We sat down with Aerial Physique Master Trainer Gabe Hilden-Reid, whose impressive aerial silks and rope skills you might recognize from our Instagram page! Gabe teaches many classes at Aerial Physique and he'll be leading Level One Teacher Training this November in LA. His classes consistently fill up quickly and his students adore him! We dive into his aerial background and his philosophy on creating a welcoming environment for students. Enjoy!
How did you get into aerial arts?
“When I was 14, I went to my cousin’s bat mitzvah at Xelias Aerial Arts in Minneapolis, MN, where they did triple trapeze. I thought it was going to be really stupid, but I ended up loving it! So, I signed up for classes. I started going 3-4 times per week, but eventually was going 5 days a week.”
What drew you most to aerial arts?
“I loved the athleticism, and the creativity. I was always athletic, but didn’t like organized sports because I was too competitive. I loved aerial because it wasn’t explicitly competitive (though I made it competitive), and because it had a theatrical element to it."
What were your favorite aerial apparatuses?
“I was most drawn to Spanish web, aerial silks, and pas de deux.”
How did you start teaching aerial?
“There was a summer school program at my circus that needed coaches, so I signed up when I was 16. I wanted to further my aerial practice by getting so good that I could explain it to other people. I was also taking any assistant coaching opportunities that I could, because I wanted to completely immerse myself in aerial and in the aerial community. I wanted to live and breathe aerial because I was so enamored by it.”
Did you have any aerial coaches who inspired your own coaching?
“I had a coach named Julianna Neves, who actually originated the aerial silks pas de deux in the Cirque du Soleil show, Dralion. Her performance skills inspired me to convey what she was conveying to students.”
Why did you choose aerial as your career?
“When I think of what I want to do with my life, I want to hang out with really cool people while doing my favorite activity. So, naturally, aerial fits the bill.”
How did you decide to teach instead of perform?
“When I was 21, I had a debilitating neck injury that ended my performing career. The next best thing to performing was being in a position to still immerse myself in aerial, while being the person keeping students safe. Teaching proper technique and safety so that the same thing doesn’t happen to others became extremely important to me.”
How has teaching students been gratifying in your career?
“I truly can’t even describe how gratifying it is when I see a student succeed based on a cue or a tip I’ve given them. Watching a student have something click is endlessly rewarding, which is honestly why I do what I do. From a success as tiny as getting a foot lock, to something as big as doing a triple star, watching that moment happen is incredible.”
What are some differences between coaching children vs. adults?
“Kids require constant directing to maintain their focus. Once kids lose focus, it is very hard to get them back on track. Kids are often less motivated, and coaches have to work a little harder to motivate them. Adults elect to be in the studio; they are choosing to pay a lot of money to be there because they want to be there. Their parents aren’t making them come.”
What are some challenges you’ve faced in the aerial community?
“Circus is traditionally very macho, heterosexual, so it was not much of a supportive environment for queer people. My first circus was extremely Catholic and therefore had antiquated ideas about gender and masculinity. So, when I first tried to train at Juventas, the largest youth circus in America, I wasn’t allowed to do aerial because they deemed it too ‘feminine’ for a boy. Boys were only allowed to do more ‘masculine’ aerial acts like flying trapeze. When they realized that I would be an asset to the team, they finally allowed me to join. I really had to prove myself to be accepted. When I started to coach at Juventas, it became a mission of mine to create a welcome environment and safe space especially for queer kids, so that they would have an easier time than I did."
Funny story: for my pas de deux act, I was supposed to be a prince in love with my female partner, and we kissed as part of the act. In reality, I was actually dating her male friend!”
What environment do you try to create in your classes?
“I try to create a fun environment where people can hang out, enjoy themselves, and learn cool skills in a safe, supportive space. I want my students to feel empowered, supportive, and safe. I also want to empower my students to push their limits and challenge themselves.”
In your opinion, what are the main attributes of a good coach?
“Good coaches are patient and attentive. They support their students, no matter what step of their aerial journey they’re on.”
What has been one of the most meaningful teaching experiences you’ve had?
“Just last week, I was working to create a safe space for my non-binary student. We initiated a conversation about how to correctly respect their gender identity with their preferred pronouns when addressing them in class. I always want every student to feel respected and safe when in my class.”
What do you like about coaching at Aerial Physique?
“I love that Jill keeps classes small (between 2-6 students), which allows for optimal learning and safer teaching practices.”
Tell us about your experience with the Aerial Physique Teacher Training Program!
“Over the past 3.5 years, I’ve been able to watch the Teacher Training program in its many iterations. This might be corny to say, but it’s truly a living, breathing program that is always evolving with up-to-date, cutting-edge information on safety, relevance, and skills. Every time I’ve been an assistant coach, I get inspired to be an even better coach. I also feel better knowing that people are being taught how to teach correctly with safe, proper technique. Teacher training graduates learn so much valuable information that they take back to their home studios.”
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us!
“Talking to you is ALWAYS a pleasure!”
Gabe will be leading the Aerial Physique Level 1 Teacher Training Program November 6th -10th, 2019 in Los Angeles! Click here to apply
In the Los Angeles area? Click here to sign up for an aerial silks or aerial rope class with Gabe at the Aerial Physique studio.
See Gabe in action here.