Archive for Uncategorized

Se, mor! Vi er i Danmark Juicy Magazine = Look, Mom! We’re in Denmark’s Juicy Magazine!

September 19, 2013 Comments Off on Se, mor! Vi er i Danmark Juicy Magazine = Look, Mom! We’re in Denmark’s Juicy Magazine! Classes, In the News, Training, Uncategorized

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.

Juicy Cover Upright 3trends_article-page-0013trends_article-page-002Juicy Aerial Part Upright 3trends_article-page-0033trends_article-page-004

Working for Charitable Events without Becoming a Charity Case

September 18, 2013 Comments Off on Working for Charitable Events without Becoming a Charity Case Ask Mama Silk, The Business of Aerials, Uncategorized

Today’s blog is inspired by a question from one of my colleagues. Here is what she wrote:

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:
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.

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.

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.

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:
Capitale Heather Split Flutter

Capitale Guin Inverted Split Med
Photos by Christine Nygueyn

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?

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?

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.

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!

Happy performing!

Results of Quiz Part 2: Creative, Controversial or Clueless

September 10, 2013 Comments Off on Results of Quiz Part 2: Creative, Controversial or Clueless Ask Mama Silk, Controversial or Cluess, Uncategorized

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 .

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’s missing:
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.

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.
Leo Hedman Aerial Plastic
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.
Terry Sendgraff
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.
Edward Gorey
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.

1. Damien Hirst
Stubbed Out Love by Damien Hirst
2. Salvador Dali
3. Paper Doll Militia
Paper Doll Militiaphoto by Marilyn Chen.
4. Mara Neimanis In-Flight Theater
5. Streb
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
Eiko and Koma
13. Susan Murphy
Susan Murphy
14. Coco Rosie
15. 2PAC

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.

Results of Quiz: Part 1 – Creative, Controversial or Clueless

August 23, 2013 Comments Off on Results of Quiz: Part 1 – Creative, Controversial or Clueless Uncategorized

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

Controversial: 4
Clueless: 1

No surprises here.

2. Drinking or using drugs before performing, ’cause baby, that’s how I roll

Controversial: 9
Creative: 1

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

Clueless: 8

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).
sarah and stephan

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.

Clueless: 7
Controversial: 2

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 ludwig bicycle 2 - Version 2 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.
Clueless: 50

Controversial: 5
Creative: 3

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
Clueless: 39
Controversial: 23

Creative: 2

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.
Controversial: 54

Clueless: 6
Creative: 6

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!
Clueless: 55

Controversial: 3
Creative: 3

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.

Bad Unistrut Rigging small

9. Aluminum vs. Steel
Controversial: 31
Clueless: 23

Creative: 6

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!

Learn the Art of Aerial Acrobatics

July 26, 2013 Comments Off on Learn the Art of Aerial Acrobatics In the News, Uncategorized

“Do It In A Day” stopped by to learn more about aerial silks. You can, too, in this short video featuring Heather Hammond and student Polina.

Helium Aerial Dance @ New York Dance Week & Zico Water Promotion

June 19, 2013 Comments Off on Helium Aerial Dance @ New York Dance Week & Zico Water Promotion Uncategorized

Helium Aerial Dance had great fun offering discounted aerial silks classes and lyra classes to new and old aerial arts students alike. Thanks to New York Dance Week’s Aileen Malogan for having us participate in the Zico Water promotion, and for the awesome photos. Our students had a delightful time posing for in the air and on the ground.

Missed New York Dance Week? Don’t despair – you can come to trial class anytime by signing up

Pop Quiz: Creative, Controversial, or Clueless?

May 30, 2013 Comments Off on Pop Quiz: Creative, Controversial, or Clueless? Ask Mama Silk, Performances, The Business of Aerials, Training, Uncategorized

What makes an artist creative, commercial, controversial or clueless? What kind of artist are you? There’s an interactive Pop Quiz at the end, so read on, and please answer honestly, so we can have a fruitful discussion.

Today’s post is inspired by a recent article in the NY Times about the controversial Chinese artist and social activist, Ai WeiWei’s latest work. In this video called “Dumbass”, he graphically recreates scenes from his illegal detention, set to heavy metal music.


Love it or hate it, Mr. Ai’s work usually provokes some kind of emotion. His work is often a staunch commentary on the Chinese government, which has landed him in jail on more than one occasion. So there’s definitely some ‘juice’ to his opinion, that seriously rocks the status quo in his environment.

So it got me thinking about what it means to be a controversial artist, and what’s controversial in the aerial arts world these days.

What’s controversy anyways? According to Merriam-Webster:
con·tro·ver·sy — noun
1: a discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views : dispute
2: quarrel, strife

I used to shy away from controversy. I was too afraid to be on the ‘wrong’ end of a discussion, to be disliked or to be ridiculed. I’ve grown to learn, however, that controversy is positive. In fact, it’s a key component to the entire democratic system. Discuss, listen, agree to disagree, and perhaps change your mind or someone else’s. Controversy shakes us out of our complacency and helps us to evolve, personally, professionally, artistically, however painful that may be.

While my art is still far from controversial, I’m OK with that. I’m not ‘the disturber’, nor do I wish to be. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) But as I’ve found my creative voice, I contribute to my art form in the realm of fusing aerial and dance and character for the WOW factor with beautiful lines and pointed toes for my corporate gigs, and emotion and humanness expressed inventively for my more artistic gigs. I’m creative and I’m commercial – a combination that keeps me busily employed at a high level and providing work for other artists.

Many aerialists are intensely creative and are really moving the art form along by fusing diverse art forms, media, props, incredible virtuosity, new apparatus, costuming and music. But how many of us are truly controversial, with a capital ‘C’? I’d love to hear from you about who you think is controversial in the aerial world, and what discussion or opposing views that artist brings forth with their work.

As a point of comparison, I found this list of 10 Controversial Artists of the last Century by Annemarie Dooling (God, I love the internet, sometimes). The list includes artists like:
-Georgia O’Keefe, who painted nature is ways that were interpreted at the time to be racy representations of the female anatomy,
-Pablo Picasso, who once stated, “For me there are only two kinds of women: goddesses and doormats.”, and
-Christo Javachev, whose work “The Gates” covered part of Central Park with orange banners. Art to some, a waste of fabric to others.

So, aerialists, do you have to get yourself arrested like Ai Weiwei to be a controversial artist? No. Does getting arrested mean you’re controversial? Not necessarily. Did your act lead people to consider the world differently? Were you challenging existing norms, commenting on the current state of society, the government or it’s people? Or did you just want to create a stir on Facebook, and gain some notoriety?

The aerial controversies I’ve come across lately have more to do with whether aerial instructors should be insured, and whether teacher certification is good for the industry or is elitist. But these are controversies for a subsequent post. And is bad rigging controversial, or is it simply bad?

I’m not suggesting you have to be controversial to be a respected artist. But I am suggesting that if you want to call yourself a ‘controversial aerialist’ you probably want to challenge the status quo in more ways than safety and creative costuming.

Here’s our Pop Quiz to keep the conversation going: We will tabulate all results.

1. NY Times Article “Prison Was Awful, but He Likes the Video Version”, page C1, May 22, 2013. Full article here
2. Ai Weiwei website: (accessed May 22, 2013)

Heliummm participates in Dance Week!

May 23, 2013 Comments Off on Heliummm participates in Dance Week! Classes, Uncategorized

NYC Dance Week collaborates with select studios in New York City to celebrate the joy and diversity of dance with an exhilarating 10-day event many free dance and fitness classes.

Heliummm is delighted to be offering discounted Aerial Dance classes on Wed, June 19th. Come fly with us and participate in Dance Week!

Always wanted to run away and join the circus? Well, now you can with fun and fabulous aerial dance classes from Heliummm Aerial Dance. Try aerial silks or lyra (aerial hoop) on Wednesday, June 19 at 50% off! But hurry, classes are limited to 6 people.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER and use promo code DW13 to get your discount.

Schedule for June 19:
3:15 pm Silk Class
4:30 Combo Silks/Lyra Class
5:30pm Lyra (aerial hoop) class
6:45pm Silks Class
7:45pm Silks Class


Check out some of our fabulous students here!




Voler jusqu’a ses reves / Let Your Dreams Fly!

March 26, 2013 Comments Off on Voler jusqu’a ses reves / Let Your Dreams Fly! In the News, Uncategorized

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Heather is honored to be featured in the March 2013 issue of  ‘L’Actualite pharmaceutique’, the Quebec Pharmacy News journal distributed to all pharmacists in Quebec.  Some of you may not know that Heather is also a pharmacist, with a Master’s Degree in Pharmacology (get the reference to ‘Helium’ now?  Originally licensed in Quebec, Heather now maintains her Ontario pharmacy license by practicing there 5 weeks a year.

Read full article (in French) here: LAP03_026

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Heather performing straps at The Muse!

March 12, 2013 Comments Off on Heather performing straps at The Muse! Performances, Uncategorized

The infamous MUSE in Brooklyn recently hosted a benefit show, Amuse Bouche, which was produced by Madeline Hoak and Kiebpoli Calnek! All proceeds from the show benefited Breaking Ground which focuses on enabling Cameroonians to break ground on sustainable, locally initiated projects. There was an amazing line up of aerial, spoken word, fire spinning, burlesque and more!