Archive for Working in Circus

Our Greatest Fear: Falling from the Sky

As aerialists, we know what we do is dangerous. That’s partly what people pay for. Driving, however, is also fairly dangerous. I remember whiteknuckling my first time out on the open road, harrowing for both my mother and I. However, after doing it regularly for a while, one gets comfortable (often too comfortable). The same thing happens with performing. Once you are strong enough to hang by one arm for a while and get yourself out of silk knots and the like, you start to feel pretty damn confident. While intellectually we know that the danger still exists, it just doesn’t feel super present after a while.

    Aerial work, statistically speaking, doesn’t have the same rate of injury as other common athletic activities. More gruesome injuries happen more often playing basketball or skiing than doing aerial work. It’s not like people are constantly falling out of the ceiling. That said, any professional who has done it long enough will probably have the scary big fall at some point. It’s awful and shocking. If it’s a rigging failure, you develop major trust issues. If you just screw something up yourself, it may be hard to get your confidence back.  What may be the worst scenario though is being dropped by a partner or dropping a partner. I’m not talking trying a new trick over mats. I mean in a real situation.

The total surprise. The stuff of nightmares. I know, because I missed a catch. The moment when another human slips through your fingers; a human whose life depends on you holding them, and they just slip away. That eternal time before they hit the floor and you grasp in the air powerlessly after them. That moment when you can do nothing. That moment where you actually contemplate leaping after them as if you could race them to the floor and catch them in time. That moment you realize you’ve let someone down in every way. That moment you really hurt someone badly or had the enormous potential to and you are responsible.

Winter Silks

Even silks on either side wouldn’t be enough.

Then comes the guilt. Why didn’t I..?! How could I let that happen?! If the person is angry at you, it’s almost easier. If they aren’t, you make up the mental beating yourself. Every situation is of course different. And complete freak accidents do happen. But I’ve also witnessed it happen in front of me. And it brought back all the awful memories, the visceral sensations of panic. The biggest problem is that we don’t quite believe it can happen to us. Until it does. And while it may not be entirely preventable, there are some factors to be on the lookout for.

1. Frenetic Energy: You are in a situation where there is a lot of rushing, there is a dress rehearsal and the tech is behind, but you want to run your act, but you didn’t get a chance to warm up properly etc. or maybe you were rushed to the venue from the airport. Or maybe it’s just how a producer always just whips everyone into a frenzy on a regular basis.

2. Distraction: Usually there is some external factor involved that is hard to push away. Maybe the space is weird or there is a bright light or smoke in your face. Maybe you are concerned about the rigging. Or it’s hot and you are sweating more than normal. Maybe suddenly a piece of chalk or dust gets in your eye. In my case, it was a guy shooting a camera right below us. It was clicking loudly and he was circling us and the noise and the close circling stole a piece of my focus.

3. Pressure: Often, you feel like you have to run the piece, even if you are feeling off. Either it’ll be the only chance before a show, or everything is behind and you have to get through stuff as fast as possible. Or a producer insists on seeing it. But usually, you feel like you have to do it and NOW.

4. Lack of communication: Perhaps your partner is in your hands, and you realize that you don’t quite have them, but the music is pumping too loud for them to hear you. Or perhaps you try to say something, but you can’t quite get out clearly or articulately what you need them to do in that moment. Or maybe it’s off but you don’t say anything, and you just think it will be fine, because up until this point, it always is.

Double Trapeze

Double Trapeze

I think the hardest thing to do is to take a moment mentally, before you go up in the air, always. Take a moment to focus on what matters: safety and connecting with each other. The performance or rehearsal is always secondary. And then we have to be brave enough to stop everything when our gut tells us “no, something isn’t right”. That can be hard to do especially when pressure has built up. I have had two times when my gut said “Come down NOW” in the middle of an actual show. And both times I did and both times, the rigging was in the middle of failing, because somebody else had to rig for me for a quick transition and didn’t pay enough attention and it was rigged improperly. I was very lucky. But I wasn’t brave enough that one time to stay “stop”, and Laura paid the price with fractured ankle.

   We always say safety matters and we might do all the necessary rigging checks and keep our equipment up to par, only use steel, check cue angles etc etc. But still, we may forget in the moment that we ourselves are indeed fallible too, and we need every part of us to be there in every moment. And isn’t that partly why we even do this in the first place?

We all as a community need to support each other when things get hectic to remind ourselves about what really is important. Safety first. Always.

Angela Attia

Dare to Imagine….

Forget Working for Free – Should You be Working at All?

July 25, 2017 Comments Off on Forget Working for Free – Should You be Working at All? Working in Circus

We’ve all seen the “why I don’t/you shouldn’t work for free” posts and memes, but friends, I think we may have put the cart before the horse. The first question you should ask when starting to think about charging for your work might need to be more along the lines of “do I deserve to be paid for this product”.

Professional = Worth Paying For

You may not know this about me, but I am a stunningly mediocre cook. I enjoy cooking, I have spend God-knows-how-much money on cookbooks and gizmos, and I occasionally hit on something reasonably edible. I’m very, very OK in the kitchen. I’m not gonna burn it down or poison anyone, but I’m also not going to try to hire myself out as a personal chef. Know why? Because I do not meet any meaningful standard of “professional chef” in the kitchen. I do not have the required skill set. I am not working at a standard that deserves professional compensation.

Now, I may be able to con some unsuspecting guy at a bakesale into buying a brownie, but my brownie will be veeeeeery different from, say, Nigella Lawson’s (does she even make brownies? I don’t think so, but just go with it). BUT, what if Brunhilda’s Emporium of Awesomeness approaches me to cater their desserts for their annual jello wrestling contest? WHAT THEN? Then, I thank her profusely, and explain that I am in no way a professional, and I do not have the skill set to produce the result she’s looking for. I refer her to my favorite bakery.

If you’re still reading, good on ya. You’ve made it to the part where I make my point! That point being: “professional’ means something to the consumer, and no one is likely to be hurt if my brownies aren’t as good as The Chocolate Room’s. The consumer believes you a) are an expert in your field, b) have the necessary skills to safely and thoroughly execute this project (“scope of practice”), and c) are working at a level your peers would deem professional versus amateur. Predictably, this is where it gets sticky for a lot of folks. But, let’s be honest – pretending to be a professional when you know good and well that you’re not is, well, kind of douchey, and downright dangerous in the aerial world.

What does a professional circus artist look like?

Allison Williams answered this beautifully in a guest blog post she wrote for me a while back. Have a look, then keep on reading.

I KNOW All That – What Now?

Now, friends, comes a little something we in the industry like to call “paying your dues”. It looks different for everyone, but follows something of a predictable path for most performers.

  1. Training – you are in full student mode, hopefully devouring everything you can get your hands on (and then some). You start at the beginning, and work your way up to putting pieces together with your coach.
  2. Performing (amateur) – you’ve got skilz! You’re ready to practice performing on this crazy thing. Showcases and local performances to support community studios – as many as you can possibly get into. Take this time to learn about different rigs, and how changing spaces affects your performance parameters. Perform every single chance you get – this is as much a part of your training and education as classes are.
  3. Apprenticeship – you’re moving on up! With the support of your coach and the local aerial community, you’re in that fun “in between” phase. You’re not quite pro (your skills are there, but you’re unseasoned), but your eye is on the prize. Hook up with a mentor, apprentice with a company, etc. You’re also probably ready to go for small paying shows like local cabaret, variety, and burlesque (around $50-$150 per night – anyone who says they’re pulling in over $600 per act for local burlesque or cabaret gigs is probably blowing smoke… unless they can blow that smoke out of an unusual place, but even then….). These gigs pay low because no one is making big money off them – it’s a great place to trot out new material, learn how the business works, and network. This is a great time to work on the business of YOU – your promo materials, website, acts, networking, learning how to run a business, etc. This is NOT a place to try to recoup your circus school spending.
  4. Professional – It’s official. You’ve paid your dues, your materials are in place, your website is done, your acts are fabulous, you’ve been performing for a few years, you understand most of how this business works, and voila – it’s a natural, often seamless transition. Of course, your training and learning never stops, so you’ll always be student, amateur, apprentice, AND professional! Aim high.

Again, this looks different for everyone. The important thing to remember is that ALL professions have a progression, whereas jobs often do not. Don’t confuse your career with a job – it’s a unicorn of a very different color. Dare to imagine, Laura

Yer Money or Yer Life! How to Ask About Pay Without Sounding Crass

March 22, 2017 Comments Off on Yer Money or Yer Life! How to Ask About Pay Without Sounding Crass Working in Circus

We all have those moments – someone asks you to be in their show or event, and you’re all like, “YES! Hooray! I am totally available!” And then it dawns on you – you have no idea what they’re thinking of paying you. OMG, are they thinking of paying you at all?! It’s an important question, but how do you ask it without sounding a wee bit crass?

It’s About Relationship

We went to a conference a while back, and, weirdly, the best perspective shift I came away with was this:


All business, particularly in the arts, is about relationships.


The goal isn’t so much to book a gig or a show (although it ultimately is), but to forge new, mutually fulfilling relationships with folks who can hire you. These relationships are about a lot of things, not just financial transactions; so, when we reduce them to a paycheck, we diminish the potential richness (pardon the entendre) of the partnership.

How to Ask About Pay Rates – Best Practices

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my direct and candid nature – there’s not much I won’t say or talk about. But, I’ve learned (and turned!) a trick or two when it comes to chatting about finances. When I’m talking to potential clients, we both know that the real deal breaker will likely be budget, but how will that client feel if that’s the first question out of my mouth?

Potential Client: “Hi! I’m interested in booking circus entertainment for my event in a couple of months!”

Me: Great! What’s your budget?

… Nope! While budget may be the determining factor, it’s not the most important thing. There’s a person planning an event on the other end of this phone call or email! The person – the relationship – is the most important thing. We’ll get to budget pretty quickly, but a couple of minutes listening to their needs goes a long way towards increasing the likelihood that we’ll work together – if not now, then maybe in the future.

There are a lot of ways this dynamic plays out in our business. Here, I’m going to focus on the artist/entertainment company relationship.

Do:

  • Express enthusiasm about working with the company. Even if you’ve been working with a company for years, a little pep in your step when you accept a gig goes a long way. Say thanks! Say how excited you are to be working with them! Trust me – an eager attitude with a little gratitude stands out, and helps you appear friendly, fun to work with, and gracious.
  • Think long-term. Unless the company sucks, you want to lay a strong foundation for future work. Beyond the basics (respond to communications promptly, know your performance parameters, etc), you want to invest in this relationship the way you would any other. Express interest, keep it friendly, grease the wheels.
  • Keep it professional. Unless the person booking you is your bestie, then let them set the tone for communications. Are they uber formal? Respond in kind. Are they super informal? Err on the side of caution and spare them the emoticons. When talking about money, watch your phrasing and keep it on the up and up. “What can you pay?” is a far cry from “What do you have set aside in your budget for me on this event?”

So, how do you phrase money talk with class? Here are some good examples that came across my desk recently:

  • “Hi Laura! Thank you so much for thinking of me for the 22nd – I’m so excited to work with you again! Can you give me an idea of what you have set aside budget-wise for me? I’m really looking forward to this event.”
  • “Hello Laura! Thank you so much for thinking of me for the 22nd – I’m so excited to work with you! This is my first time with your company, and I’m not familiar with your pay scale. When you get a minute, could you please let me know what the rate is for this event? Thanks again – I’m really looking forward to it.”

 

If the pay rate is WAY below what you had in mind, you have two options:

  1. Negotiate. If it’s within a couple hundred dollars, ask if there’s some wiggle room in the budget. “Hi Belinda! Thank you so much for the info about the 22nd. My usual rate is closer to $1000 – is there any flexibility in the budget for this event? I would really love to work with you on this one!”
  2. Decline. If there’s no way that budget is going to cut it, you’ll have to bow out. Do it like a jerk, and you can be sure they won’t contact you again. Decline with class, and, when they have a budget that can work, you’ll likely be on the list! “Hi Lulabelle! Thank you so much for clarifying the rates for the 22nd. My usual rate is $1000 for this type of event – is there any wiggle room in this budget?” (No.) “Hi Lulabelle! I completely understand. I’m so sad to say that I won’t be a good fit for this event – I will not be able to make $300 work. Please do keep me in mind for future events – I would really love to work with you down the road!” Then, consider recommending a student who might be a good fit for this show. If this company is kind of jerky though, don’t pass the buck.

In closing, remember: it’s about relationship. If the company is good, nurture that relationship by using your mad people skilz! Dare to imagine, Laura

It’s Election Night and We’re All Going to Die: Uncertainty and Following Your Performer’s Heart

November 8, 2016 Comments Off on It’s Election Night and We’re All Going to Die: Uncertainty and Following Your Performer’s Heart Uncategorized, Working in Circus

Like many of you, I’ve been (quite literally) tied in knots recently. This election has me on tenterhooks, so I decided to do what I sometimes do well – spill my guts on the internet in hopes of some sort of cathartic release. How will I parlay this into a circus blog post, you ask? Oh ye of little faith, I may take the scenic route, but I’ll get somewhere. Maybe. Probably. No – definitely.

Uncertainty

 

Do I do this? Why the f**k am I doing this? When should I do this? Am I being stupid for doing this? But I love this. But should I waste the (fill in the blank – time, money, heart, etc) on this? And so it goes. Uncertainty. Circus is fraught with it. Uncertainty about what to focus on, whom to partner with, where to base yourself, whether to give it all up and become an accountant because CRAP you are never gonna get that back planche and you were never good enough anyway and you always suck on Tuesday nights. Ugh. Uncertainty.

Our election misery will (hopefully) soon be over, but our circus quandaries persist. We’re so often torn between practicality and what we (and society) view as frivolity. But tell me – does it feel frivolous when you’re training and performing? Or does it feel like your soul has swelled to twelve times it’s normal size, and is pushing at the boundaries of your skin, seeping out of your pores and running down your body, until you’ve totally spent yourself in a sweaty heap? Yeah, me too. Not all the time, but when it matters.

As productive members of society, we are charged with taking care of ourselves and our people, and making a contribution. In the good ole US of A, that contribution is valued less if it doesn’t result in a clearly profitable service or product. I am SO not going to open that can of worms today – not today, friends. But I will say this: art and entertainment is not frivolous. It is essential, whether that gets recognized or not. So, our choice is not between practicality and frivolity. It’s not even a choice at all – if it’s really for you, the work is a calling. We do what we have to do to pay our bills, we dance with the devil in negotiating our dreams, and we cobble together a life on our own terms. So, while questioning is always good, and heaven knows we’ll always worry about the future, perhaps we can make peace with the uncertainty part. Maybe – just maybe – we put it on hold for a while, and give ourselves to the dream like idiots (….. idiots who make good business decisions).

Where does that leave us? The Neverwhere. Ambiguous-ville. UncertainLand. Uuuuugh, so uncomfortable. But what is the alternative?

Never having been one to do things in half measures, I think I come down where I always have. I choose the uncertainty. I choose the Big Life. I choose THIS life. So, friends, spend the money on the circus classes. Buy the costume. Squander the hours trying to sit on your own head. Fall in love. Fall in love with it all. Because, in the end, it’s the only thing we can take away: the love. The terrible, wasteful extravagance of love.

This poem is pretty much required reading for artists (and, you know, humans). “To Have Without Holding” by Marge Piercy. Read the whole thing here, it’s short- you’ll be glad you did.

“Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.” – excerpted from “To Have Without Holding” by Marge Piercy

Dare to imagine, Laura

Bummer – When the Gig Doesn’t Go

Most inquiries never get past the initial request for information – folks are positively gobsmacked to discover that you can’t get a 10 person 30 minute circus show for $1000 on Christmas. If we get past the sticker shock, and they’re still interested, now comes All The Questions – can we rig there? How much space will we really have? Can we do it over a pool filled with sharks? This stage can take weeks. I’m not going to lie – it can be le poo (like fifteen-conference-calls-a-week-and-CAD-drawings-rendered le poo). BUT – if their wishes and our magic line up, we get….

THE CONTRACT PHASE.

Before the contract is signed and the deposit received? No gig is foolproof. We had one fold just today that I’ve been working HARD on for months because of an un-forseeable family emergency. Le. Poo.

What Does that Mean to Us As Performers?

It can be a delicate dance, because no one wants to miss out on work; here are a few tips to hopefully make things easier.

  1. Hold the date. If someone asks you to hold a free date, pop a note in your calendar with a question mark.
  2. First refusal. So – you’re holding a date, but get another inquiry. What to do? Be transparent. Tell the first person that you have another show or company asking after the date, and give them the right of first refusal. If they are not going to be ready to go to contract within a day or two, you may have to go with offer number two. It’s not personal – we know that, and we want you to WORK! Often, it comes down to whoever produces a guarantee first.
  3. It’s an official go! When you hear those words, you should see a contract within a few days. HOORAY!
  4. It’s a bust. Sometimes, sh*t happens and it doesn’t go – even if a crazy amount of prep has already happened. When you get the news as an artist, be sure to acknowledge it with a quick email response like, “Oh no! How disappointing. Thanks for letting me know,  looking forward to working with you in the future.” Radio silence can sometimes come off as peevish, and doesn’t give a nod to the butt-busting work that planner or agent did (for free) on your behalf.

Events aren’t an exact science, because PEOPLE. Do be gracious, and understand that there are a huge number of moving parts to every event which we don’t control. Now, go forth and WORK! Dare to imagine, Laura

So, You Say You Want to Work in Showbiz? Up Your Hustle!

October 4, 2016 Comments Off on So, You Say You Want to Work in Showbiz? Up Your Hustle! Working in Circus

This past week, I had an interesting experience – one that I’ve had surprisingly often in the circus community. I had an event that I needed to cast with lightening speed, so I put the word out on social media, and got several fantastic leads. Within 30 seconds, one artist had sent me 5 photos and a video, and three more performers contacted me over the course of the hour. These artists are all pros, and they WORK – constantly. But here’s the funny bit – some folks didn’t get around to replying for days. DAYS. Friends, by that time, the ship has sailed – the money is off the table. That’s the most depressing situation for everyone involved! And it doesn’t have to be that way! New York City circus artists, it might be time to up your hustle.

Don’t Leave Work on the Table

As it turns out, the “lightening speed” was a bit premature (the client decided to play with the line-up for the evening), but here’s the take away: the artist who hustles gets the most work.

What IS hustle? Hustle is, well, it’s a hunger – a way of being in the professional world. It’s getting back to people immediately with materials or availability, following up on leads, and remembering that inquiries are, hopefully, the beginnings of supportive and exciting long-term working relationships. It’s showing people what they can expect from you professionally – prompt communications, reliability (doing what you say you will do, providing what you say you will provide), and showing respect for another person’s work, time, and investment in whatever endeavor is casting. It also makes the casting person’s job WAY easier, and gratitude often results in good things for everyone.

Silence Speaks – and You’re Not Going to Like What it Says About You

When I was a young actress in NYC, I cannot even tell you the opportunities I let slip through my fingers; it’s simultaneously mortifying and tragic. Once, I had one of NYC’s top agents asking me for more headshots so she could send them out, and I procrastinated. I sent them a few weeks later, but the fire had cooled – I never heard from her again. I’m not in any way sad about where I’ve wound up, in fact, you could say my procrastination was speaking loud and clear about how much I wanted a career in theater (as it turns out, circus was a way better fit); but, if you want circus, and you know you do, you may have a bit to learn about professional standards on the production side.

But I’m BUSY!

Are you too busy to provide a full answer at the moment? There are lots of ways to handle that which don’t involve radio silence. Working a lot and don’t feel any urgency to respond? Great, but sometimes famine follows feasting for artists. Not interested in the project? You might be very interested in the next one, so preserve the relationship. Not a “slave to technology”? M’kay, but accept that you’re going to miss out on work because of it.

Dare to imagine, Laura

 

Can you Trust your Truss??

May 3, 2016 Comments Off on Can you Trust your Truss?? Working in Circus

Opening Caveat! We are not riggers. While a professional qualified rigger was consulted for this blog, this blog is only meant to help you identify red flags and to know when to bring in the expert. Experts take years and lots of math to do what they do well. Please do not go around fixing anything based on what you see here. And really, ask questions, and take a rigging class. In other words, don’t try this at home. Okay, butts covered. Now we may begin. 

P1010096 (4)I don’t know about you but when I started as an aerialist and I heard there was a truss to hang from on a gig, I would relax. To me, it meant I didn’t have to make some judgment call about a hook in the ballroom or figure out how to get around a beam that was covered by a false ceiling with some damn chandelier in the way. All I would have to do is tell the tech person the proper load ahead of time, ride that genie lift, whip out my span set, and boom, finito. Latte sipping til show time.

Needless to say, I’ve wised up. I now send a qualified rigger to check things out (especially if we are using multiple aerialists) when there is a truss involved. I’ve realized that all tech people don’t necessarily listen or know what they are doing, because, well, hanging flying humans is a different thing than hanging lights. Luckily, I listened to my gut, and was able to fix situations that looked wrong. I also have access to an amazing human and rigger, Bill Auld, who is happy to answer questions at odd hours and who is also partly responsible for some of this information. Anything incorrect is probably my error.

Here are some things to look for and to know whether or not you need blow the whistle and get a qualified second opinion, which is why you want to try as hard as possible to speak to the rigger who is setting up your truss if at all possible ahead of time.

Truss comes in a few different flavors – engineers may more accurately call them “configurations.” In big bold terms you want truss that is built to be used for how you are using it. What flavor is that? That is, you need truss that is engineered to be a beam – or lay on its side spanning a gap – that you can then hang from. That is truss that is square or rectangular in shape that has diagonal runs going all the way up the sides and every so often a diagonal ‘chord’ running on the inside. Truss that is marked “antenna truss” is right out. It is meant to be used to stand up on end like a big radio or TV antenna and not laid on its side like you are using it. Any truss that is triangular in nature, or worse ‘flat’ – that is it looks like a ladder (Often called ‘two-dimensional truss’) – should just be passed over and left to engineers.

1. If a chain motor is holding the truss, how many people are on it? What are they rated for? How many are being used? Not all chain motors are the same. Chain motors aren’t made to handle dynamic loads. Generally speaking the gears holding that thing in the air when it is stopped aren’t made for you to be bouncing on them.  If it is being hung from a chain motor, is there a way to “dead hang” it once it is up in the air? That is, to haul it up and then tie it off or hang in on proper rigging steel cables so that the first line of defense against gravity is not those gear teeth that don’t like you jumping on them?

2. How is the truss assembled? Does anything look off? We showed up somewhere and found chain wrapped a few times (and unsecured) around the top section of truss then “reinforced” with 2 by 4’s!!! I’m not kidding. A more common mistake when untrained people assemble truss is that they don’t line up the diagonal webs of it. Check where two sections are attached together. Does that diagonal run along the side that makes the endless series of triangles continue unbroken? If so, great. If you are tracing it with your finger and see it go DOWN, UP, DOWN,… DOWN! UP right at the point where two sections are bolted together, then someone assembled the truss wrong. It is not as strong as it could be. Have them take it apart and flip a section so that pattern remains unbroken.

3. Can the truss handle the load the way it is set up? You just have to have common sense. Is there a 50 foot stick going across the room unsupported in the middle? (This just happened, for realz). If so, it won’t handle much in the middle. Find out who made it. Remember the people that make the truss are on your side! They want you to be safe as much as you do and so reputable manufacturer’s of truss often freely post what their stuff can handle – at least in big bold terms. Google is your friend.

4. Does the person who built the truss actually understand dynamic forces? Do they believe you when you say each aerialist can generate 1000 pounds of force? If they don’t or seem surprised by that fact, be nervous. Very nervous.

5. Even if you have sent your tech rider and told them what you need, find out if they actually read it or if the end person got that information. Many times it gets passed around, and never actually read.

6. Neatness counts! “I used to jump out of airplanes for a living and when I did there was a saying bantered about, “Tie your shoes properly or someone dies!” Now that seems like hyperbole if taken literally. What it was referring to was that there is a certain thorough tidiness to a good craftsman’s work. It reflects the idea that if someone takes the time and effort to manage the small things you can see quite easily, they are prone to doing that for all the big things they do as well. That comes from having the discipline to do the job right; something that is both rare and to be prized. Nowhere is this more relevant than with aerial work – either rigging or performing. So apply that to the truss you are about to trust. If you look up and see a truss that has been assembled carefully, the ropes and chains holding it have been coiled and dressed neatly, all the little details have been arranged systematically, and the space has been cleaned up lovingly, than breathe a little sigh of relief. “I cannot say the rigger who did that work knows what they are doing. I cannot even say everything will be fine. But I can say whoever did do that possesses a certain level of training and discipline on the small scale that will have significant effects on the fortitude and safety of your rig on the large scale. And in the end, that may make all the difference in the world.” – Bill Auld.

 

So there you have it from the horse’s mouth. Obviously, we have not covered all the possible outlandish scenarios here and may have forgotten an important point, so if you have a story of your own or something to add please share!

Dare to Imagine Safety!

Angela Attia

Take the HO HUM out of Ambiance Work

February 8, 2016 Comments Off on Take the HO HUM out of Ambiance Work Working in Circus
Pouring champagne usually lasts only a short time, then what?

Pouring champagne usually lasts only a short time, then what?

Let’s face it, doing ambiance work can be as exciting as watching your toenails dry. While you don’t have to prepare in any way ahead of time, it just lacks the drama of live performance. More and more people are asking for a pretty smiling face to hover mid-air while people mill about below, like the Cheshire Cat at a mad tea party. So how do keep from going insane yourself? Here are some tips and tricks to keep ambiance from being ambivalence.

 

1. Play with musicality- Play with whatever the DJ plays. Counter the music or use it, but see how you can dance it out a bit (without killing yourself).
2. Think of it as paid training- Sometimes just your attitude can make a difference. When you get to your last set, try to do all the hard stuff you know to build your endurance.Hammock 1 edit
3. Find an audience – Often at these cocktail parties, you could pick your nose up there and no one would notice (in NYC anyway). But see if you can find one person who is willing to look up from their bean dip long enough to watch you, then lock eyes with your audience of one and do a few sequences just for them. Chances are it will make both your evenings.
4. Give yourself a challenge- Set up some obstacle like undoing a habit you have. If you happen to always do things in threes, try doing them in twos or fours. Or try doing all the things you know involving feet.
5. Be a character-Pretend you are specific person or animal up there. Don’t go crazy and start sniffing your own armpits, but see if you can subtly bring a little Bob Fosse or Missy Elliott in there…Or Mary Poppins.
6. Go with how you feel- If you just can’t get it up (aerially), use that malaise to languish in poses a little. Make it slow and sultry, extend slowly, and milk your transitions. You’ll feel less like you are struggling.

Michelle Glow Straddle EditThere are about a thousand creative ways to keep it interesting for yourself while still staying in the visual background. The main thing to remember is that you are being paid to do something you love. And even if this particular type of work can be challenging, it has its advantages too!

 
Dare to Imagine – Angela Attia

Getting the Help you Need

January 19, 2016 Comments Off on Getting the Help you Need Working in Circus
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Photo by Anna Vizreanu

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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

photo by Anna Vizreanu

photo by Anna Vizreanu

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

Circus Injuries – Getting a Diagnosis via Social Media

Me when the doctor said I would never climb again.

Me when the doctor said I would never climb again.

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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