Circus artists are incredibly disciplined and hard working. In general, we don’t like to complain because we are blessed to have something in our lives we are passionate about, that we love to do. But a big part of what we do physically hurts, right? How many of us were shocked the first time we did aerial work at the pain involved? Even hanging by your knees was brutal in the beginning. But we train through it, because we love it.
The problem is that we are so used to suffering with a smile, that sometimes we simply don’t know how to reach out when we get into real trouble, not just physically, but financially and emotionally as well. We are often afraid to let people know that things are maybe a bit rough behind the curtain. Our lives are unpredictable too. One minute you’re on top of the world and the next, you have an injury that might not only prevent you from performing but from earning money in other ways as well. You aren’t quite sure where your rent is
coming from or maybe even your next meal. You don’t know where to go for help.
There is an organization that all circus artists should know about. It is called the Actor’s Fund. It isn’t just for actors though, it is for all people working in the entertainment industry. Here is just a smattering of the offerings they have: help navigating health insurance, referrals, weekly meetings for anxiety and depression, help with housing, grants for school and transitioning, courses in social media etc etc
They have centers in NY and LA but they have offerings all over the country. It’s worth knowing that there is a resource out there that can help catch us if we can’t catch ourselves.
Dare to Imagine. Angela Attia
The perfect addition to holiday or winter-themed events, a contortionist or balance artist bends and balances inside a gigantic globe filled with snow! Graceful, elegant, and a wonderful surprise for your guests.
What does Living Snow Globe look like?
For additional images of this act, check out ImaginAerial’s Snow Globe page on Pinterest! Click the ImaginAerial button to view all our boards.
What does a Snow Globe Artist need to perform?
This act requires a smooth surface, completely free of anything that might burst the orb (gravel, sharp stones, etc.). The artist also requires a path at least 8 feet wide to the performance area (or a pipe and drape) with electricity nearby to inflate the orb. Email us at email@example.com or call us at 212-252-3131 – we’re happy to answer your questions!
- This act is 6 minutes long for stage shows, or can be performed in 15 minute ambient sets.
- This act requires a surface free of sharp objects which could burst the orb.
- This act requires a path of at least 8 feet to the performance area, and a performance area of 8-10 feet.
- This act requires electricity to inflate the orb.
- A leaf blower is used to inflate the orb, which can be quite loud. Attention must be paid to the staging area.
- This act is appropriate for all audiences.
- There are multiple costumes and orb “fillings” (snow, confetti, feathers, glowing balls, etc.).
No lie. About once a week, I receive an email from a budding aerialist with a long list of symptoms (bent this, floppy that, pain when I twirl, etc.), and a request for my “thoughts”. Friends, that’s like asking a plumber for a prescription. In fact, a plumber may be a better bet! I am not a medical professional, and neither are the other 25,000 aerialists you’re asking for advice. So, what to do when you’ve got an ouchie that’s keeping you up nights? (Hint: it doesn’t involve walking on hot coals or coffee enemas… until it does.)
Get a Diagnosis
The wise and wonderful Miss Michele Frances reminded me of how important this is. It’s really scary when an injury begins interfering with training and performance. What we’re really asking when we post on social media is, “Hey! Has anyone had this?! What did you do? Are you OK now? How long did it take?” And all these are 100% perfectly reasonable questions! But step one, no matter what, is to get a proper medical diagnosis. As in go to a doctor. To be clear – a massage therapist should not be diagnosing you, a coach should not be diagnosing you, Twitter should not be diagnosing you. If it’s interfering with training, time to see someone with MD attached to their name.
What if I Can’t Get a Diagnosis?
We’ve probably all had the experience of going to a doctor and getting an incorrect diagnosis, or an inconclusive one. If you know in your body and gut that you were not correctly diagnosed, your doctor doesn’t understand what you do, or they weren’t able to pinpoint a problem, go to step 2: get a referral for a specialist, preferably one who deals with dancers, gymnasts, and athletes (you should have one of these on speed dial anyway). Don’t stop until a) you have a diagnosis that rings true and b) a plan for rehabilitation that you can live with.
Facebook – What did YOU Do?
Once you have a diagnosis and a plan for rehabilitation, this is where I think social media shines: community. It’s so incredibly encouraging to hear other’s experiences of things that alter our training: pregnancy, injury, time away, etc. Knowing that you’re not the only one, how others have coped, and what you might expect is so comforting. Just remember though – you’re asking your peers, NOT a therapist.
Personal sharing time! I developed intense tendinitis and bursitis in my shoulder during my early training. When I went to see Doctor #1, he said I would never climb again. Obviously, this was unacceptable. Referral time! Went to a sports medicine doc who specialized in shoulders. He said if I left it untreated, I would need a new shoulder by 35. OY! He pointed me towards Kinetex in Montreal (where I was living and training at the time), and I made an appointment. In the meantime, I made the mistake of getting several deep tissue massages at the urging of my friends. It felt SO GOOD during the massage, but my inflammation went through the roof afterwards. When I finally made it to Kinetex, the therapist nearly wept when I told her. “Non, non, NON! Eet ees like scratching a rash! NON! Non massage!” She also rolled her eyes at the first doctor’s proclamation that I’d never climb again. “Psssssht! Eet ees tendinitis, not your arm falling off! Of COURSE you will climb again!” In the end, after plenty of PT (which I still do, by the way), a round of heavy NSAID therapy, a mess of acupuncture, and years of much more careful training, I’m still climbing.
It’s so tempting to ask our peers rather than a doctor, especially with the cost, effort, and frustration often involved in getting a proper diagnosis. But it’s not reasonable to expect your peers to diagnose your physical problems – they simply are not qualified to do so. Let medical professionals do what they do best, and let our community do what they do best: provide support, suggestions for coping, and direction to the appropriate specialist. Don’t give up until you have a diagnosis and treatment plan that will work for you! Dare to imagine, Laura
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ImaginAerial once again quite literally lit up Times Square with beautiful new flashy high tech costumes and props. Whether blinding people while pouring champagne and hanging by ankles, or spinning LED hoops, or lighting up the night with costume characters. We rang in the new year right in the heart of NYC.
We all know the scenario. It’s been a long night, the party is starting to wind down when Mister Drunk-and-Entitled decides it’s his big moment to prove his athletic prowess to any possible “America’s Got Talent” producers in the room. Other than rolling your eyes and muttering “here we go again”, What to do?!
Even though we have to start with stating the obvious, first we try to preempt the situation whenever possible by getting that apparatus up and out of the way during a party’s twilight. Obviously that isn’t always possible. So if it is hanging stark naked in the middle of the room, get a tall person to daisy chain it to its highest height, then get three chairs or put stanchion underneath it. However, sometimes you just can’t avoid leaving that apparatus vulnerable the Four Great Silk Menaces.
Here we go:
The Curious George: this person doesn’t really mean any harm but just starts to get into a little more mischief than they should. They come up to your silk and feel the fabric, then maybe give it a tentative tug and suddenly they are leaning forward trying to weight bear on the thing. The easiest way to deal with them is to joke around. Let them know when you are holding auditions or where they can take classes. Let them know you are happy to answer any questions, but this isn’t the time or place to let them try anything out. Just try to engage them while getting between them and your apparatus. No need to go full throttle on these folks. They scare off easily.
The Grabby Groomsman/Bridesmaid: These people are usually quite drunk when they decide it’s time to suddenly fulfill their big circus dream that they never knew they had until that moment. This is when you pull out either the statements about how insurance does not cover this kind of activity or you try and get someone from the venue (preferably a 250 lb security guard) to help you convince them they need to come down ASAP.
The Rabble Rousers: This scenario is when things get kicked up a notch. Groups are tougher to control than individuals because they can feel emboldened by peers. Often one person attempts to get on and as soon as you’ve gotten them off, another tries to get up, like partygoer whack-a-mole. This is when you get loud and extremely serious. Bang something loudly on the floor, whistle, or yell one long sound. Whatever to get all their attention at once. Then say very slowly “Get off the silk NOW!!” Usually this will break up their party mode enough to realize it’s no fun anymore.
The Jerky Kid (and personal back-up dancers) of the Client: This is the most difficult situation of all. It’s a group of drunk young punks who think they own everything in the room and whose parents have never told them no. Often the party planner disappears because they don’t want to deal with the boss and the dad may even be egging his hilarious precious brat on. The best thing to do here is to remain calm. This situation is not about curiosity, but mostly about power and boundaries. The kid wants to prove he can do whatever he wants and no one can stop him. The best thing to do is separate out and confront individuals of this group. Ask how they would feel if you just grabbed their stuff and started using it without asking etc. If people get confronted individually (make them look you in the eye) and no longer feel like they can hide in the group, they are more likely to back off. Once you’ve gotten the support base reduced a bit, then you can start to confront the kid. Ask him if he’s done or if he thinks what he’s doing is kind or respectful. If you take yourself out of the position of authority and position yourself as a person, and he is realizing he’s not getting a rise out of you, then he may be more responsive. If not, you may just have to wait the joy ride out then climb on the silk yourself and sit there until they are gone. Just don’t start trying to pull the kid off, he could get hurt and that would be the exact thing you are trying to prevent.
Just remember that people are often rather ignorant and it increases with alcohol consumption. The important thing is just to keep you, the person and your silk as safe as possible. Don’t worry about hurting feelings, they probably won’t remember it anyway.
Dare to Imagine. Angela Attia
Here at ImaginAerial world headquarters, we get at least a few video links a week. So it’s safe to say we’ve see a lot of promo videos. They range from someone doing contortion on the edge of a cliff in the desert to jumpcuts of industrials that would make your head spin. SO how to stand out without getting to far out there?
Now I’ll be honest, we don’t often hire based on a video. It’s like committing to a romantic vacation with someone whose profile you saw on a dating site. It makes me nervous. That said, sometimes we do. I’ve done it when we need a really different kind of act or a special combination of skills (like ground and aerial) or the gig is in a location that only makes sense to hire locals. So video comes in handy.
Believe it or not, I’ve also hired people based on a rehearsal video. Skill is skill. And some people who just graduated from circus school haven’t had a chance to get enough footage yet. I get it. That said, it doesn’t hurt to put your best foot forward and put a decent promo reel out there.
Here is what it should have:
1. Your best tricks- if you can do something hard put it toward the beginning!
2. Your variety of skills-don’t write me that, oh by the way you can also do Rola Bola. If it’s not on Vimeo or YouTube, it doesn’t exist.
3. Your personality-if your promo is a little funny then I want to watch it again or share it. It will make it stick in my memory. However, just be sure that you don’t get too cutsie. But if it makes me think I’d like to hang out with you. Great.
4. The kinds of shows you’ve done-if they are only student shows or rehearsals, it isn’t a deal breaker but if the person watching is on the fence, it won’t help you if it doesn’t seem like you are a real professional.
5. Good footage-Tape every performance you do with a good camera if you can. You don’t have to hire an editor, just get to know some editing software yourself as you know what will stand out the most to people that are hiring.
On the other hand, your video should not be:
1. Unedited- I have 1 minute to decide if I need to see more or you in or you are out. I don’t want to see you dance around your silk on the floor for that minute.
2. Edited too much- If I can’t see anything at all, I will get frustrated. I want to see some transitions and sequences. It’s not about showing off your video editing skills but what you can do. Too slickly packaged anything makes me think it is covering up a lack of substance.
3. Too hard to find- Whatever makes your act different, tag it that way. I get frustrated when I’m looking for hula hoopers in Detroit or lyra people in Houston and I can’t find a thing.
4. Overly “creative”- don’t show anything in a mask, on the edge of a cliff, or in your bathroom. Your creativity should show through your movement, not the dressing.
Finally, If you update or add, let people know. It’s okay to remind people you are there or what you are up to couple of times a year. Also, really important, let people know where you are from or where you will be. If you are from the Ukraine, I hate to say that we will not be going through red tape etc to bring you on a gig here. However if you are based in Florida but come to NYC to visit family, let us know!
One last thing to note.. If we ask you for footage to add to our reel, be flattered! It means we think your act has the potential to be hired and it’s different from what we have already. Also, if we ask you then you will always get first refusal. If we stop using you completely for one reason or another or if no one seems to be buying your act, then we also probably won’t use your video because clients get attached to who and what they see.
The video is just one tool. And you can always change it. Also, you might have a fabulous promo, but just not the set of skills or style a company needs at the moment. If in doubt, put it up on social media and ask for feedback and then don’t take it personally…BUT ladies and gentlemen, that is another BLOG! Happy editing.
Dare to imagine,
Aunt Mergatroyd: So, Bitsy. What are you doing with your life these days? Are you still doing that carnival stuff? On the curtains?
Bitsy: Yes, Aunt Mergatroyd. They’re called aerial fabrics. It’s been going really well!
Aunt Mergatroyd: Umph. Yes. But dear, your mother worries. How long will you be really be able to do this? I mean, that figure isn’t going to last forever, especially if you keep polishing off three pieces of pie. But seriously – isn’t it time you gave some thought to your future?
OK, is everyone else as clenched as I am? I hate this discussion. Whether it’s a well-meaning family member, a friend who just can’t imagine that there’s a living to be made in the arts, or an acquaintance who has no idea how our business works but feels compelled to weigh in anyway, we’ve all been on the other end of that misery. What to do? Yeah, I don’t know either. But I do have some thoughts.
The Three Types of Interrogation
It seems to me that these delightful interludes come in three flavors: the Genuninely Concerned, the Secretly/Openly Critical, and the Type A Steamroller.
The Genuinely Concerned
Our industry isn’t the easiest to understand (it’s kind of weird, right?), and plenty of family members and friends have major misconceptions about what it means to be a circus artist. This often translates into well-meaning worrying which, though frustrating, really comes from a good place.
I find that a detailed conversation works particularly well here. Find out what their specific fears are, and do your best to assuage them. Also – take a moment to really listen. Are they valid concerns? Moms in particular worry deep – be kind.
The Secretly/Openly Critical
This is the WORST. These folks operate from a critical spirit. Their MO is to tear folks down, dissect their lives, and point out everything that they think is wrong. They believe you’re wasting your life, that there’s no living to be made in the arts, and that you’re just not smart enough to see it. No. bueno.
I’ve opted out of this kind of toxic awfulness, and I invite you to do the same. Critical folks don’t respond well to hints and subtleties, so I usually hit ’em with a Sledgehammer of Candid Suggestions for Where They Can Stuff Their Opinions. Take, for example, this gem from a few years ago.
Critical Person: So, how long can you really expect to keep doing this stuff? What are you going to do when reality hits? (obnoxious laugh)
Me: My career is going GREAT! Spent two months in Portugal last year. How about you, though? How’s your job going? Oh hey – how long, do you think, before they send your job overseas? What will you do at that point? That must be really worrying.
My point got made, and that family member has minded his P’s & Q’s since then. Now, I’m not saying that’s for everyone, a frank conversation might be more your style. But make no mistake – these folks will needle at you until you put your foot down. We teach people how to treat us! Nip this in the bud unless it doesn’t bother you.
The Type A Steamroller
This one is a toughie. Most of these folks genuinely care about you. The problem is, they secretly think you’re incompetent, don’t have your sh*t together, or that you’re missing the boat. More than anything, though? These folks know – just KNOW – all the things you need to be doing to make your career take off. The main identifying statement from the Type A Steamroller is, “What’s your business plan?” (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)
This wouldn’t be a terrible question, except that’s not exactly how showbiz works. While it’s always good to have a plan and a clear direction, a traditionally written business plan will be out the window in 6 months. But this illustrates the main problem with the Type A Steamroller – they think they know more than they do.
Repeat after me: “I appreciate your concern, I really do! It seems that you have some doubts about whether I am capable of “captaining my own ship”. Our industry is a complex one, and often hard for those outside the business to understand. I want to assure you that, like yourself, I am more than capable of managing my own career. But listen, I really appreciate that you worry about me!” (offer a closer at this point – hug, “bro handshake”, smack to the head, whatever feels right).
Look – I’m with you. It’s exhausting to constantly educate about our industry, but, for now, it seems to be our (sparkly, fabulous) lot in life. People don’t get to freely weigh in on your career just because you’re an artist. Whether diplomacy, candid convo, or outright avoidance is your style, take heart – you’re part of a Great Circus Legacy! Have very happy (and criticism-free!) holidays, friends!
Dare to imagine, Laura
So you met the ONE. Time apart is painful. You are in LURVE!
You start to annoy your friends. Because you won’t shut up. Even when you “complain”, it’s barely a sheath for intolerable boasting and unnecessary hashtagging. You think about quitting your job to become one with your silk/trapeze/man with a man bun. You take every little gig/date that drops in your lap. You are never not available for a date with the ONE, because he/she/your apparatus is what matters.
So what am I about to say about this? Am I going to try and stomp on beautiful feelings and make fun of you in the process? Heck no. As a very happily married woman with a fairly successful performing past, I too have loved both until I made everyone ill. However, here are some totally random things that might be helpful to remember in both scenarios:
1.You have to value yourself and what you do, no matter what. And know that not everyone who meets you will agree with your assessment of your own value. That’s okay.
2.Also value ALL your time. The time you spend organizing not just performing or going out. Also value commitments outside performing or dating. I know I used to drop absolutely everything to perform and it took a toll on my relationships.
3.I’m going to be really old fashioned here. Deal with it. You don’t have to dress in your underwear to get a date or to get a gig. A younger friend of mine who had never really seen any aerial work once came to a gig and made a telling comment, “I don’t know what’s hard and what isn’t, but I’m guessing that all the aerialists who had no clothes on weren’t very good. Right?” It wasn’t actually true, but the assumption is there, and I’ve heard it before.
4.You can’t have it all. You are going to discover the person you are with has some flaws. That’s okay, so do you, right? Focus on the great stuff and on what’s important. Same with performing. It’s hard to make money when there is a lot of supply and limited demand. If you want to make money then you will have to make work that the market wants. If you just want to make art, I applaud that (I like to do both), but that probably won’t pay the bills.
5.Remember this time period. Pretty soon you will start complaining about all kinds of things. Circus is awesome, your wo/man is awesome, enjoy the ride.
Dare to Imagine
Written by Angela Attia
This weekend, ImaginAerial had the pleasure of dressing our free-standing rig in all it’s winter finery as we “flew” in a Winter Wonderland! Our rig is the perfect solution for venues without easy hang-points – it sets up and comes down easily, and can be decked out in a variety of lights, fabrics, and decor. Combine Aerial Champagne Performers and our Living Snow Globe, and you have the makings of one hot holiday event!
So you’ve gotten yourself into a knot that caused you to panic and start the sort of public fight with your silk that involves cursing, flailing, kicking, and essentially everything you’ve ever been told not to do in public. You do the best you can to finish out, but what do you do to recover your reputation once you have escaped that nightmare?
If you perform enough, you are going to have some stories to tell. We have gotten wrapped around a bar, crashed into other performers, fallen over from a standing position, tied our hands to each other, lost costumes and hair pieces, run straight into wings, tripped over lights, forgotten whole sections, and farted on stage. It’s all hilarious later to talk about (years later), but when it happens, it’s like every nightmare you’ve ever had playing out in reality…in slow motion.
While it might seem like a great idea to quit performing, change your name, and wear a fake mustache for the rest of your life, you can recover from gaffes like this.
Here are some tips :
1. Take the temperature of the people that hired you ASAP. Get out in front of it. If they are beyond p’oed and want their money back, it might be good to give it. They will probably cool down if they know you feel worse than they do. They will also know you took what happened seriously. Also if you acknowledge what happened first, they won’t just think this is what happens to you regularly and you are just a screw-up.
2. If they don’t seem too upset then ask for feedback. Do NOT tell them how you think you did. It could hurt you either way. If they thought you did okay and you start to tell them all about how everyone was watching you trying to extricate your costume from a rope for a good 5 minutes and it was really 15 seconds, they might start to think it was worse than it was. However, if they thought you did really badly and you start to tell them that you thought you totally pulled it off, you are going to come off as too cocky, not serious, and out of touch with your abilities.
3. Take responsibility for what happened. Do not make excuses or blame the producer in some way (if the lights hadn’t been so bright, yadda yadda). The fact that you accidentally drank decaf that morning is not going to help your cause.
4. LISTEN. If you have the potential to work together again, it’s important that the client or producer really feels heard. THEN let them know how you think you could prevent the issue in the future.
5. Volunteer to do a small gig or help the producer in some way. Then blow their socks off when you get a chance to perform again. As producers, what we like the most are consistent performers. So only time will show that his was a one time fluke. You need a number of shows to prove you can be trusted.
People are very willing to forgive mistakes. We’ve all been there, but we have to show we do all we can do keep those mistakes to an absolute minimum. With all the bloopers listed above, we were able to maintain good relationships with the people that hired us. It can be a good growing experience for you. It keeps the ol’ ego in check and they make good fodder for your next comedy act.
Dare to imagine…
written by Angela Attia