I decided at a very young age that my goal in life was to be a professional ballerina in a top ballet company. After 20 years of dedication, that specific dream didn't come true. But I did gain many skills that add to my capabilities as an aerialist today.
1. Understanding & awareness of lines
One of the main differences between a professional and amateur aerialist is lines. When I see an aerialist performing a high level skill but lacks awareness of lines, it makes me cringe! So what are exactly lines? Lines make up the shape of the body while performing a skill. This includes not only legs and feet, but the lines of the hands and arms in relation to the rest of the body. The goal is to have elongated lines. Not only does this look aesthetically pleasing, but the more you can lengthen your limbs, the more stable you’ll feel in the shape or skill.
2. Graceful movement quality
The Aerial Physique motto is beauty, grace and strength. To me, these three qualities are what make a well-rounded aerialist. Moving with grace is something that has been instilled in me for 25+ years. Some of you may know that I do not possess beautiful ‘banana feet’ that so many dancers aspire to have. In fact, my feet are nearly flat and I’ve spent my lifetime getting these dang things to point! When I auditioned for ballet companies, I did everything possible in the audition to distract from the fact that my feet weren’t ideal. My aim was to get the company directors to look at my upper body and face while I danced and not my feet! Long story short, I spent hours in the mirror working on my port de bras (carriage of the arms) and épaulement (the position of the shoulders, head and neck). I didn’t make it into the ballet company, but all of my mirror gazing did pay off. Now while in the air as a top aerialist, I have the ability to make very challenging things look easy due to my light and flowy movement.
To be great at anything takes shear discipline. Showing up and putting in the work, even when you don’t necessarily feel like it, is mandatory. As a child and teen, I missed endless birthday parties and social events because I would not dare miss ballet class. Missing class would put you on the ballet teachers black list, it’s something you just don’t do. At least four hours per day of practice and rehearsals was my norm. It is that deeply-rooted work ethic which has taken me where I currently am with aerial.
4. Enduring pain & discomfort
Aerial is not for wimps and neither is ballet. Aerial may appear uncomfortable and yes sometimes painful, but when performed well, it has the appearance of being effortless and pain free. Years of dancing in pointe shoes and enduring the pain of blistered feet definitely prepared me for getting through those 'ouch' moments in aerial!
5. Performance experience
Putting yourself out there in the performing arts world, to be seen and constantly judged, can be very scary. To present your truth on stage whether you’re on the ground dancing, or in the air on silks, takes courage, vulnerability and nerves of steel. I’m grateful for the many opportunities I had while growing up, to present myself on stage. I learned about theater etiquette (absolutely no sitting, eating or drinking in costume!), how to put on theatrical make-up, rehearsals ... rehearsals and more rehearsals, overcoming stage fright and how to have presence on stage. The best part of performing for me is when I’m waiting in the wings on stage getting ready to take a bow knowing that that’s one place I’m meant to be.
If you’re someone who doesn’t have a dance background and are taking aerial classes, it’s within you to be incredible! I’ve trained many non-dancers who've become graceful and strong aerial beauties. Discipline, an openness to learning and a coach with a good eye for detail, can help you get there!