Hi! I’m Sarah, I’m an aerial performer and instructor from just outside Detroit. I’ve been training for over fours years and performing with my troupe, The Weird Sisters Circus, for almost three.
I got started in aerial the way many people jump into new and crazy things - by getting my heart totally broken. I was bummed out and looking for something to focus my attention on when a friend (another blogger I’d never actually met in person - we’re now really good friends. Yay blogging!) suggested we take a silks and trapeze class at a local circus school. One class led to another, one eight-week session turned into nine, and eventually I found myself on stage being paid to show off my circus skills and helping aspiring aerialists earn their wings.
When started taking aerial classes I had ZERO upper body strength and ZERO flexibility. I couldn’t do a pull-up, I was no where near touching my toes, and my splits were painfully far away. It took me months to be able to get on the trapeze by myself. But I loved the challenge and the little successes and was determined to conquer the tricks I saw more advanced students doing with ease.
After training for about two years, my current duo partner and I performed a trapeze act at a student showcase. The video was sent by her then boyfriend (a sideshow performer) to the producer of a local art show, who hired us to do our act for five nights. After that we gained two more Weird Sisters and lots and lots of shows. So many, in fact, that in 2012 I left my full-time corporate design job to work as a circus performer and freelance web designer full time.
Performing has been extremely rewarding. I love creating an act with my troupe, designing costumes and props, and piling on the glitter for shows. We’ve been clowns, sparkling starfish, and bearded ladies and performed at huge outdoor fairs, lavish charity events, and NBA halftime shows. I’ve even spun on my lyra behind Salt-N-Pepa! It’s a total thrill to climb 20 feet in the air and look down at hundreds of eyes trained on you. People generally ask if I’m ever scared or nervous and the answer is - nope, it’s a ton of fun!
In 2013 I was offered the opportunity to teach at a local studio that hosts music and movement classes. I love when people walk into class completely sure they won’t be able to do anything and helping them see that they are stronger (physically and mentally) than they think. I love helping them push past their boundaries and try things they are truly afraid to do. And I LOVE when they master a trick or complete a scary drop. I get that feeling of success and pride all over again.
The biggest challenge in working as a performer is that my job is extremely physical. I’ve had to train my body to endure being in the air for six to eight classes a week, doing intense conditioning, and helping students move through tricks without injury. We also rehearse once or twice a week as a troupe and up to six days a week if we’re building a new acts for an upcoming show. I’ve thankfully never sustained a serious injury, but I end up with sore muscles and a pretty good bruise or rope/fabric burn once a week.
You don’t need any experience or physical ability to take a class. We have students from age 8 to 52 and people of all sizes and shapes, just be prepared for a workout! Our first-time students are usually surprised that we do cardio, plus core and arm conditioning before we even touch an apparatus. If you want to run away with the circus too you can Google “aerial classes” “circus school” or “aerial arts” to find a school in your area.
And lastly - a note on safety: I know there are lots and lots of videos on Youtube teaching aerial tricks and techniques, but I really recommend you go to an actual aerial school to learn. It’s extremely easy to sustain a long-term injury from improper technique and the only videos I’ve seen that I trust are from Paperdoll Militia. Though you’ll notice, they only teach technique and don’t post instruction for tricks at all :)
Rad Gal, Rad Gig is a new feature on The Clueless Girl's Guide where I invite really neat gals to share their really cool stories. Whether your gig is a full-time job or just a hobby, I want to hear from you! If you think you'd be perfect for Rad Gal, Rad Gig, feel free to get in touch or view the information on the Submissions page! Just submit a short description of what you do and why you think it's rad!