I’m honored to be able to share in the aerial journeys of our incredible Sky Candies.

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