At Sky Candy, we take great pride in offering high-quality aerial instruction, but we are also dedicated to building community and promoting our mission: Circus is for Everybody! To help foster community spirit, especially in a time when we are unable to meet in person, we’d like to help you get to know us better!
We’ll start with an instructor who might seem like a new face to some, but who has actually been with us a very long time. Please say welcome back to Xochitl!
Tell us about your early life
“I grew up on a large property tucked into the redwoods in Northern California. I would spend my time adventuring in creeks and climbing up huge oaks. Growing up, I played competitive softball and was the pitcher. I also attended a hippie circus camp called Camp Winnarainbow, which is where I started circus. I truly owe it to them for the person I am today.”
What first drew you to aerial work?
“I remember seeing Cirque du Soleil as a kid and being quite enamored. I was always drawn to the aerial acts. The first year I started doing aerial work was at Camp Winnarainbow when I was 8, and I fell in love immediately.”
Tell us about your first aerial class/lesson
“It was probably cloudswing, but I don’t remember much else. It was a giant swing with safety loops, unlike the cloudswing you see in traditional circus. I was always super strong and enjoyed movement, so it worked well on my body.”
What brought you to Austin?
“It just seemed like a cool place, and I had some friends who lived here. After moving away I couldn’t shake the draw it had. I moved back in Winter 2019 and am now living out in the country near Bastrop.”
How did you get involved with Sky Candy?
“I first got involved with Sky Candy in 2010 when they were just a rig outside the Vortex Theater. I hung around and helped out until I finally got asked to teach. As one of the older members, I’ve seen Sky Candy go through so much growth as a company. I helped start youth programs and developed curriculum. I left Sky Candy in 2012 to go to NECCA (the New England Center for Circus Arts).”
Tell us about your education
“I graduated from NECCA’s ProTrack Program, specializing in dance trapeze and duo trapeze. From 2013-2017, I trained with coaches in Montreal working on duo trapeze, dance trapeze, duo lyra, straps, and some rope.”
Has there been an instructor or performer who has impacted or inspired you?
“Aimee Hancock, my coach at NECCA, had a huge impact on my aerial career. I deeply respect her as a coach and a performer. Cohdi Harrell was also my first inspiration for trapeze. Having grown up doing mainly trapeze, I was blown away by how Cohdi was using it in such a different way. This opened new doors and helped me discover my own movement and exploration on the trapeze.”
How did you decide to become an aerial instructor? What was your teacher training process like?
“I first got certified to be an aerial teacher in 2007 by Carrie Heller. Before that, I had been teaching kids as an assistant instructor. I taught mainly kids til 2009 when I started to branch out to adults. I love teaching and find the human body fascinating. I have an old school approach to teaching because I have a deep respect for the basics and tradition of circus.”
How long have you been teaching?
“I’ve been teaching since 2003, and I’ve been teaching at Sky Candy since 2010.”
Describe your teaching philosophy. What would a student experience in one of your classes?
“My goal is to teach people how to use their bodies intentionally. I want my students to understand the roots and basics of the tricks and body positions, so just like writing a poem they can then bend and twist and mix the words to create art.”
What is your favorite thing about being an aerial instructor?
“Having my students find that ‘aha’ moment. Also, seeing the evolution of what started out as a weird, awkward position or trick become something beautiful and unique.
I love working with students for a long period of time and seeing things click. I have had a lot of students go on to do amazing things and that always makes me proud.”
If you could give a brand new student one piece of advice, what would it be?
“Be patient, and don’t skip the basics. They’ll come back and kick you in the behind later.”
Tell us about your experience as an aerial performer
“After graduating from NECCA, I performed at small cabaret and corporate events in the U.S. and Mexico. In 2014, I started performing with Acrobatic Conundrum. We toured the U.S. with two original contemporary circus shows, ‘Love and Gravity’ and ‘The Fig Tree Waltzes’. In 2018, I started working with Cirque du Soleil on a duo lyra act. I finished that contract in Fall 2019 and am currently taking a break from performance.”
What do you find challenging in your own aerial practice?
“Not comparing my success and progress to others. When you’re able to put that aside, you can focus on what you can uniquely put out there, instead of looking to others for inspiration.”
Aside from aerial work, what are your passions, hobbies, interests?
“I now live on a farm and have pigs and goats and chickens. I love gardening and building things and being outside under the trees. These days I get my adrenaline kick from dirt biking.
I also love cooking good, authentic Mexican food like my dad and grandma do.”
What’s your favorite way to indulge?
“Swimming and a good pastry.”
Xochitl currently teaches two Online Drop-In Classes, Cardio Sculpt on Tuesdays at noon and Length & Strength for Splits on Wednesdays at 6:30pm, as well as co-teaches our Online Series Class Prepare for Reentry: Trapeze with Rachael Shaw.