Putting It Together: A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Choreography

Let’s say you’ve been studying aerial arts for a while now, and you’re feeling pretty proficient moving through a variety of skills under your instructor’s guidance. What happens when your creative mind kicks into gear and you start feeling that irresistible pull to take what you know and put your own spin on it (so to speak)? How do you begin to sequence skills together on your own and turn them into a choreographed routine? There are (at least) two different routes you can take — your personality might determine which one works best for you.

By The Book

If you’re the methodical planner type, you might want to start out on the ground, with a white board and your aerial journal or video library. Make a list of the skills you know really well — the ones you could practically do in your sleep. If you’re interested in upping the degree of difficulty or giving yourself an additional challenge, sprinkle in a skill or two that you’re still working on and should perfect over the next few weeks.

Read over your list and select a handful of skills you really like, ones that feature your strengths and make you feel confident and comfortable. Add your goal skills to the list as well. (Pro tip: Do not try to include every single skill you’ve ever learned — stick to your favorites. Five to seven skills is usually a good starting point.)

Start thinking about how the skills might fit together. How will you enter your apparatus? Where are you when you finish your entrance? What makes the most sense at that point? For example, if a lyra entrance lands you in sitting, you probably don’t want to immediately drop back down under the bar — look for a seated skill or invert to the top bar instead. Keep working through your list of selected skills until you’ve sequenced all of them. Try your sequence in the air to see how it feels. Are there awkward transitions? Can you fix them by changing up the order or by throwing another skill in between? Can you play around with hand placement or body position to find a smoother pathway to your next skill? Continue to tweak your sequence until it feels like your skills naturally flow into each other.

Trial and Error

If you’re more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type, rig your apparatus at an Open Studio, pick a song, and set your phone to video. Press play and start playing around. Review your footage to see what feels and looks good. If you discovered something new in the air, take some time to play with it (safely!) and figure out all its possibilities. Lather, rinse, and repeat until you have a sequence worked out. If you get stuck, refer to the method above: make a list of skills and put it where you can see it. Whenever your mind blanks, a quick glance at your list will put you back on track. Don’t be afraid to repeat skills — you might find that drop is fine at the beginning of the song, but it really stands out if you save it for the final chorus.

Next Steps

Sequencing skills is just the beginning. When we think of aerial performances that have truly stuck with us, they usually include a narrative of some kind. The aerialist takes us on a journey and draws us in emotionally. We’re not just watching an impressive set of skills; we’re fully invested in the performance. We’ll talk more about how to achieve that intense (and often elusive) connection to the audience in a future blog. In the meantime, whether you’re a planner or a player, you have the skills to create your own work. And like everything you learn in circus, it feels weird and awkward (and maybe even a little painful) at first, but the more you practice, the easier and more rewarding it gets!


Getting Warmer: A Guide to Warming Up and Stretching

If you’ve been to a Sky Candy class, you know we take our warm-ups seriously. Whether your instructor is leading you through a series of burpees or having you dance across the floor to the Footloose theme song (still a serious warm-up!), your heart rate is rising, your blood is pumping, and you’re probably starting to break a sweat. All of this is preparing your body for the hard work you’re about to do. So, what makes a good warm-up? Why do we do certain things at the beginning of class and other things, like stretching, at the end? We’re glad you asked because there is a method to our madness — and it’s designed to keep you safe, prevent injuries, and enhance your performance.

Warm It Up

Why do we place such a strong emphasis on the proper warm-up? Largely because it’s been shown to prevent injuries and increase your stamina. When you’re physically active, your muscles need increased blood flow and oxygen to meet the demands you’re putting on your body. Experts agree that raising the heart rate and breathing rate gradually is the best preparation for your body. You ask a lot of your muscles during aerial class. Not only are you hoisting yourself into the air and expecting them to support you, you’re also bending, twisting, reaching, and occasionally performing skills that require an advanced degree of flexibility. You want your muscles to be nice and pliable for all of this, which is why we follow up our leg kicks and jumping jacks with some neck and shoulder rolls, spinal twists, forward folds, etc. A good warm-up should specifically work the muscles you’re about to use, and for aerialists, that’s just about everything, especially our shoulders, rotator cuffs, necks, and backs. While we want these muscles to be nice and lubricated before we start training, we don’t want to over do it. Which brings us to . . .

Stretch It Out

Why do we save deep stretching for the end of class (or for a separate class)? Again, studies have shown that deeply stretching a muscle prior to working out can actually work against you. Think of a muscle as a piece of taffy. You can stretch it out to make it longer, but it becomes thinner as well. When we train, we often ask our muscles to contract (as in a pull-up). If we’ve done a lot of deep stretching before class, those nice long muscles don’t contract as well, and we run into difficulties. That being said, we still want to be well-prepared for the work we’re doing. So if you’re going to train flexibility-heavy skills that involve lots of splits or backbending, you will indeed want to spend some additional time stretching those areas beforehand. Otherwise, wait until you’re done in the air to focus on flexibility gains.

Put It All Together

When you’re in class, we’ve got you covered! But when you come to Open Studio or train on your own, we recommend following the same formula. Start your training session with a warm-up that includes some light cardio to make you break a sweat, as well as some exercises to wake up all the necessary muscles and joints. Next, stretch any areas that are going to be particularly taxed by the skills you’re training that day. After your workout, give your body a little treat with some gentle stretching or go full-out with a longer flexibility session. That’s it — our expert-recommended method to keep your body working at its best!


Dress for Success: What to Wear in the Air, Part Two

Last week, we offered some thoughts on what to wear when you’re just starting out in an aerial class (TLDR: you’re probably fine with whatever’s in your closet as long as it’s kinda stretchy and not made of metal). But what happens when you’ve been firmly bitten by the aerial bug and want to build a wardrobe that will help you level up in your new pursuit? It largely depends on your goals and your apparatus of choice, but here are a few helpful hints.

When in Doubt, Layers

As you get more comfortable in the air, you might decide that you actually prefer sleeveless tanks or leotards when you train — until the day you try your first fabric drop and your poor armpits beg for mercy. Likewise, shorts might keep you cooler during hot summer months, but they might also lead to some painful moments on the trapeze ropes. Wearing (or bringing) layers to class allows for maximum comfort — wear what you want most of the time but cover up (or strip down) when you need to. Especially in the winter, we strongly recommend starting your training session in heavier layers, which you can shed as your body gets warm.

Fabulous Fabrics

We’re talking about the ones that go on your body here, not the ones you climb. What your workout clothes are made of can make or break the ease with which you master certain skills. Slick fabrics can hinder your progress by making you slip and slide too much; more cotton-y fabrics are preferred for better stability. You might also want to check your bottoms to make sure they’re truly opaque. In strong light, bend over in front of a mirror (or a trusted friend) and find out if London and France are visible. If you’re showing more than you bargained for, throw a pair of booty shorts on over the leggings.

The Long and the Short of It

Beware low-rise bottoms. They might look great in the store, but they can end up exposing too much skin when you’re in the air, leading to burns and abrasions on your waist and back. Choose high-waisted pants, wear a leotard, or make sure your shirt will stay tucked in as you bend, reach, twist, and invert. Similarly, check the length of bottoms. For most students, the ideal length leaves some exposed skin down by the ankle but fully covers the backs of knees.

Solitary Confinement

If you’ve got bits that dangle, you will probably be more comfortable if you keep them contained. Workout gear doesn’t have to be super spendy, but it’s worth shelling out for a few high quality sports bras that keep everything in place without making you feel like you’re being strangled by your own underwear. Aerialists with external genitalia might also want to invest in a dance belt (more on this subject here).

Don’t Be Afraid to Shine

We place a strong priority on safety and comfort, but we also want you to feel your best (which helps you do your best) while you’re training. If feeling your best means leggings featuring neon rainbow unicorns, a sleek black snakeskin pattern, or your favorite cartoon characters, go for it! There’s a wide variety of workout gear out there to help you put the fun in functional. Find something you love that allows you to spend class time focusing on your form, not your fashion emergencies.


Dress for Success: What to Wear in the Air, Part One!

Henry David Thoreau famously warns us to beware any enterprise requiring new clothes. Mark Twain and Shakespeare, on the other hand, tell us that clothes make the man. Who’s right when it comes to aerial class? We think there are some good points on both sides.

For Beginners

If it’s your first class, follow Thoreau. You don’t need the latest workout wear to have a fine time in an intro class — in fact, you’ve probably already got everything you need! We do have a few recommendations to help you feel comfortable and get the most out of your class:

  • Circus involves a certain amount of friction as your body interacts with your apparatus. When you’re starting out, your skin can be extra sensitive to this friction.  We recommend covering the skin most likely to be in contact with the equipment. This includes the backs of knees, armpits, and waist. If you’ve got pants that come past your knees and a shirt with sleeves that covers your waist, you’ll have an easier time with some skills.
  • At certain points in an intro class, you may turn upside down. Super loose tops that fall over your face and impede your vision might make this experience less than stellar (being upside down is confusing enough on its own!). Also, we don’t care a bit if your shirt lifts up and we see your belly, but if you do, consider wearing a leotard or tucking your shirt into your pants.
  • Form-fitting clothing is preferred, as it is less likely to tangle in the apparatus (frustrating and possibly dangerous) and allows your instructor to keep a close eye on your form.
  • You’ll be moving around a lot, so wear clothing that won’t impede your range of motion.

What Not to Wear

The suggestions above are for your safety and comfort. If you don’t have exactly what we recommend, don’t sweat it! We can probably work around it or offer you something from our Box of Opportunity (aerial-friendly loaner clothing). There are a few restrictions that are important either for your own safety or for the safety of our equipment. Expect us to be strict about the following:

  • Any clothing with metal pieces can severely damage our fabrics, rendering them unsafe and unusable. We cannot allow metal zippers, grommets, buttons, or anything else that might get caught on the fabric and cause it to tear. This includes jeans!
  • Jewelry can also be an issue. Dangling necklaces or earrings are a definite safety issue for you. Rings can lead to fingers getting pinched (ouch!) or can be bent by trapeze and lyra bars. Protect yourself and your jewelry by removing it prior to class.

Sock It to Me!

One of our most frequently asked questions is, “Can/Should I wear socks?” On most apparatuses, it’s your choice — do whatever feels best to you. On fabric and other climbable apparatuses, you will probably want to go barefoot. Socks might be too slippery to allow for mastery of some skills.

Pole Primer

If you’re starting out on pole, you can pretty much ignore everything above (except the bit about jewelry). Pole requires exposed skin to stick to the apparatus, so you’ll need shorts instead of pants and a tank top instead of a sleeved shirt. Close-fitting clothing is still recommended.

So, are we totally siding with Thoreau here? Not necessarily. While you don’t need to purchase something new for your first class, as you advance, you might find that certain types of clothing keep you more comfortable, are easier to take care of, or make your training easier. We’ll cover those in more detail next week. In the meantime, pull on your yoga pants, your leggings, heck, even your pajama pants, and get yourself to class!


Summer Circus Training: How to Beat the Heat

As temperatures rise, you might notice some changes in your circus training. While we consider ourselves lucky to have a nice, climate-controlled studio (go ahead, ask us about the good old days when we trained outside at The Vortex), the summer heat still takes its toll in a variety of ways. We get worn out more easily, there’s an increase in chafing, and depending on our apparatus of choice, we’re either trying to keep from sliding off the pole or we’re unsticking the fabric from our sweatiest places. What’s an Austin circus student to do? Here’s our advice to keep you from experiencing summer meltdowns.

Be the Best Dressed

For summer training, we recommend breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics. Cotton is great for breathability, but it absorbs moisture, leaving you nice and damp at the end of class. Nylon and polyester keep you drier by wicking moisture away from your skin, but their breathability varies, and they retain odor. If possible, opt for bamboo — it allows skin to breathe, wicks away moisture, and repels odor.

As tempting as it may be, don’t cut down on clothing in the summer. Backs of knees and armpits are just as sensitive in warm weather and still need to be covered. Find light coverage that still keeps you comfortable as you execute skills. If you want to be less covered in the studio, consider switching to pole for the summer (but note the aforementioned slippage issues).

Clean and Mean

Whatever workout gear you decide on, don’t hang around in it after class! Sweaty clothes are a favorite hot spot for bacteria to thrive. Stay healthy and keep those around you happy by cleaning up and changing clothes as soon as possible after class.

Also, we all know that sweat (and its accompanying odor) is a fact of life. Do what you can to practice good hygiene, but know that your teacher doesn’t expect you to smell fresh as a daisy after your third round of pull-ups. (If you do smell fresh as a daisy, we’re actually gonna ask you to put down the body spray, as some of us are highly sensitive to heavy perfumes.) If sweat is affecting your grip or otherwise impeding your training, bring a towel with you to absorb some of the excess.

Seriously, Hydrate!

All that sweat you’re producing during class needs to be replaced. When you’re well-hydrated you have more energy, you’re more focused, your muscles and joints work better, you have better endurance, and you’re in a better mood. These are all things you want to have going for you when you’re in class! Drink water beforehand and bring water with you in a non-glass container. You might be surprised at the difference it makes in your performance and your experience.

Above all, be gentle with yourself. Extreme weather in either direction isn’t ideal for physical training. When it’s hot, you might be slippier or stickier than normal. You might feel weaker or wear out more quickly. That’s okay. Try not to get frustrated. Take frequent breaks and rehydrate as needed. Remember, your classmates and teachers are struggling right along with you. And just like at the end of a long, hard class or training session, we’re really looking forward to the cool down.


Where the Heart Is: Real Talk About Aerial Training at Home

*Pictured here: An advanced-level Sky Candy student practicing her trapeze skills on her home rig point, which was installed by a professional rigger, with a crash mat underneath and a buddy in the room.*

Dorothy Gale tells us there’s no place like home, but when you’re practicing aerial skills, we respectfully disagree. While we understand the desire to be in the air 24/7, training circus at home is not the best choice, especially for new aerialists.

Why Can’t I Rig in my Home?

Next time you’re in the studio, look up. See those big steel beams our equipment is rigged from? Do you have those in your home? We’re going to guess no. While steel beams aren’t the only safe place to rig, they’re a good visual reminder of how strong your home rig point needs to be. The generally accepted standard for a safe working load limit is 2000 pounds. Basically, if you wouldn’t hang your car from your rig point, you shouldn’t hang from it either.

If you’re not familiar with terms like working load limit or safety factor, or you don’t understand how a 150 lb aerialist could generate 2000 lbs of force, that’s a great reminder that there’s a big part of circus arts we don’t cover in class — rigging! Training on your own doesn’t just require you to know skills like pullovers and footlocks; you also need to know how to handle your equipment, including how to rig it, maintain it, and safely store it when not in use.

But Can I Get a Portable Rig?

The short answer is yes, there are portable rigs available. However, we do not recommend training on your own for new students. It’s a great way to create bad habits or injure yourself. At the beginning of your training, you need an experienced instructor watching your form, spotting you through skills, reminding you to wrap your thumbs, tuck your pelvis, correct that messy wrap before moving on. Other issues to consider when purchasing a portable rig include where you’ll put it up and store it, zoning and insurance concerns, and who can access it (i.e., how do you keep the neighborhood kids off of it). A rig is a huge investment (in the thousands of dollars range), so it’s not a purchase to be taken lightly. We appreciate your passion for your new hobby, but we recommend investing time rather than money: perfect your skills in the studio before considering home training.

What If I Really Am Ready?

You might be ready to train on your own once you’ve reached high intermediate or advanced level (like the student pictured above) and can perform skills without your instructor regularly cueing you or correcting your form. In this case, you must abide by the golden rules of home training: never train alone, always use a mat, and don’t train skills you haven’t been taught. Never train alone is a no-brainer — you need someone who can help in case you get tangled in your apparatus or seriously injure yourself. Don’t train skills you haven’t been taught means that you take that awesome Instagram trick into the studio and show it to your instructor first instead of trying it on your own. There might be more to it than meets the eye. Finally, just like we do in the studio, always use a mat when training.

But I Just Want to Get Stronger!

We support your endeavor! Get yourself a pull-up bar, some hand weights, a resistance band. There are so many conditioning exercises that don’t require an apparatus and a rig point. Ask your instructor how to strengthen your upper body and core at home. Practice inversions on the ground (it’s probably the first place you learned them!) Condition your heart out. You have our blessing.

We’re so happy you want to practice and perfect what you’re learning in class. We encourage you to ask questions about training safely outside the studio. Our answers might not always be what you want to hear, but we promise to always keep your safety at the top of our priority list.


Young at Heart, Part 2: Does Age Matter in Circus?

We hope you enjoyed last week’s interviews with Sky Candy aerialists “of a certain age.” Welcome back for Round Two!

What has been your biggest challenge as an aerialist?

I am a slow learner. I have never been athletic in my life. I see other, younger students try something once and get it instantly while I have to figure out exactly what it is I’m trying to do. Over the years I have gotten much better, but it still takes me a long time to learn new things.”

Chris, 68

“Body and mind. My body, in that I want to do the cool things that the twenty-somethings can do, but that’s a journey that will take some time to reach because I have twenty-something years of not being fit to overcome. And mind, in that I tend to overthink everything.”

Jackie, 51

“Lack of flexibility, the time it takes to improve sometimes, recovering more slowly from injuries, and sometimes the extra size from my leftover skin (started at nearly 400 lbs).”

Eve, 49

Tell us about your proudest achievement.

We were learning to do a fan hipkey in Joanna’s class. Several of the students struggled, and then it came my turn to try. She looked at me and said, ‘Michael is going to pull it off on his first try.’ I was mortified, because up to that point, I was invariably one of the slowest students in any class I’d been in. But she was right, I got the fan the first time I tried. That boost of confidence went a long way.”

Michael, 54

“Performing on lyra at a student showcase and not dying.”

Rosie, 56

“Overall, I think maybe my biggest accomplishment is simply staying with it, pushing myself to keep learning, continuing to make progress, continuing to accomplish things I never dreamed of. Yeah, I think I’m proudest of the process and the visible change I see in myself both physically and mentally. I am so much younger now than I was when I started.”

Chris, 68

What advice would you give an older aerialist who is just starting their journey?

Be patient with yourself and don’t compare yourself to the young pups. Make the most of open studio and the drop-ins that deal with conditioning and flexibility. It might take us longer to see progress, but it will come.”

Rosie, 56

“I’d encourage them to come to Sky Candy and see 6-year-olds, 26-year-olds, 36-year-olds and 60+ year-olds all training side by side! THAT is amazing and encouraging to me!”

Kat, 48

“Condition, condition, condition. Don’t rely on class as your only conditioning. Get a strong core, especially, and build up your shoulders. Start slow (I used workout bands to offset most of my weight when I first started doing pull-ups, because I couldn’t even do one), but condition regularly. Strong supporting muscles will take some of the load off your joints.”

Michael, 54

“Age should never be a factor in trying something new.”

Julie, 48

“Just do it. You can. YES, YOU. This is something you can do. You can be valued and loved and accomplished, just like everyone else. There is no one to compete with, just keep at it, and HAVE FUN. Also, we do heal more slowly. So keep that in mind. Rest. Seriously, rest. And it’s ok to eat. Sometimes a lot. Come seek the rest of us out if you want to talk about it.”

Eve, 49

Finally, we asked our participants, “Are you ever too old for circus?”, to which they enthusiastically responded, “Hell no!” And there you have it. If you’ve been letting age (or any perceived limitation) keep you out of the circus, listen to those who have gone before you. They believe you can do it. This community is here for you. Let us help you get off the ground and take flight.


Young at Heart, Part 1: Does Age Matter in Circus?

A widespread myth outside the circus community is that all aerialists are strong, bendy, young, and thin, and have been training in gymnastics and dance since shortly after emerging from the womb. Inside the walls of Sky Candy, we know better. Every week we see students of all backgrounds, ages, body types, and fitness levels show up to the studio and accomplish amazing things. For those who don’t get the pleasure of seeing these incredible feats on a regular basis, we wanted to break down the myth of the “perfect” aerialist, starting with the fallacy that all aerialists are young. We recently interviewed some of our students to get their thoughts on training in your 40s, 50s, and beyond. We’re sure you’ll find them as inspiring as we do!

What led you to start circus training?

“My daughter took a flying trapeze class with some of her friends. At the time I was recovering from back surgery. At my 12 week check up with the surgeon, I brought in a video of the class and asked him if he would clear me for trapeze. He said it looked like a good way to strengthen my core and back.”

Betsy, 50, training for 6 years

“I was upset with a co-worker and decided instead of being mad, I would work my frustrations out in a fun way.”

Julie, 48, training for 7 years

“It was an accident. I ran into Rudy Ramirez, a local theater director, in a bar one night and asked him when he was going to cast me in something. He told me he was trying to secure the rights to Cosmicomics so he could adapt it for stage and that if he got the rights, I was in . . . . Only later did I learn it was a Sky Candy production.”

Chris, 68, training for 4 ½ years

Have you or your instructor made any adaptations in your training?

“There have been many modifications. When I was doing trapeze, I simply could not (and still cannot) do an under the bar entrance, so I worked with a single point that could be lowered.”

Jackie, 51, training for 6 months

“Tons! I’m not very flexible and I’ve had multiple injuries. But I accept my limitations, and the instructors are very good at coming up with modifications to help me out.”

Betsy, 50

“Ha, maybe an unusual level of patience with my constant claims that ‘I’m never going to be able to do that. My (insert body part here) just cannot move that way.’”

Michael, 54, training for over 4 years

What have you enjoyed most about training at Sky Candy?

“I love being strong. I love doing things so many people my age won’t even try. I love the people – instructors & students. It’s a very welcoming and encouraging community. No one really cares about whether you are doing fancy tricks. They are just happy that you are trying and that you share a love for the circus.”

Betsy, 50

“The community, hands down. From the moment I walked in feeling like a fool for even thinking I could do this, I was made to feel welcome and accepted for who I was and what I could do. Not a single person has made me feel icky because of my age or weight, and I have been encouraged, inspired, and pushed by some amazing aerialists.”

Jackie, 51

“Sky Candy is helping me get strong in ways I have never been strong before. I’m seeing HUGE strength improvement in my upper body and core, which rocks! It also enabled me to try handstand classes and conditioning classes and helped ease me into open studio, which I wasn’t sure how to approach.”

Kat, 48, training for one year

Want more? Check back next week as our aerialists discuss their biggest challenges, proudest moments, and advice for those of you just starting out!


Grounded!: What to Do When You Can’t Make It to the Studio

Whether you’re away on a business trip, rehabbing an injury, or just plain busy, some weeks you can’t make it to class. We know many of you worry about falling behind or losing strength (don’t stress; you’ll catch up in no time) and want to know what you should be doing when you’re not in the studio. Behold! We’ve put together a handy guide with a number of different options for you. Choose the one that works best with what you’ve got going on, or mix in a little of each. These guidelines will keep you in top training shape for your next session.


Stamina is an important part of aerial training. If you want to be able to string a series of challenging skills together into a fluid routine (or if you just want to make it through end-of-class conditioning), you need lots of power to keep working hard. Cardio training is perfect for you. It can often be done in a short amount of time (great for busy schedules) and is usually a safe choice for the injured (for example, if you’ve sprained your wrist, you should still be able to take a brisk walk). Also, you can take this workout outside, which makes a nice change from the studio! So go for a walk, a run, or a hike. Swim laps. Take a dance class. Ride your bike. Cardio that targets the lower body is especially good for aerialists, as we use so much upper body in our training. 

Stretch It Out

Flexibility training can also be done at home or on the go and can take as much or as little time as you have available. Begin by making sure your body is warm, then work your way from head to toe. We especially like to target our shoulders, backs, and splits. Take notes in your next flexibility class on what stretches feel most beneficial to you, or ask your instructor for recommendations. You can find flexibility training online, but proceed with caution — anyone can put a stretching video on YouTube, and we’ve seen some with terrible form. Check out the instructor’s credentials to make sure they know what they’re doing.

Do You Even Lift, Bro?

Strange as it may seem, you can do strength training without your silks and trapeze. Do you have a pull-up bar? (If not, get a pull-up bar. Seriously, they’re one of the most important exercises an aerialist can do.) Use your bar for shrugs, pull-ups (in a variety of hand positions), tuck-ups, and static holds. If you’re still working towards pull-ups, stand on a chair and use your legs to assist you. If you have a set of hand weights, use them for bicep curls, rows, flys, and overhead presses. Ankle weights can be used for leg lifts.

Don’t let a lack of equipment keep you from training. Work your way through static holds in plank, reverse plank, side plank, hollow body, and superman. Do all of the crunches, oblique sit-ups, and squats. There are plenty of options no matter what you’ve got on hand.

Movin’ On Up!

We hope we’ll see you back in the studio very soon, but we want you to stay happy and healthy while you’re gone! Focusing on any combination of cardio, flexibility, and strength training will keep those muscles working, so that you’re ready for class the next time your schedule allows. 


Go for the Gold: The Ins and Outs of Competitions

Looking for an excuse to take your aerial training to the next level? Consider competing! Aerial competitions are a great way to achieve goals, build strength, and bond with your local circus community. Wondering if competition life is right for you? Here’s what to expect along the way!

Finding a Competition

Depending on your location, there might be a competition right in your area, or the nearest one might be several hours away. Do some online research or ask around at your local aerial studio to see what’s happening and when. Remember, most athletes train for months leading up to a competition, so even if it seems like the next one is a long way off, you can still start planning now.

If possible, talk to people who have participated in the competition before. Did they feel it was well-run and safe? Were their expectations met? If the competition promised something (professional photos and video, for example), did they deliver it in a timely manner? Keep in mind, sometimes things go haywire or are beyond an organizer’s control, but if you hear a series of horror stories from past competitors (especially with regard to safety concerns), walk away. There are plenty of well-respected comps out there — you’ll find one.

Play by the Rules

When preparing for a competition, read the guidelines thoroughly and ask the organizers about anything that’s unclear. Failure to adhere to the rules could mean losing points on your final score or being eliminated completely. Make sure you know the following:

  • Time limit. Most comps have a pretty strict window for this — make sure you follow it exactly. If your piece can be anywhere from 3:00 to 3:15 minutes, don’t assume it’s NBD if you go until 3:17.
  • Music choice. Many competitions have rules regarding sensitive language and subject matter.
  • Costume. Do certain body parts need to be covered? Do different apparatuses have specific requirements (no zippers on silks, for instance)? What’s considered a costume piece versus a prop? We know one young competitor who removed a hat at the beginning of her routine. Unfortunately, the comp had a strict policy about costume removal and considered her in violation of it. Make sure you’re 100% clear on what is and isn’t allowed.
  • Compulsory moves. Some competitions require you to execute certain moves — make sure you’ve got them in there! If you need to demonstrate two different climbs on silks or three spins during a pole routine, each one should be clear and distinct. Does that combo spin count as one or two? Don’t assume; ask!
  • Restricted moves. Similarly, some skills might be off-limits (i.e., no inversions for novice level competitors). Again, know what you can and can’t do, and structure your routine accordingly.

The Competitive Spirit

Preparing for a competition is a lot of hard work. Putting together an entertaining routine that meets all the requirements doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll train the same sequence of moves over and over again. You’ll put a reach move into your routine and take it out again when it’s not ready. You’ll train when you’re tired, when you’re sore, when you’d rather be out with friends or home on the couch. You’ll get sick of your music. You’ll hate the first costume you order. You’ll have a run-through where everything goes wrong and wonder why you signed up for this.

And then competition day will arrive, and you’ll be surrounded by aerialists from across your community. You’ll chat backstage and cheer each other on. You’ll go out on stage, give it your all, and bask in the crowd’s applause. Winning or losing isn’t important. You created something and put it out there for others to enjoy. You worked hard and put in all those extra training hours, building strength and stamina along the way. What the judges decide doesn’t matter — clearly, you’ve already won.