Teacher Spotlight: Irene Tapia

Tell us about your early life

I was born in Colorado but conceived in Mexico. My family jokes that I should have a tattoo that says “Hecho en Mexico Born in the USA” (lol, that’s a whole big story). 

I was very quiet and shy as a kid and have always been a huge animal lover and protector. Once my little brother put a string around a grasshopper, and I was soooo upset because I felt like the grasshopper would be injured. I made him release it. Then I explained why grasshoppers were just as important as we were.” 

Tell us about your education 

I went to college to become a professional medical Spanish interpreter, became a Reiki master, went to massage school, and then became a professional personal trainer and certified nutrition coach. In between massage school and training, I found aerial life.

Plus, I started reading tarot when I was a child and have been reading professionally since I was 20. (How old am I again?)

What brought you to Austin?

“The idea of living where there was no snow.

What first drew you to aerial work? 

“I read an article about conquering fears. I had (and still do have) a fear of heights. I looked up trapeze classes and found that my city at the time (Madison, WI) had a performing aerial company that taught a dance trap class. I joined, fell in love, and was able to join the troupe! I started performing right away and learned all the apparatuses I could, including some wild invented ones (I will never forget the sidewinder).” 

Tell us about your first aerial class

“Anxiety, 100%! My fear of heights was in full force. A bunch of strangers, a room with four dance trapezes, and I had to learn how to orbit right off the bat. Talk about puke city!” 

How did you decide to become an aerial instructor?

“The moment I realized that I could perform 50ft in the air and not let my fear of heights take over is when I realized I wanted to teach.”

Describe your teaching philosophy. What would a student experience in one of your classes?

My goal is to support each of my students in achieving their current goals, keep it fun and safe, and create a community. I like to incorporate my personal training knowledge to help students gain strength. I want a positive experience for everyone.

Aerial has been a place for me to find my passion, and I want to create a space for students to find theirs!” 

What is your favorite thing about being an aerial instructor?

“The moment a student does the THANG they didn’t believe they could. That moment is pure glitter.”

Tell us about a particularly impactful moment you’ve had with a student

One of my favorite moments was in an intro class I taught years ago. The student truly didn’t believe they could lift themselves enough to sit on a trapeze. The trapeze was low, yet they didn’t believe their hands would hold on. The first class, I spotted heavily so that they knew I would not let them fall.

By the last class, I stood nearby as they climbed all the way up. This student is now one of the most advanced students I’ve worked with. They still comment on that day, the day I ‘carried’ them onto the trap. But now, they’re doing advanced beats and more. All because they knew I would not let them fall. Now they know they’re strong enough and won’t let themselves fall. That’s something. To be a part of someone’s journey is a gift.  

aerialist hangs upside down from trapeze by one ankle

If you could give a brand new student one piece of advice, what would it be?

“This is your own journey. No one else’s. The journey is not linear. It goes up and down. And when it’s down, reach out. And when it’s up, celebrate.” 

Talk about your experience as an aerial performer

“I’m actually pretty shy and introverted. I have just enough extrovert in me to help me with my job as a teacher. I never thought I’d ever perform, but the first time I performed a group act with my old troupe, it was magical.

We had traditions on how we got ready, helped each other with makeup and so on. Then we held hands until we went onstage and the lights turned on. The lights were so bright that we couldn’t see anything but each other and the apparatuses. Suddenly everything we worked for came together, and it was a team effort. I fell in love. A part of me I had never known came out. I love, love performing! I miss it so!

What excites you about aerial performance? What would you like to see the aerial world do next, creatively?

When a performance can create a new world that I can watch and be a part of, I get excited. I want more of that. More group performances to collaborate and create magic. More “real” performers. More ages. More diversity. More of what makes a person have a moment of awe but also a moment of ‘I can do that. I want to do that. I’m going to do that.'”

What do you find challenging in your own aerial practice?

“Honestly? The very thing I advise beginners not to do: compare. I’ve been doing aerial for a very long time. My brain thinks I should be crazy advanced by now. But I’m not. I have struggles. I had an injury that took me out for over a year, and now that I can train again, COVID-19 has hit.

I feel behind my aerial friends and fellow teachers. I need to remind myself that I am exactly where I should be. I’ll get strong again. Hopefully, I’ll perform again. But most importantly, I need to remember that it’s my journey and it doesn’t do me any good to compare. ” 

Aside from aerial work, what are your passions, hobbies, and interests?

“Volunteering with Louie [her Pomeranian]! Rock climbing! Paddleboarding with Louie on the board. Cycling. Laughing. Eating. Eating cupcakes in particular. I love doing moon rituals and reading tarot. And Louie. Anything with Louie. He brightens the world, and I’m simply the human who gets to carry him around as he changes peoples lives.”

Irene currently teaches two Online Drop-In Classes, Circuit Fit on Mondays at 12:30pm and Foam Roller Fun on Thursdays at 12:30pm. In non-pandemic times, she also teaches Trapeze, Harness, and TRX at Sky Candy.