Yup. It’s cold out. As a Canadian, Mama Silks says, “Stop your grumbling, get out your tuque and your down coat and get your behind to class.”
Many of my American students may not understand my ‘Canadian’, so here’s an image of the ‘tuque’ our Canadian athletes will be wearing at the upcoming Sochi Olympics.
You should get one and wear one to class.
Just as it’s important to dress properly for the outdoors, it’s also important to dress smartly for the studio. Let’s face it: many aerial studios are big drafty spaces that are hard to heat.
Here are some tips for staying warm, before, during and after class.
1. Wear layers
We love layers! Choose merino wool. It wicks moisture away from the skin, keeping you warm and dry. Different weights are available for different seasons and uses. Cotton gets wet and stays wet. Yuck.
The experts at outdoor outfitters are a great resource. Here’s a link to REI’s Layering Basics.
Don’t worry – no one will see your long johns underneath your leggings.
2. Warm up from the inside out
Arrive a few minutes early and do some jumping jacks or other cardio to get your blood pumping. While layers are great, clothes are not a substitute for getting your blood coursing through your veins.
When you start to break a sweat and want to take a layer off, you know your muscles are getting warm.
3. Warm up your hands
Make sure your hands are ready for gripping your apparatus. Stick them in your armpits or between your legs. Or, rub them together quickly like you’re trying to start a fire.
4. The harimaki
My wife introduced me to the Japanese harimaki. It’s a wool band than keeps your waist and lower back super warm. Yum! I got mine at UniQlo last year. You can also wrap a nice warm scarf around your waist.
5. Do dynamic rather than passive stretching.
Dynamic stretching involves active stretches while moving the muscles through movement patterns that mimic those you’re about to do. Save the passive stretching for the end of class.
Active stretching should not be confused with old-fashioned ‘ballistic’ stretching where you bounce in a stretch beyond your normal range of motion. This ballistic stretching is dangerous and can lead to pulled muscles.
Socks can do more than keep your tootsies warm. They are a great training tool for intermediate and advanced students. Once you’ve got a nice secure foot grip, try climbing with your socks on. It’s much more slippery than climbing barefoot. But that’s exactly why it’s a good training tool – you have to develop your foot grip even more. Try your non-dominant side, too!
Here’s a pair of my favorite Icebreaker socks. Note the helpful ‘L’ and ‘R’ to help know which foot is which for those advanced moves.
7. Don’t forget to cool down
After a great class, the last thing you want is to cramp up on the way home when you head back out into the cold. Remember to end class with a cool down to bring your heart rate back down. Do some stretching of your hands, forearms, shoulders, back and legs. Change the layer closest to your skin if it’s wet and non-wicking – otherwise you’ll turn into an icicle!
What are your favorite ways to warm up your body in frigid weather? Send Mama Silk a message and let us all know!
Stay warm and train safe.
Yup, sometimes you just don’t like the music you’ve been asked to perform to. And sometimes artists make peculiar, I mean, interesting, choices as to what will fit an event.
So, what to do?
Your job is to sell it, no matter what your personal feelings are. I have had to perform to songs with lyrics like “A love emergency, don’t make me wait…” and sell it even though I’m dressed in pink and performing in an atrium with another woman and it’s not a love thing at all…
Another time I was performing to an electronic soundscape that wasn’t really countable. The choreographer added a ‘click track’ that we dancers could hear, but the audience couldn’t. Clever.
And then there was the aerial improv portion of an audition where instead of the super cool jazzy music everyone else had, I got “Send in the Clowns”. I’m not joking. This stuff really happens. After a brief moment of “What the…?!”, I channelled my inner Clown and got the job done. And, I got the part.
2. If you really don’t like it, suggest alternatives to your client
Nothing is worse than, “I don’t like it” or “It’s just not working” unless you can offer suitable alternatives.
Make good use of YouTube. Many songs are available there, and it’s a great way to send songs to a client, without having to buy them all on iTunes first. Here’s a Beats Antique song I sometimes like to perform to.
Some clients are willing to listen to your suggestions, and others, sometimes for reasons beyond their control, must require you to perform to a certain song. There’s no way to argue with someone’s favorite wedding tune…
And, Facebook is a great place to put up a post saying, “I’m looking for a piece that embodies the theme “Shine”. Any suggestions?”
3. Not liking a piece is not the same as the piece not being a good fit.
Just because a song is not your personal taste doesn’t mean it’s not a good fit for the event. You’ve been hired to do a job, so get it done. Preferably with a good attitude.
4. What makes a good piece of music:
–Variety: Look for music that has a definite, beginning, middle and end. The music has to go somewhere. Avoid music that is too ambient: Brian Eno’s Music for Airports doesn’t have enough action, unless you want to put the audience to sleep.
5. Lyrics vs No Lyrics
Many people have a strong association with a particular song and it’s lyrics, especially if it’s a popular one. Avoid being compared to someone’s memory of the video or to whom they were partying with when the song was big. Look for instrumental or cover versions.
Performing for kids or for Bat Mitvah or Sweet 16? Make sure you Google the lyrics first. Daddy doesn’t want to hear the explicit version of his baby’s favorite song with Grandma and Grandpa watching.
That said, we’ve used lyrics with great effect to bring an event theme to life. We used Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me” and “New York, New York” for an Olde New York themed event to great success. For a large “Shine” themed gala, we tried several songs, starting with REM’s “Shiny, Happy People” (too commercial for the crowd), and Manfred Mann’s “Blinded by the Light” (too slow and just not the right amount of punch for a final featured act. The disco remixes were way too disco). The client’s friend recommended Spectrum by Florence + the Machine (a FB post in action), and it was GREAT!
Sometimes a cover version by another artist gives you a new twist on an old standard. And mixing old and new versions can be fun.
6. Practice Practice Practice
Try to get the music as early as possible. Listen to it over and over till you can hear all the nuances. The better you know the music, the easier it will be to perform the piece, rather than being stuck counting or listening for the end.
7. Two Songs, Two Styles
Have your act ready-to-go to two different musical genres. Maybe one version is dramatic and Cirque-like, and the other is suitable for nightclubs. Then, you can send your standard songs to the client, and chances are, one will be a good fit.
8.. There’s always ear plugs.
If you really can’t stand the song, get yourself a pair of earplugs that muffle the sound but allow you to hear your cues. And remember, that earplugs are intensely practical for gigs near super loud speakers…Always good to have a pair in your make-up kit.
Have fun – and make beautiful aerial music!
Heliummm tests workout newbie Desi Sanchez as she hangs upside down on the aerial silks!
To Swedes work off their Swedish meatballs, they now know about Helium Aerial Dance! That’s our lovely student Polina in the picture. What a thrill to be in this Swedish magazine, called Wellness.
Click Here to read full article.
It was a delight to have Danish journalist Maria Kehlet drop by one of our Brooklyn classes this summer. Her article, “3 Trends in NYC Fitness” has just been published in the September 2013 issue of Denmark’s Juicy Magazine.
Pictures and full article are below. Link to Google Translate here.
Today’s blog is inspired by a question from my esteemed colleague Amanda Goble. Amanda writes:
Over the years, like everyone else, I have gotten MANY requests to perform for free at this or that fundraising event. As an independent performer with no company (just me), I would say I get more of these than paying requests.
As much as I believe in helping my fellow man, I cannot perform for free. If/when I have performed for free, it was a) very early in my performing life b) in exchange for something of use to me (personal artistic collaboration with fellow artists, sometimes for excellent video, etc).
Every single time I get one of these requests, I find it very upsetting. I know that emotion needs to stay out of it, but it feels quite devaluing to be asked to do my job for free (or, more realistically, at a cost to me once insurance and other costs are taken into account).
I have never, for whatever reason, taken the time to draft a form response to this type of request. I do feel that it is not only an opportunity, but a responsibility, to somehow use the letter as an opportunity to educate about what it means to ask a performing artist to perform for free. Of course, I need to do it kindly and calmly.
Here are some of the tactics/questions I’ve developed for responding to and dealing with these types of requests:
1. HAVE A POLICY
It’s much easier to say ‘Here’s our policy for charitable requests’, rather than having to justify a personal position. My wife, who has been self-employed for 35 years, taught me all about the policy of having a Policy. It works like a charm on everything from cancellation policies to your policy about deposits to inclement weather clauses.
And, if you have your policy in writing, you don’t have to re-think your answer every time. You don’t have to get your emotions up, because the policy will save your bacon. It becomes about business, rather than a personal affront to my value as an artist.
People have a right to ask, and you have a right to say no.
Write your policy out, then practice saying it. “Performing is how we make our living, so we don’t perform for free. It’s our policy to offer a xx% discount to charitable organizations”. Practice now.
Remember that elephants perform for peanuts. Artists perform for decent wages.
2. KNOW YOUR LIMITS
My policy is to do one big charity event a year, at a significantly reduced rate. Some people do more, some people do less. Know what’s right for you, and don’t be nicer than you are – that’s just a breeding ground for resentment. As charitable event requests come in during the year, I will evaluate if the request seems to fit the bill as ‘the one’ for this year.
Then, the other events get my standard Policy line.
3. IS THE EVENT A GOOD FIT?
I am much more willing to devote my time and energy to a cause that is near and dear to my heart, rather than to a group or cause that I am not personally invested in.
For example, I performed for free for several years in a row at the CIBC Run for the Cure for breast cancer. A good aerial friend was Run Director and was donating her time for free. A bunch of us performed for the runners as they crossed the finish line, and it was a feel good time for all.
Now that I’m in business for myself, I’ve made it my policy to not accept a gig where the performers and I don’t make SOMETHING. Our hard costs have to be covered (performance fee, costumes, rehearsals, parking, Worker’s Comp). And my soft costs have to be covered as well (insurance, time, website, proposals) for events I’m not personally attached to.
4. TRADE / EXPOSURE
I also consider whether I will get anything out of performing for the event. Will I get to test run a new act? Will I get tremendous video or photos from it? Is there a professional relationship I want to cultivate?
Earlier this year I performed for a reduced, yet reasonable rate, at an incredible venue in NYC. I hired a photographer and videographer, because I wanted to make the event worth it for me. Here’s a couple of the fabulous photos we got from that event:
I’ve become skeptical of the line ‘This event will be great exposure for you’. I have yet to get another gig from having performed for free somewhere. Mostly I find other people who want me to perform for free or for a ridiculously reduced rate. Maybe you will be luckier than me, but probably not. I have, however, performed for free at a couple of events for event planners and have gotten a couple of leads.
Also chances are the charity is paying for the venue and the caterer and the DJ. So why should you perform for free?
5. CHARITABLE DONATION RECEIPTS
Often a charity will say they’ll give you a charitable donation receipt for your services. I’ve experienced a couple of problems wit this set up. Either you never get the receipt, or, you learn, as I learned after the fact from my accountant, that charitable donation receipts don’t count for a donation of services (but they do count for donations of goods).
If you want a valid charitable donation receipt, the cash actually has to change hands. This means they pay you your standard fee and then you write them a check for the amount you’re donating. Imagine yourself getting a check for your full fee (yum!). Now imagine yourself writing them a check for several hundred dollars as a charitable donation — how does that feel?
6. TO EXPLAIN OR NOT TO EXPLAIN
At times, I have felt in necessary to give the client my laundry list of what my expenses are and I why I can’t perform for free (or for peanuts, which is essentially the same thing). I’ve explained that we are the first to arrive and the last to leave, that we have to rent rehearsal space at $25/hour to choreograph to their selected piece of music, that I have to pay for insurance, Worker’s Comp, that I believe in paying myself and my talented performers a living wage, that we are not a charity even though they are… and the list goes on.
Mostly, I have found it’s helpful to know these things quietly for myself, so that when I deliver my policy line “It’s our policy to offer charitable organizations an xx% discount”, I can say it without defensiveness or anger. The client can take it or leave it, and so can I. Just as a client gets to pick whether we are a good fit for them, I get to pick if the client is a good fit for me.
7. BELIEVE IN ABUNDANCE
I have learned to believe in abundance. The more I say ‘no’ to gigs that I don’t want, the more better gigs come into my life. It was hard to believe in abundance when I first started out. I was much more willing to sell myself short to at least be performing. But, that model wasn’t sustainable for obvious reasons.
Are you afraid of getting a reputation as the artist who wouldn’t perform for free? Egads!
So the real work is to become comfortable with charging what we are worth. I’ve had to learn that just because someone doesn’t value my worth as a performer, it doesn’t mean I’m worthless. We teach people how to treat us. If we teach them we are not of great value by working for free or for peanuts, then we are our own worst enemy.
So let me hear you, all together now, “It’s our policy to offer an xx% discount to charitable organizations. Does that work for you?” It works for me!
Part 1 of our Pop Quiz was all about getting you to think about what the difference is between being a creative, controversial or clueless artist. Read those results here.
Part 2 is devoted to finding which artists inspire you and which you find controversial. The results are interesting both for who they mention and who they don’t. You’re inspired by aerialists new and old, um, I mean, experienced, musicians, visual artists and even comedians. And, how curious that over half of you couldn’t list one other artist who inspired you. Time to do your homework, people!
The names are presented in the order in which they were received. It’s not a ranking of any sort. Where possible, I included a link to each artist’s website. I learned so much. I’m inspired! I hope you’ll take the time to peruse the websites below, and to continue the dialogue.
Who else do you think is missing – jot us a line. Or, let us know who’s on the list that you disagree with.
How about Cirque du Soleil? Cirque has made ‘aerialist’ a household word and their brand is immediately recognized throughout the world. They employ 5000 people and including more than 1300 artists. They combine dance, acrobatics, theatrics, imagined worlds, I was surprised to see that no one mentioned them. Really? They have undoubtedly inspired thousands to take aerial classes and learn these incredible skills. Most of the aerialists I know have considered auditioning for them at least once, and employment with them is still seen as a badge of honor and respect.
WHO INSPIRES YOU AND WHY:
1. Frank Zappa. He’s fearless, controversial and creative.
2. British Graffiti Artist Banksy For bringing something that has little performance element into that realm. Controversial.
3. Artist, author and Educator Judy Chicago. Controversial.
4. Aerialist Lisa Natoli. Controversial, Creative. She’s really beautiful and simple and doesn’t need to prove anything to anybody and just lets her work speak for itself.
5. Nouveau circus company Les 7 doigts de la main
6. Aerial dance pioneer Susan Murphy. Creative. Mentioned twice.
7. Aerial dancer Mara Niemanis. Controversial.
8. Aerialist Dolly Jacobs. Strength, beauty, exceptional line and glamorous costumes. She is committed to excellence in circus performance, and in training for others. Creative
9. Circus artist Terry Crane Innovative and kind.
10. Aerialist Lauren Joy Herley. Like her style and power on rope, but she’s also a graceful contortionist. Creative.
11. Artist Salvador Dali. Controversial, creative.
12. Aerialist & performance artist Leo Hedman – aerial plastic…’nuff said.
13. Aerialist and dancer Kevin O’Connor Creative & Controversial
14. 7 Fingers co-founder Shana Carroll – uses dance and movement in circus, doesn’t rely on contortion or big tricks. Beautiful and creative. Started 7 Fingers and still creating beautiful ensemble work.
15. Acrobatic performance maker Codhi Harrel, masterful technique mixed with bare creativity and emotion. Creative.
16.Ruth Mills, dancer/teacher. Encourages and challenges people and audience. Creative.
17. Aerialist Laura Stokes because of her creativity and commitment to finding wraps and movements that are not mainstream. Creative.
18. Chuck Close, American Painter and Photographer
19. Aerial Dance Pioneer Terry Sendgraff. She changed my life, for the better. Creative and controversial.
20. Comedienne Carol Burnett. She proved that women can be funny, and she did this without ever resorting to cheaper sex jokes or losing her charm. I believe that she was controversial, but in a quiet way, as opposed to more blatant ‘in your face’ type of way. Controversial and Creative.
21. James Thierree creates structure and spaces that have both narrative and are acrobat friendly. Creative
22. Basho, Japenese poet. “Learn the rules well. And then forget them”. Creative.
23. Aerialist Eliane Domanski. A performer of high flying aerial feats. Humilty, fearlessness & grace. She shares her vatage points through photography & video, from her hot air balloon aerial suspensions. Creative.
24. Aerialist & Event Producer Heather Hammond – no I’m not butt kissing. She is making a living doing what makes her heart race and adding beauty to the world while doing it. THAT defines inspiration, strength, and living with purpose. Creative.
25. Action Engineer Elizabeth Streb…because she just wants to fly and so do I
26. Director Ang Lee has inspired me tremendously. He has the most wide range of any film director past or present…a nd proves over and over that he excels over all those different sytles of movies. It is hard not to be inspired! Creative.
27. Thom Yorke, lead vocalist Radiohead. Creative.
28. Edward Gorey, American writer and illustrator. Creative.
28. Rapper 2-PAC, from beyond the grave.
29. Singer Mariah Carey Creative. Controversial.
30. Madonna. She pushes boundaries. Controversial.
31.Passe pieds aerial trapeze theater: great show without music, but speaking. Creative and very skilled.
A CONTROVERISAL ARTIST WHO MAKES ME THINK ABOUT MY WORK IS…
1. Damien Hirst
2. Salvador Dali
3. Paper Doll Militia
photo by Marilyn Chen.
4. Mara Neimanis In-Flight Theater
6. Seanna Sharpe
7. Haven’t noticed anyone who is clearly controversial, at least in the circus world.
8. Marget Atwood
9. Keith Henessey Mentioned twice.
10. An artist that I cannot initially decide whether I hated or loved their work.
11. Hybrid Movement Company
12. Eiko and Koma
13. Susan Murphy
14. Coco Rosie
Did you make it all the way down here? Hope so!
I hope this compilation has given you a moment of pause to think about who you are as artist and what you value. I know my artistic voice has changed over time and continues to evolve.
Make beautiful thoughtful art – and report back to us.
We were thrilled to receive this lovely Thank You from International Student, Sabine B. She has trained with Helium 3 different times over the period of the last year or so. She has grown by leaps and bounds, and has started performing for different circuses in the UK.
“Thank you so much for another great training time here in NYC.
What I’m able to learn in your classes is so different, in a good way, compared to lessons with other instructors.
It was you that helped me overcome my fear of any kind of drop last year. Plus, I was getting my first job in a traditional circus after my first visit here, something I wouldn’t have thought possible for me.
You have a different way of teaching that works better for me.
And I wish that if I ever come that far, getting more into teaching, that I can take some of what you’ve taught me.”
Thanks, Sabine. We’re delighted to have a dedicated and determined student like you! Hope we can make it to teach in London in 2014.
Finally, we’ve compiled the results to our Aerial Pop Quiz: Creative, Controversial or Clueless. Thanks to all who took the time to answer.
The post went up on May 30, 2013. It appeared on the Heliummm Website, Twitter feed, and Facebook page. We also posted it on several aerial-related Facebook pages, and encouraged folks to share it with our community. The last response was received on August 18, 2013. Fifty-eight surveys were received. For you math geeks, more than one answer was accepted for each question, so the totals add up to more than 58.
The good news is most of you clearly know the difference between what’s Creative, Controversial and Clueless. See commentary and discussion below.
There were many great answers to the questions about who inspires you and who is controversial. Those results will appear in a separate Part 2 post.
1. Engaging an audience with a new theatrical or electronic device
No surprises here.
2. Drinking or using drugs before performing, ’cause baby, that’s how I roll
For those of you who answered “controversial” or “creative”, I invite you to check out the definition of “reckless”.
The invincibility of youth may lead you to believe that ‘just one beer’ is fine before you perform. It’s not. Any substance or condition (including lack of sleep) that can impair your judgment and/or motor skills is just not appropriate before dangerous activities, no matter how many times you’ve done them before. Yes, even for those of you trying to be ‘controversial’ artists. The artists you truly admire are most likely not reckless.
There’s a difference between a calculated risk and pure recklessness. While trained circus professionals do often engage in risky business (Nik Wallenda’s tightrope crossing of the canyon comes to mind), the calculated trained-for risks are much different than drinking and driving or smoking and performing. All dare-devils prepare extensively for their stunts. See more on this topic here.
And don’t forget that sometimes the acts of an individual can impact the industry as a whole. One reckless accident can adversely affect gig opportunities for all of us and can give the aerial industry a bad name.
3. Making people question the use of earth-destroying precious metals in cell phones through your piece
I have to agree with most people here. Challenging people’s use of cell phones is certainly controversial, as is making us think about what must be done to the earth to give us our conveniences. and if you can do that in an aerial piece, it’s definitely creative. In fact, any piece that makes me think and goes beyond ‘ta da’ showiness is indeed creative.
Don’t get me wrong — creativity comes in many forms. Artistic creativity is not limited to pieces that take a stand on a social or political issue. Creativity can come from the movement and transition choices, costuming, make up, and staging. Virtuosic displays that make one’s jaw drop can also be incredibly creative.
Sarah Joel and Stephan Choiniere’s incredible Body2Body Duet from Zumanity is hugely creative and virtuosic. This act goes beyond creativity to innovation – that is, making something that truly hasn’t been seen before. These two fabulous artists spawned a whole new genre, taking traditional hand-to-hand and making it body-to-body.
Watch it here (video used with permission of Sarah Joel).
And, if you’re interested in the issue of innovation, creativity, and copycat-ing, click here.
4. Performing on a fabulous custom-made apparatus no one has ever seen before.
Almost everyone got this one right! And here’s a lovely example of an innovative aerial apparatus. The aerial bicycle is made by Ludwig Goppenhammer of www.Damnhot.com. Image courtesy of Ludwig Goppenhammer.
5. Calling your new apparatus a new invention, when you haven’t been around long enough or done enough research to know it’s been done before.
Let’s face it, folks, a silk has been hung in many ways and variations, from sling to double sling, to hammock, to hammock with tails, just to name a few. You’d really have to be pushing the limits to claim a new apparatus or configuration here. And with more and more innovations on the scene monthly, you may be surprised to learn you’re not the only one with a moon-shaped aerial apparatus or an aerial bartending bar…
6. Getting arrested for performing on private property
So, while most people think breaking the law is clueless, almost as many think it’s controversial. Interesting social experiment…
7. Getting arrested for ideas expressed through aerials that threaten the government.
At last, something clearly controversial. Don’t know of any aerialists making this kind of controversial work – do you?
8. Rigging your new apparatus from dental floss ’cause your’e so cutting edge!
People, this example was pretty obvious, but the message is this: Check out your rigging. Just because the venue tells you they’ve had aerial before, it doesn’t mean the rigging is safe. Here’s an example of a rig I was told was ‘relatively sturdy’. With alarm bells rigging, I contacted one of my rigger buddies who told me this Unistrut is meant for electrical wires, not dynamic human loads. I’ve also seen new aerialists and unfortunately some new aerial instructors, with questionable rigs. Be safe people! Educate yourselves. Poor safety choices are never creative – they are clueless.
9. Aluminum vs. Steel
This question was meant to pertain to aluminum vs steel for rigging. I’m not sure how the question was interpreted or what exactly these results mean. But, while both aluminum and steel are rated, sometimes steel is more appropriate than aluminum. A full discussion of this issue is outside the scope of this article and is best left to experienced aerial riggers.
10. List one artist who inspired you and why:
We’re saving these results for Part 2. Stay tuned!