post-holidays inspiration

We all tend to over-indulge a bit over the Christmas/New Year break. As nice as it is to give our bodies a break, so much rich food coupled with the break from training means that it sometimes feels like you’ve lost all you strength and progress made in the previous year, and it can be hard to find the will to start again.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Even professional performers feel this way. To cheer you up, here is an awesome core conditioning workout performed by some gymnast-bots. See if you can keep up!

Enjoy!

 

 

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Photo Finish

I’m baaaaack! Did you miss me?

During my blogging hiatus I succumbed to peer pressure and acquired an Instagram account (its here. Like, follow me ect). This has led inspired to write about the pros and cons of Instagramming your aerial class.

A Guide to the Journey of One's Mind 6Most of my students are crazy for Instagram. And I can appreciate why. As well as having an outlet for your narcissistic side (all performers have one, admit it. Some are bigger than others. Mine is huge) photographing and/or videoing your training allows you to have visual reference for tracking progress, particularly useful for monitoring flexibility ect, and it can be a useful tool for self-diagnosing flaws in your moves. This is not to say that Instagram can replace your actual coach, and you should absolutely not try something that you’ve seen on any website, be it Instagram, Youtube ect without being taught it by a a coach who knows how the trick works (a lengthy rant for another time, I promise). However, those photographs and videos can provide a useful visual reference as to what you are dong wrong, or could be doing better. I can tell a student till the cows come home to straighten their knees/point their toes/relax their shoulders or any other common form correction, but often they won’t understand just how bad such things look up in the air until they see themselves doing such actions for themselves. You can use videos to look over with your coach to analyse as to why a certain trick is not working for you in terms of form or timing, and you can video your performance rehearsals to work out what parts aren’t working, such as a section or choreography that just looks bad.

However its easy to become carried away with photographing your fabulous self. Here are some “Don’ts” dot points when it comes to Instagramming your class (bet you missed all my dot points).

-Don’t constantly harangue your coach to take photos of you.Lyra Inferno 2004 3

As a coach with a number of students in any given class, I endeavour to spend equal time with each of you. I am happy to use your phone-video to help you fix a move, but I’m not your personal photographer.

-Don’t constantly harangue your classmates to take photos of you.

Remember, they’re paying for a class too, and are also not you personal photographers. Let them work on their own moves.

-Don’t hog all the time on the apparatus chasing that perfect shot.

Your classmates want time of the apparatus too. Don’t be greedy!

-Don’t try anything you see on Instagram without being instructed by a coach

Yes, it had to be said again. And again, and again. Whilst you can set a good example by not doing this yourself, once you have posted a video on social media you have no control over who views it, or what they do once they have. To discourage people from trying tricks without formal instruction, it have become policy in my classes at Zigzag Circus that set ups for dangerous moves such as drops not be shown, merely the trick itself. This also helps protect you from the legal grey area of you being responsible for someone hurting themselves trying a trick that you posted online.

A large Instagram following does not make someone an “expert”

Net Ginnett 2011 6This is an assumption that I see all the time, particularly with fitness-related profiles. I also often see people asking for coaching, and worse, the owners of these accounts offering coaching advice to their followers over the internet. Without ever having seen, or met in person, the person they are offering advice to. This kind of behaviour is irresponsible, as there are many factors that can’t be determined by a 15 second video clip, such as correct muscle engagement, strength and/or flexibility limitations, contraindications due to injury, adjustment for body shape ect. Even the fact that they can only see one angle in a video means that they can’t give you a clear picture of your training technique.

And you know what? Most of the techniques of these “instaexperts” is pretty shocking anyway. For, example, we can all agree that a booty looks nice, but it shouldn’t be sticking up when you do a plank.

There is a multitude of reasons why someone could have a large instagram following: maybe they recklessly throw themselves into impressive looking tricks or train wearing not many clothes, or maybe they just have big families and lots of friends, but that does not translate into them either knowing what they are doing or being a good recourse for coaching information. Anyone can film their workout or training session. Find a suitably experienced live coach to guide you through tricks and techniques instead.

Happy Training! (and Instagramming)

dedicated to Natalie, undisputed queen of Instagram

Fly Free Lucky

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written any posts, and I promise more are on their way soon, but I wanted to take some time to say farewell and share my memories of my friend Toby Benham, better known as Lucky Chance, who passed away after an accident in his beloved Blue Mountains on Tuesday.

I had the SHEER DELIGHT of touring with Toby in 2008 in Lennon Bros Circus, and whilst everyone who knew him knows that he was never going to grow old, that this is the way he would have wanted to go, it still doesn’t make the news any easier to take.

lCAL2XHPVHis love of life, energy, enthusiasm and relentless positivity were infectious to those around him. He was always up for a challenge and always challenged those around him to better themselves. He made you feel as if you were invincible, like anything was possible. He had a unique world view and we spent many hours in deep philosophical discussions over spiked mugs of tea. Conversations with him were an enlightening experience and changed the way you perceived your surroundings.

Around the world, everyone he encountered has “Crazy Lucky Stories” to tell. I thought I’d share a few of mine.

My first ever adventure with him was on the Gold Coast in Queensland, we went for a picnic on the beach. After a morning of swimming, we stopped for lunch, but before I could sit down to eat, he has scampered up the cliff face. With my food. So I followed him, and that’s how I learned to rock climb-no instruction, no safety gear, “You just do it, everything will be ok!”

It became a tradition that in every new town that the circus arrived in that we would find the closest mountain and scale it. From Toowoomba to Eden we bush-bashed our way through national parks and reserves, because paths are boring and only present a narrow and confined view of the whole world picture. He had an impeccable sense of direction, if now for him I would have been hopelessly lost in the bush. When I told him as much, he replied with “Good motivation for you to keep up!!”

As well as the physical challenges, he liked to set weekly goals. Find the most obnoxiously coloured alcoholic beverage at the local bottle-o. When we go the grocery shopping, find as many items from as many different countries as you can. Go to the local op shop and try to find a complete outfit in as many different colours as you can, like a rubix cube.

I remember the day he changed his name by deed poll to Lucky Chance. We had got rancidly drunk when he proclaimed that “I don’t think the name Toby really reflects who I am as a person”, so we spent some time devising alternate names for him. The next morning, when I awoke the worse for wear, he came bounding up to me, fresh as a daisy.

“Well, I did it!”

“Did what?”

“Changed my name to Lucky Chance!!”

“You….you WHAT now??!!”

But that was Toby. Ever spontaneous and living life with no regrets.

I must stop myself here. I could go on writing memories for pages and pages. RIP Buddy. I hope you’re looking down at us from your astral rocking chair. You will be remembered and missed.

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Something old, something new….

Recently on the social medias, I happened by an interview with the director of the Edinburgh Fringe festival, speculating that contemporary circus should be called something else other than “circus” to differentiate it from the (and I quote) “nasty tents and hack clowns” that he perceives embody traditional circus.

Contortion Home 2006 1Having performed professionally in both traditional and contemporary circus shows, it’s true that they both have unsavoury opinions of the other. For example, those working in traditional shows say that those working in contemporary circus are dole-bludging, unwashed, stale B-O smelling, pot smoking hippies that perform incomprehensible and pretentious shows without ever bothering to put on a costume.

Whereas the contemporary circus crowd say of their traditional counterparts that they are animal abusing, unwashed, stale B-O smelling, pot smoking gypsies that perform tawdry and tacky shows in costumes that involve far too many sequins for their personal comfort.

It’s easy to make generalisations when you know not of what you speak, and as with most stereotypes, they rarely ring true.

In my humble opinion, there is no need to re-name or re-classify contemporary circus. All art formsColes Gig 2013 4 evolve over time, and contemporary circus is simply a genre of the art form. This makes much more sense when you look at other art forms and see all the genres that it comprises of. Take dance as an example. There is ballet, contemporary, tap, pole dance, assorted traditional dances from around the world. All dissimilar to each other in appearance, technique and purpose, but we still call them all dance. And just look at the multitude of genres that comprise music.

Personally, I don’t understand the mentality of those circus performers who proclaim “Oh, I could never work in contemporary/traditional <delete appropriate>”, especially if they are independent artists. Finding work as a circus artist is hard enough, why would you shun potential employers based on the genre of the work they are offering? Both genres are both capable of challenging you physically and creatively and taking you outside your comfort zone as a performer. I’ve had wonderful times, met incredible people and learn valuable lessons about performing and about life in general working in both traditional and contemporary circus genres and I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences for the world.

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 city@adelaidecitycouncil.com

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. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10205850468794061&set=o.816592668433171&type=1&pnref=story

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:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/18/im-an-artist-and-ive-received-grants-want-to-know-what-i-do-with-all-that-money

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.

http://www.crikey.com.au/2015/06/15/the-145-arts-companies-gutted-by-brandis-swingeing-cuts/

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:

https://www.communityrun.org/petitions/stop-brandis-gutting-our-national-arts

http://nava.good.do/budget2015/letter-from-the-visual-arts-sector/

Thankyou for your time and support in these matters

-Kate

An interview with a Circus Enthusiast

Hello Everyone! This week, I’d like to share an interview that I  did with Adelaide artist Tangerine Meg. She has been coming to circus classes and been a vibrant and enthusiastic member of our community at Zigzag Circus for a number of years.

  1. How did you discover circus and what aspects of it did you find most appealing?

I discovered circus when my younger son was doing Kindergym (movement classes for pre-school children). The kindergym leader told me about Cirkidz, the only Adelaide circus school at the time. When my boys were in circus class I watched them having active fun and gaining skills and decided to see if beginner adults could learn too.

At that stage I’d been a solo mum for a a couple of years, and it was good to get back to doing something fun for myself. I loved the interesting skills, and bonus strength. My biceps got visible (when I flexed ’em!) As a child I’d not done handstands or cartwheels – I don’t know why – and when I finally did a handstand (against a wall) it was a proud moment! I got fit and strong doing circus, forgetting I was working out because circus is intrinsically enjoyable and fascinating!

I did this lino print at around that time, it’s symbolic of the freedom and enjoyment:

TangerineMeg_linoprint_JoyRiding

  1. You are well known amongst your fellow circus students for having relentless positivity and a never-give-up attitude. How do you cope when you are feeling frustrated with your training?

Sometimes I’d cry in frustration on the drive home, or, at training I’d hide away in the storeroom for a cry. Then come back out and have another try! Cry, cry, try again!

I keep my spirits up in the face of microscopic progress by: showing my family my new little skills – or my new little biceps! And to keep returning to comparing me to me (ie. my own progress) rather than comparing myself to someone else whose story I don’t know!

TangerineMeg_at-circus-school

  1. How has circus benefited you, physically, socially or mentally? Has it had an impact on your life outside the circus gym?

There’s a positive, friendly, helpful atmosphere at circus. I’ve made friends, and met people who inspire me, along with newfound confidence from increased strength & fitness.

It’s fun being a part of a world which I didn’t previously know existed. I even got to go in the Adelaide Fringe in 2009 as an acrobat! Here’s a photo of part of our act:

Pyramids act - Adelaide Fringe 2009

Pyramids act – Adelaide Fringe 2009

  1. What are your favourite circus disciplines to train?

I adore beyond reason: Acro, handstands, trapeze.

Which ones do you find the hardest? Acro, handstands, trapeze! Haha, my favourites are not always easy! I find tumbling frustrating, too!

I’m bursting to get back to circus training 🙂 in the meantime, I’d love if you’d come visit me online…

Headshot-Tangerine-Meg

My thing is Bold Art for Bold Souls. My favourite subjects include people, cats and garden produce, all in my joyful, vibrant style of watercolours and lino prints. I’d love you to visit my my art website – you can even download free art printables – there are bright bookmarks and a Reading Girl Bookplate PDF available this very moment!

It’s all about the money, money, money

Circus as an art form tends to fall through the gaps when it comes to applying for funding. Is it often lumped in with either theatre or dance, and whilst it can certainly contain aspects of either or both of these genres, it is not characteristic of either. As such, it often doesn’t meet specific criteria when circus companies or independent artists apply for funding for their projects, and as a result they miss out on receiving grants. There has been recent campaigning from circus artists throughout the country to have the main arts funding body in this country, the Australia Council, include a category for circus in their grant offers.

10981695_907388125948755_9018090494632504905_nHowever, in the recent federal budget, the funding for the Australia Council itself was slashed in half, instead having these funds redirected towards a fund overseen and administered by the minister for the arts, Sen. George Brandis, for “excellence”.

The Australia Council was set up by the Whitlam Government as an independent, peer reviewed body which has made possible all manner of artistic projects. Redirecting this money to a fund awarded by a singular politician has the country’s artists horrified for a number of reasons.

Firstly, one of the most appealing aspects about any kind of art is that is can be used to offer a critical viewpoint on society, including politics. The thought of having artists have to shmoose up to a politician in order to receive funding to make their art feels incredibly sleazy to me. Even worse is the ability of that politician to silence any artist who is presenting a critique or a viewpoint that disagrees with that of their party or indeed, them personally, by denying them financial support.

And what then happens when the governing party inevitably changes? Do those artists who were Coles Gig 2013 3personal favourites of the former Minister of the arts lose their favoured status because they were too close to the opposing political position?

Secondly, the minister for the arts may not actually have a very good grasp of what is good art. Playing favourites because of an individual’s personal taste is not a valid way to determine what projects are worthy of receiving funding.

And what is “excellence”, anyway? To me, “excellence” could easily be interpreted as “elitist”. This week, senator Brandis confirmed this suspicion by awarding $1.something million to the Australian Ballet and The Bell Shakespeare company. This is fine for these companies, and I am not by any means disparaging the work that they do. However dance is so much more than just Ballet. Theatre is so much more than just Shakespeare. Music is so much more than just Opera, ect. By limiting financial support to one narrow, and dare I say, safe, conservative aspect of each respective artistic genre, you are strangling innovation and without innovation and creativity, the arts will slowly die. Innovation and creativity and the fundamental principles on which any art form rests. And new works can’t happen overnight. Arts practitioners need time, space, and money to experiment, create, fail and rework and refine their ideas.

A Guide to the Journey of One's Mind 4In addition to this, in the Arts, just like in every other industry, no one starts at the top. A young actor or dancer may start with a small company, or creating independent work. They learn from their peers, refine their technique, gain experience in the industry. They then gain a reputation amongst their peers in the industry and are eventually invited to audition for one of the above mentioned major companies or similar. With the loss of funding, a lot of small to medium companies will have to downsize their operations and may cease to exist altogether. Independent work will become a lot more difficult to create without financial support. And thus less talented people will persist with their creative endeavours to the point where they would be employed by those companies favoured by Senator Brandis. This will effectively kill the “excellence” that he is intending to foster.

Another aspect of this is that there are a wide range of projects that have been funded by the Australia Council that are precluded from “excellence” by the nature of the people that they are working with, such as projects for Indigenous people or those with a disability. One could argue that artistic expression is one of very few avenues that these and other marginalised groups get for expressing themselves , and now this is potentially under threat.

The arts in Australia matter. They should be innovative. They should be inclusive. They should be accessible. And they should be funded.

A Triple Treat that is Super Sweet!

Today I have three link that I would like to share with you.

Firstly, a link to some articles from a British satire site, covering the topic of working for exposure. The articles explore exposure as now being  legal tender for a variety of artists, thus shedding light on just how ridiculous it is to ask artists to work for such, in the delightfully passive-aggressive snarkiness that the British do so well.

Theres four articles, one for magicians, models, musicians and photographers. Check it out!

http://beezlystreet.com/tag/exposure/

Secondly, I did an interview recently for fellow blogger, Adelaide artist and Extremely Nice Person, Tangerine Meg. Check it out, and while you’re there check out some of her art work. Its gorgeous!

http://tangerinemeg.com/2015/05/15/bold-interview-6-kate-lawrence/#.VVtTt7nz7IX

Thirdly,

I wanted to share a video of a performance I did last week. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRd0lWGohHE