Improv Time! (part 2)

Last week I extolled the many benefits of learning to improvise on aerial apparatus. In that post I promised you, my readers, some ideas for improv exercises that you can use in your classes.

And here they are. These are some of my favourite improv exercises to use in class with my students:

A Guide to the Journey of One's Mind 5-discover how to get into a basic movement (eg, getting up onto the apparatus/from sit to stand/into catchers or hiplock) in 10 different ways THAT YOU DON’T ALREADY KNOW in 10 minutes.

This is a great exercise because it can be used on any apparatus. You as a coach can dictate the position to be achieved, and is great for developing new transitions into familiar moves.

-come up with 3-5 moves and transitions that don’t use your hands

This can be used on any apparatus, although it is much more challenging on silks or rope. Although gripping with the elbows can be used, don’t simply replace hands with elbows. If you see your students doing this, make the rules more extreme so that they can’t use their arms AT ALL.

-in pairs, come up with between 3-5 moves that mirror each other

Works best on lyra or trapeze. I’ve found that students doing this exercise are less intimidated to show the results of their efforts to their class mates, as it is a team effort rather than being alone.

-make up a sequence of between 3-5 moves where one appendage (hand or foot) must be touching the ground at all times

Works best on a lyra or dance trapeze that can be lowered close to the ground, and the spinning motion of these apparatus tends to emphasise movements from this exercise beautifully.

-improvise a routine to music.Net Ginnett 2011 5

This can be the most intimidating to students because it feels like a performance, like a routine that should have been rehearsed. I recommend taking students aside one by one and setting as task for the other students (either one of the above exercises or training set trick/s) so that it’s just you, the teacher watching them rather than having an audience of their peers (although this would only be appropriate in a high intermediate/advanced level where students are capable of working independently without direct supervision). To make it less confronting for your students, the first time/ couple of times you use this exercise, tell them the week before what you are planning, and allow them to choose the music. Ask them to choose a song that they know well, that makes them feel a certain way or makes them want to move in a certain way, and ask them to interpret that song physically. This way, the students feel like they have a certain degree of control over the situation. As they become more experienced with improvising movements, you can dictate the music or mood.

After playing with these, it can be fun for your students to show the rest of the class what they’ve invented but is not necessary, especially if they are feeling uneasy with the whole improvising concept. Like I mentioned in my post last week, the more of this work they do the more they will feel comfortable being watched and sharing their creations.

This week, why not comment below with your favourite improv exercises to do in your practice or use in your classes.


Improv Time! (Part 1)

I’ve had many interesting reactions when I’ve announced to my class that we will be doing improvisation in an aerial lesson, which has included everything from sudden onset gastro-intestinal distress to tears. And sure, improv can be intimidating the first time you try it. However learning how to make stuff up on the spot have many benefits for your aerial work.

Net Ginnett 2011 4-It helps develop your style in the air.

Finding out whether you are the kind of person who likes fast, dynamic movements or slow, graceful ones or anything in between can be discovered through improvisation. Often it takes a while for students to “loosen up” from rigid and set movements that they may be used to doing in class and to start to find their own movement qualities.

-it gets you thinking creatively

I recently had the pleasure of participating in a master class in improvisation with trapeze artist Rosalie Ducharme (highly recommend taking one of her master classes if you get the opportunity). She emphasised that if you want to make your act unique, you need to have unique tricks in it, rather than composing it from all the tricks that everyone already knows. To do this, you need to spend time improvising on your apparatus. This also helps with familiarity of your apparatus, making any movements that you do on it look effortless.

-it helps you think on your feet

In her workshop, Rosalie also reiterated that being able to improvise is a skill unto itself, and like any skill, takes time and practice to master. It’s hard to think outside the box, but the more time you spend doing so the more comfortable it will feel. Being able to think quickly and adapt to a situation Lyra Inferno 2004 2whilst in the air is an invaluable skill for performers, in the event that (heaven forbid) something goes wrong in your act. You may find yourself behind in your music and not having enough time in to do that awesome drop you’d planned, or maybe adrenaline kicked in and you were faster than you were in rehearsal and have an extra bar or music to fill. Maybe those silks just won’t split or your tail gets knotted together after a drop. I’ve had all of those scenarios happen to me in shows and I’m sure other performers will be able to tell you more. Being able to make it appear to the audience as though nothing untoward has happened comes from being able to improvise.

Stay tuned next week for some ideas of improv exercises you can use in your classes!

Feel free to comment with the most embarrassing time your performance has gone wrong (mine involved a hideous costume malfunction and nipples).

The Big Issues

I know its been a while since I’ve written anything, but today I wanted to ask you, my readers, to take up arms (well, your emails, anyway) in aid of a few issues affecting traditional and contemporary circus shows that I am passionate about and have written about in the past.

Firstly, I would like you to take action about the issue of animals in traditional circuses. If you have been following this blog, you’ll be aware that I am very much PRO animals in the circus (you can read my posts on this topic Here and Here).

In April, Adelaide City Council took a vote on to wether to continue to allow traditional circuses with animals to continue to set up and perform in public parks within the city. This was in response to a vocal minority of animal liberationists protesting to the council in response to one such traditional show arriving in town. The vote was narrowly in favour of allowing circuses to continue to perform on council property. However, another vote on this subject is scheduled for August, and I am concerned that the most vocal group that the council may be hearing is that of the animal liberation groups, although their opinion is that of the minority.

If you could take a moment of your time to write to the  council and express your PRO traditional circus (including animals) view, that would be much appreciated. they can be contacted at

For those of the opinion that animals shouldn’t be in the circus, or are perhaps a member of the above mentioned animal liberation groups, I’d like to share this beautify written piece from the European Circus Association’s member for the commission on animals.

Circuses and animal trainers throughout the world go out of their way to ensure their animals are healthy and happy.

Secondly, I’d like you to take action affecting contemporary circus, amongst a multitude of different art forms. I am, of course, referring to the cuts to the Australia Council and the amount of control that right-wing arts minister, George Brandis, would have over the arts, by holding them ransom to funding grants.(read my post about this topic here)

I’ve had the opinion expressed on my Facebook when I wrote about this issue (from non-arts involved people) that offering grants to artists is like getting “something for nothing”. This could not be further from the truth. Instead of explaining this myself, I’d like to share this link explaining exactly how arts grants work, expressed far more eloquently and in a far more amusing way than I ever could:

I also wanted to share this frankly horrifying list published by Crikey of arts companies who would not exist if this legislation is passed. Most disturbing, in my mind, is that the majority of them are rural and/or Indigenous companies.

Consultation for these cuts closes is less than a week, so please take the time to sign any of the numerous online petitions that are destined to be presented to the Minister himself. Here’s a couple:

Thankyou for your time and support in these matters