We sat down (virtually of course!) with Aerial Physique Master Trainer Christine Wunderlich, whose stunning aerial skills you might recognize from our Instagram page! Christine leads many of our European teacher training courses. We dive into her aerial and dance background, and her hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. Enjoy!
How did you get into aerial arts?
My start to aerial arts is rather unconventional and probably the reverse of many artists. Trained as a professional ballet and contemporary dancer, I started with Aerial when I was working as a dancer for a cruise line. The show I was performing had a small part where a pair of dancers in harnesses flew through the air and over the audience--literally a Flying Show Girl role. I loved it, and after that sought out all the different training and apparatuses I could find, trying as many different things as I could find.
What drew you most to aerial arts?
I really loved being in the air. The empowerment of depending on yourself when you’re off the ground; that your strength, power and mind are what you have to depend on. It’s up to you. I love the balance between the challenge and the freedom.
You’re a beautiful performer. Tell us about your dance background!
Yes! I have a very extensive dance background. I started dance “late”, in my teens (many dancers start very very young) and just a few years later was accepted into a professional classical Ballet program at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. I then moved to a more diverse route at The Ailey School in New York City. I loved the crazy rush of New York and the ability to study so many different styles and with so many remarkable teachers. After graduating from The Ailey School, I freelanced in New York and then took a contract with Royal Caribbean International. I loved the chance to travel and to perform so many styles of dance. I never thought it would lead to the opportunities it did: dancing everything from classical to ballroom to theatre, flying in many shows and even performing in an aqua show. What an experience! Eventually, I felt the urge to move on to something else. I took a chance at an audition in Berlin for Thierry Manfred Mugler and 10 days later was working for Friedrichstadt-Palast Berlin. Eight amazing years later, I am still dancing and performing aerial in their amazing shows. Currently, we are on “Pandemic Pause” but VIVID Grand Show is scheduled to start again January 2021.
What are your favorite aerial apparatuses?
Oh, that is a tough question. My favourite aerial apparatus is silks. I love the endless possibilities it presents, the grace and elegance. It is an apparatus that gives you countless ways to be creative and really dance in the air. I also really love working with bespoke creative apparatuses. They hold a special place in my heart. I have worked on numerous “shapes”: hearts, snowflakes, stars, spirals, Venus sway-pole and I love them all. They all have their unique qualities and bespoke apparatuses have wonderful ability to challenge your creativeness.
How did you start teaching aerial?
I started with having friends who wanted to train with me, and I started teaching them what I knew. I loved teaching, but realized there must be “better,” more efficient ways to teach. It was a really important step for me to participate in teaching programs. It can be a big mental shift as a performer, to be modest and embrace that I had a lot to learn. Not every performer can teach. Since refining my teaching skills, teaching and coaching has taken on a whole new meaning. I get great joy from watching students accomplish their goals, learn new skills and become stronger and more confident individuals.
Did you have any aerial coaches who inspired your own teaching?
I am lucky to have met many amazing people, artists, coaches and choreographers who have given me many gifts of amazing life lessons. My biggest Aerial Coaching inspiration is Jill Franklin, the owner and creator of Aerial Physique. I met Jill when I took my first Aerial Physique Teacher Training course. It was at a point in life where I wasn’t finding the individual attention from previous coaches and I didn’t really believe in what I was capable of as a teacher or performer; I was floundering. But Jill saw something in me and her confidence and leadership has helped me find an amazing path for myself. I am very proud to consider her my mentor and I am grateful for her guidance.
Why did you choose to integrate aerial into your career?
I love aerial and I love dance. It is nearly impossible for me to pick between the two, so I have chosen to do both: Aerial. Dance. For me dance came first, but without aerial I wouldn’t feel whole. Once I started in the air, I couldn’t shake that amazing feeling. I am a true believer that your career should be something you are passionate about and it is difficult for me to imagine a career elsewhere. Do what you love. Do what brings you joy.
How has teaching been gratifying?
The most gratifying thing about teaching is watching students grow. Often they don’t even realize their accomplishments or progress! I love seeing participants accomplish their goals. I love how people feel stronger, energized and accomplished after their sessions. I love being a cheerleader. When a student struggles with a skill, and then they have their “click” moment, and it works, and it’s beautiful. I get so excited for them! That is an amazing feeling!
In your opinion, what are the main attributes of a good coach?
For me, a good coach should be encouraging and honest, have a good technical and mechanical understanding, and be good at communicating. You need to create a space where students feel safe and secure. There must be a trust balance between what you are teaching them and what they are doing in the air. A positive environment where participants can try, fail, succeed, be artistic and be themselves is imperative. A great coach gives an environment with amazing energy that leaves participants energized and inspired.
2020 has been a challenging year for most, and that extends to the aerial community. What has this year been like for you?
How has 2020 been for me: Strange.
I love the analogy of time. Time is also strange. It is a calculated numerical amount but it also has such mental aspects. In our minds, time can be perceived as slow motion or sped up to go by in a blink of an eye. That has been my 2020. The theatre I work at went from 6-8 shows a week to shut in a matter of hours – in the blink of an eye – a major career “speed bump”. My “home office,” Zoom ballet classes in my living room… and that time in quarantine – felt like slow motion. 2020 has essentially been a time warp of very fast or incredibly slow moments.
I am exceptionally grateful that my family and friends have managed to stay safe and healthy during this time. In saying that, I am a believer in the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I refuse to let 2020 become a waste, just because my so-called “plans” were thrown into a hurricane. I have chosen to embrace the changes necessary during this shift, and help where I can, and find a way to fight for the things I love: family, friends, the arts, theatres, aerial studios and artists.
What are some differences that you notice between the aerial communities in North America vs. in Europe?
There are definitely different styles in Aerial around the world. In North America, Montreal, Canada and Las Vegas, NV are huge hubs for technical and artistic circus. They are largely influenced stylistically by Cirque du Soleil. The United States in general has a high technical level, corporate gigs are common, and aerial competitions are becoming more popular. The level for “recreational aerialists” is amazing. You find such dedicated aerialists who really love it and are just as dedicated to the art form as professionals. Europe has a wide variety of styles depending on the region. Eastern Europe is known to produce amazing technical aerialists where France is known for artistic, organic and flowing style. Berlin has a very contemporary circus vibe and Germany is a Varieté hotspot.
What has been one of the most meaningful teaching experiences you’ve had?
One of my most meaningful teaching experiences was from one of my long time students, who told me that even if she didn’t have the greatest class or didn’t get a trick she always left class feeling good and never felt defeated. The time in aerial class was her time to do something for herself and she cherished that. When she had a good class and aced a skill she felt accomplished, strong, confident and felt like she could take on the world.
I can’t imagine getting a better compliment.
What do you like about teaching teachers?
Teaching Teachers is a great honour for me. It is a chance to bring the Aerial Physique philosophies and techniques to teachers from around the world. I love being able to help new teachers grow. They are always so motivated and driven and that makes it so much fun. Knowing that what they learn in the course they will bring back to their students and aerial communities is an incredible responsibility. In a tiny way, we are helping to sculpt the future of aerial arts.
Tell us about your experience with the Aerial Physique Teacher Training Program!
My Aerial Physique Teacher Training journey began when I took Level 1 with Jill in Empoli, Italy – the weather was SO hot during the course, I think my fingerprints disappeared! Lol. I already had some teaching experience but felt like it was missing something, and I particularly wanted to specialize in Aerial Silks. The knowledge I gained was immense, both for my teaching as well as for my own training. The following year I completed Level 2 in Vienna, Austria and then travelled to Los Angeles for Level 3. It was a mind-boggling amount of aerial knowledge to absorb but I was so determined. Jill is an amazing tutor and mentor and I learned so much from these courses. Now I am an Aerial Physique Master Trainer. I assist Jill by leading teacher trainings in Europe, and I am the creator behind Aerial Physique’s newest upcoming program, Aerial Edge Virtual Coaching, which will be releasing soon.
What are you excited about in the next year?
2020 has been tough for the aerial arts and most of us have had to swerve in some way. I see 2021 as a year of showing human resilience and rejuvenation. I am looking forward to meeting new teachers in Teacher Trainings and hope to help support the aerial community as it regains its footing. I am excited to coach more and continue to support students far and wide. I am excited to create new opportunities and see where life’s adventure takes us.
Connect with Christine!
Follow her on Instagram: @wunder.aerialdance
Download her top 5 tips for improving your aerial artistry here!
Check out her website: www.christinewunderlich.com