Teacher Spotlight: Julia Kennelly

What first drew you to aerial work? 

“The first time an aerial act made an impression on me, I was 11 and went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam. There’s an iconic silks act in that show, performed on incredibly long, red fabric by an incredibly flexible human being, and I was transfixed.

Everything about that show was wonderful: the tent, the moving stage, the performances, the costumes, the music. I had no idea how to get circus into my life but I knew I wanted it. It’s been more than 20 years since that show, and I still feel the certainty.

Tell us about your first aerial class

“While I was finishing up my degree at UT, I decided that after graduating I would go learn all the things at the San Francisco Circus Center. I made this decision with almost a year left in Austin, so I started looking around for classes to take. Like everyone else, I thought I wanted to do silks, so I took a few series at Blue Lapis Light.

Most of what I remember is trying, very unsuccessfully, to get into double aerial dance footlocks. My noodle arms and complete lack of fabric theory meant I spent a lot of time (like, a LOT of time) falling out of short-arm while my flailing legs tangled in the fabric. I was terrible at silks, but I’m also pretty stubborn.

The moments of success felt basically random, but they were satisfying enough to keep me going. Then I got to the Circus Center and found the static trapeze (90% less getting tangled, 100% more places to sit down and relax), and everything started to click into place.

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

“My teaching philosophy matches Sky Candy’s ethos: Circus is for every body. I believe circus is a tool that can help us rewrite the narrative we tell ourselves about what our bodies can and can’t do. This is incredibly powerful.

My job is to help students find a movement practice that brings them that feeling of empowerment, so my classes focus on meeting each student where they are and helping them figure out how to meet their goals. Also, circus is so much fun – even when it’s a lot of work – and I want to share the joy with everyone.” 

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

Try everything! I was so focused on trapeze when I started that I never thought about things like handstands. It turns out I love them and they’re great cross-training for my main discipline. 

What do you find challenging in your own aerial practice?

“For me, the deeper work of my practice is learning to enjoy the process without fixating on outcomes. Ever since I started, I’ve felt like I’m climbing a mountain, and when I get to the top there’s the achievement of finally being able to do the thing . . . but from that vantage I can see that there’s another mountain with another crazy difficult thing on top, and another one after that.

And that’s okay. I have to remind myself (and my students) that progress isn’t linear, and that getting stuck or having to backtrack can be more valuable in the long run than mastering something immediately. If you’re never going to get to the top of the mountain range, why not enjoy the climb?

What’s your favorite way to indulge?

“I love to swim, especially in creeks and rivers, and extra-especially in cold water. Despite living in Texas most of my life, I have basically zero tolerance for heat, but I look forward to the summer because it means I can get in the water. A perfect summer weekend involves a trip to the Greenbelt, Barton Springs, or (my personal favorite) Deep Eddy.” 

Julia currently teaches three Online Drop-In Classes: Core on the Floor on Mondays and Friday at 10:30am, Handstands at Home on Mondays and Fridays at 11am, and Flexibility for All on Fridays at 12:30pm.