two aerial performers pose in a heart-shaped lyra

It Takes Two

Let’s say you’re an experienced Austin trapeze student looking to add a little variety to your aerial life. You could always add a new apparatus to your portfolio, or you could add a new person to your current apparatus! Partner aerial work opens up a whole new world of possibilities, forces you out of old habits, and consistently wows crowds at aerial shows. What do you need to know before diving headfirst into the wide world of partner aerials? Let’s take a look.

Not for Newbies

We hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but it’s extremely important that you’re a strong solo aerialist before adding a partner to the mix. It’s imperative that you’re comfortable with basic vocabulary and know your way into and out of a wide variety of skills. If your knee hang is still a bit shaky, adding a partner’s weight could be extremely dangerous, or if you struggle with entering cross-back straddle consistently, you could put yourself and your partner at risk. If you’re unsure whether you’re sufficiently advanced for duo work, talk to your instructor.

Choose Wisely

Perhaps the most important part of duo is deciding whom to work with. Contrary to popular belief, your bestie might not be your best choice. Ideally, you’ll want someone close to the same skill level as you and who has a similar schedule (it will never work if you can’t make it to the studio together). Think about the type of partnership you want: do you need a strong base, so that you can show off your fabulous flying, or are you more interested in making symmetrical shapes with someone around your own size? Compare performance styles and goals. If one of you is looking to incorporate her modern dance background into your work and the other has two left feet when not in the air, you might not be the ideal pair. Similarly, if you’re interested in performing as much as possible and your partner has the worst stage fright and just wants to have fun in the studio, you’ll want to know that now. Make sure you choose a partner who’s responsible, who will show up for training (and potential gigs) on time and ready to go. 

Finally, keep in mind that duo work can get extremely intimate. There’s a pretty good chance that your head is eventually going to wind up in your partner’s crotch; be sure both of you can handle that. (As you can see, we’re really not kidding about the head/crotch thing!)



Duo Dos and Don’ts

The golden rule of great duo might be familiar to you from other relationships: communication is key. Short commands such as “Down!” or “Stop!” will be essential to keeping you both safe. Work out ahead of time which words you will use and remember that some positions make speech difficult; you might also try communicating through taps or other nonverbal cues. When trying a new position, add weight gradually and have a clear exit strategy if things go awry. In the same vein, warn your partner before coming out of a position, as the sudden loss of weight could make their position precarious. Finally, if you’re the first one off the apparatus, get out of the way immediately, so that your partner can also come down.

Duo aerials are an excellent way for Austin trapeze and lyra lovers, as well as fabric fanatics, to further explore their favorite apparatus while strengthening both their bodies and their communication skills. If you’re feeling a little lonely in the air, we encourage you to give duo a try!

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