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Not-So-Tough Love: Giving Good Feedback, Part Two

Recently, we talked about how to give feedback in informal settings, like during class or open studio. This week, we’re looking at how to give good feedback somewhere a bit more formal. Formal in this context means that feedback is directly asked for in specific ways, and with a moderator present to keep things on track, such as our Scratch Nights. Let’s break it down for you.

How It Works

First, you’ll watch the performance. This may be anything from, “a few ideas I’ve been playing around with” to “the first draft of a sequence I’m working on” to “a dress rehearsal of the finished piece I’m performing next week”. Next, the moderator will open up the floor for feedback. The performer will specify what kind of feedback they want, which might be very general or incredibly specific. Some performers may not want feedback at all, in which case the next performance will begin.

What You Do

Want to say something about the performance you just saw? Here’s what you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Limit comments to what’s been asked for. This is one of the most important parts of giving feedback in a formal fashion. If the performer has been clear that they don’t want comments on sequencing, don’t tell them you think their drop would look better later in the routine – even if you really, really think it would. There are many reasons they may have chosen to do it that way, and please respect their wishes in regards to your comments. If they’re not open to suggestions on this aspect of their performance, keep your opinions to yourself.
  • Be kind. It takes guts to get up there and show your work. Even seasoned aerialists (including your instructor!) can feel vulnerable when they perform. Choose your words carefully, and be careful about using humor, as it can be taken the wrong way. It’s okay to be critical (often, that’s literally what the performer asked for), but avoid being rude or offensive. Consider how you’d like to hear the same note.
  • Be brief and stay on topic. This is not the time to go into a detailed explanation of your own struggles with cross-back straddle entrances or how this routine reminded you of an elaborate dream you had last week. Keep your notes short and on point. You also don’t have to comment on every act you see. And if someone has already covered the point you want to make, you don’t have to repeat it or expand on it.
  • If you do get off track, expect to be corrected. That’s what the moderator is for. If you start to wander into territory that’s outside the requested feedback range or is otherwise off-topic, you’ll likely be gently redirected. Don’t take it personally – the moderator has the difficult job of keeping the evening flowing smoothly and making sure performers get what they ask for. The moderator might also need to move on to the next performer before you have a chance to speak. Again, they’re trying to keep the evening on schedule and prevent the audience from becoming fatigued.

Attending performances like Scratch Night can be lots of fun – and the critiques we make of others’ work (out loud or internally) can help inform our own choices when we put together a performance. Remember to stay on topic and treat others as you’d like to be treated! Then sit back and enjoy the show.

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Not-So-Tough Love: Giving Good Feedback, Part One

If you’re hanging about the studio these days, you might notice a group of aerialists who are really upping their game. Many Sky Candy community members are currently preparing for the Capital of Texas Aerial Championships, taking place Labor Day weekend at the brand new Sky Candy space. We are incredibly proud of the students and faculty who will competing and showcasing their work and want to give them lots of support along the way. Part of preparing for a performance of any kind — from student showcases to national competitions — is seeking feedback on your work. But how do you make sure your feedback is constructive and delivered in a way that is helpful, never hurtful? Here’s some insight on how to offer feedback to a friend — and when to keep your thoughts to yourself!

During Class

Is it ever appropriate to give another student feedback during class? Maybe. If you see a fellow student about to do something you know is unsafe, such as incorrectly wrapping for a drop, definitely speak up. Safety always comes first. On the flip side, when you see a classmate finally conquer a nemesis trick or make progress towards a goal, congratulations are certainly in order. But in general, it’s not cool to give unsolicited feedback to other students during class — that’s what the teacher is for. Have you figured out a key for a trick the rest of the class is struggling with? Bring it up as a general thought or question (i.e., “I’ve found that moving my hand lower on the hoop gives me more control. Is that true for anyone else?) rather than directing it towards another student. Remember, what works for your body may not work for others, or there might be a very good reason why your helpful hint isn’t advisable. Also, let your teacher give corrections like pointing toes and straightening knees — keep your attention on your own work!

During Open Studio

Open studio is often where students practice their choreographed work, and where they may explicitly request your feedback. So, rule #1: if you haven’t been asked to give feedback, please don’t! Allow the aerialist to decide whose feedback they want and when. (If you see something you love, a quick “That was awesome!” is usually quite all right, but keep it short and positive.) Even if the aerialist has gathered a group to watch a practice run, don’t speak up if you weren’t included in that group. There’s a good chance the aerialist has selected people they know and trust and tasked them with looking for specific things. While you might feel you have something important to contribute, remember that you don’t know what the aerialist is working on, where they are in the process, what kind of feedback they’re looking for, etc. If they haven’t asked for your input, don’t offer it.

Rule #2: if you are asked to give feedback, keep it within the scope of what you’ve been asked for. If someone asks you to point out every instance where they make a weird face, this isn’t the time to critique their music choice. Consider your words carefully. There’s a big difference between, “I thought it got way more exciting after the handstand sequence” and, “I was totally uninterested in what you were doing until the handstand sequence.” It takes a lot of guts to ask for feedback; keep in mind how you would like to receive criticism about your own work. And remember that while it’s important to be kind, you are being asked for your critical eye. Telling them everything looks perfect and beautiful when in actuality their toes aren’t pointed and there’s a really awkward transition halfway through isn’t helpful.

We’ll be back in two weeks with more advice on how to give advice — especially in a more formalized setting like one of our Scratch Nights!

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Circus Is For Everybody: Students with Chronic Illness, Part Two

A few weeks ago, we talked with a small section of our student base about their experiences practicing aerial arts while dealing with chronic illness. Their stories were way too complex to condense into one post, so we’re back this week with more.

Have you talked to your instructor about your illness? What kind of support have you been offered?

“I have been taking classes with the same aerial instructor for most (if not all) of my training, and the main reason I have done that is that she is incredibly responsive to people’s different levels and needs — whether that’s over the long term or because of a short-term need/change. Even when I feel like absolute garbage, my instructor would find something I could do that was challenging but also made me feel like I was moving forward. If your instructor cannot or will not give you the support you need, I suggest you try out new instructors because there are many out there who want aerials to be healing and fueling for you, and they will give whatever support they can to make sure that happens.”  – Darcy, Hammock/Lyra Student, Autoimmune Disorder

“Sky Candy has been fantastic. The instructors are supportive and understanding and work around my issues. They also never make me feel like I’m broken, which so many other people in my life have. They encourage me and make me believe that I’ll be able to actually perform one day. I think I probably would have given up aerials by now if it hadn’t been for the support, encouragement, and acceptance provided by Sky Candy.”  – Kim, Silks Student, Crohn’s and Rheumatoid Arthritis

“Yes, [my instructor] is always supportive, and helped with some strength training and stretching suggestions. She has also taken time to help me be more included when the pain is a little worse, and has kind words of encouragement when my body refuses to listen.”  – April, Lyra Student, Psoriatic Arthritis

“No. Luckily, most instructors are great about respecting boundaries – not just for people with a known illness. In my experience, anyone that says they’re too tired or just not comfortable with a trick or exercise is welcome to sit it out. The Sky Candy instructors have a great way of knowing when you need a little push and when you need to rest.”  – Kelly, Trapeze Student, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

What advice would you offer a new aerialist with the same condition?

“You may have to learn or practice at a different speed from others, but it’s worth it to keep doing things that bring you joy.”  – Melissa, Lyra/Rope/Straps Student, Endometriosis

“Take things slow and listen to your body. It’s ok to be the slowest person in your class and progress more slowly. It can give you more time to work on your technique and think about your goals. Focus on building muscle and getting strong. You’ll have good days and bad days, but overall you’ll make amazing progress.”  – Emily, SIlks/Contortion Student, Ankylosing Spondylitis

“Let your instructor know you have the disease. They can’t help you if they don’t know. Don’t feel like you’re being a quitter or lazy if your body isn’t up to it. Only you know your body best. Be patient with yourself. It might come a little slower for you but it will come. Trust me. Enjoy the small progress.”  – Rosie, Lyra/Fabric Student, Rheumatoid Arthritis

“Don’t compare yourself to other aerialists. It’s so hard mentally seeing other people progress when you aren’t. Make achievable goals and forgive yourself if you don’t meet them. The one thing I’ve learned is to not look at missing your aerial goals as failure. You are trying to do something that your illness tells you you can’t do, and that’s incredible.”  – Kim

Personally, we think these students are incredible, and we are so happy they are part of our Sky Candy family!

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Circus Is For Everybody: Students with Chronic Illness, Part One

At Sky Candy, we’re serious about circus being for everybody. In a recent blog series, we interviewed aerialists “of a certain age” to reinforce the idea that you can continue (or start!) your circus journey no matter how old you are. Next up, we’re talking with a group of aerialists who share a concern you may not have thought about if not personally confronted with it: chronic illness. We are excited to share their stories with you over the coming weeks.

How has your illness impacted your aerial journey?

“Sometimes, when I train, I’m so tired that I just have to stop halfway through. It makes progressing more difficult and results in a much slower timeline. I very often feel defeated. However, when I’m able to train and I master something new, the feeling of accomplishment is incredible.”  – Kim, Silks Student, Crohn’s and Rheumatoid Arthritis

“I have learned that my training is not linear – there isn’t a pure temporal path towards being able to do X, Y, Z. My training is about being in touch with my body. It’s about being patient and giving my body the gift of movement, even when it’s hard. It’s about celebrating victories and honoring when my body needs to take a step back.”  – Darcy, Hammock/Lyra Student, Autoimmune Disorder

“I’ve learned that ‘circus every day’ does NOT work for me. I find 3 days/week to be the max I can handle for my training. I schedule a day in between each lesson, conditioning class, or open studio. On the days in between, I go with really gentle exercise like walking or yoga. It can get a little tricky juggling the schedule each series but it works.”  – Kelly, Trapeze Student, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

“I’m still learning all the things that can spike abdominal pain for me — some beats feel fine, some beats will randomly result in deep cervical pain or cramping (due to my endo treatment IUD). Front balances are tricky around my period. Fatigue and general pelvic pain are always a consideration, and sometimes I can’t invert at all without feeling inflammation-related pain and nausea.”  – Melissa, Lyra/Rope/Straps Student, Endometriosis

What does your health practitioner say about your circus training?

“My rheumatologist is pretty open-minded and doesn’t judge me. He just tells me to listen to my body.”  – Rosie, Lyra/Fabric Student, Rheumatoid Arthritis

“They would tell me to stop — ha! While labs are helpful, I’ve stopped relying so heavily on those and really tried to get in touch with how my body is feeling each day or week and respecting that. Autoimmune is a disconnect with the body so I have been working on recreating that connection in any way I can.”  – Kelly

“He said, ‘Yeah, just don’t fall on your back.’ I suppose that’s solid advice.”  – Emily, Silks/Contortion Student, Ankylosing Spondylitis

Have you noticed any difference in your symptoms since you began training?

“My pain decreases some as physical fitness increases, so thanks circus!” – Melissa

“Staying active has helped A LOT. The great thing about aerials is there is a lot of stretching involved, which helps my pain a lot!”  – Alicia, Silks/Pole Student, Fibromyalgia

“Gaining muscle is really beneficial for people with arthritis because your muscles protect your joints! I’ve definitely gained muscle, which I think has made my joints feel more happy and less cranky. Also, ankylosing spondylitis can lead to your vertebrae fusing together, so it’s important to keep your back flexible. I think contortion has helped with that, and my back feels less crunchy when I do silks now!”  – Emily

“I’m much stronger, have a lot more stamina, and I don’t limp for as long. My rheumatologist is impressed by the positive changes in my body.”  – April, Lyra Student, Psoriatic Arthritis

 

Want to hear more from these amazing students? We’ll be back in two weeks!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.