Category Archives: silks
The piece I’m performing on the sling begins with a pike pullover to a needle (effectively, a handstand on the fabric), which in turn all depends on being able to crochet my wrists–that is, to swim them under, then over, the fabric, taking my grip on the outside–so I can work against tension.
In order for this to work, the bottom of the sling needs to fall anywhere from mid-chest height (too low for other parts of the piece) to just above where my wrists are when my arms are extended straight up if I’m standing flat-footed (I can make up the difference with shoulder mobility).
Last night, somehow, my sling was set too high: I had to stand on my very highest demi-pointe and hyperextend my shoulders to reach it at all, and even then I had to mount by gripping the bottom of the sling with my un-crocheted hands.
This in turn meant that I couldn’t do the pike pullover, but instead had to tuck as hard as I could and pray that I had enough strength to make it, since I couldn’t borrow momentum by springing through my feet or brushing or a leg and kicking up. If I could have crocheted my wrists, it still would have worked–but since I could only reach the very, very bottom of the sling, my hands were too close together for proper biomechanical leverage. My shoulders were hyperextended and closed, making it impossible to engage them back and down until I was already approaching vertical.
It meant that that the needle–which depends on core strength and physics and should be a straight vertical with the hands shoulder-width apart and the legs sealed against one-another, not touching the fabric at all–became more of a fork, ankles on the fabric, since my hands were squashed together in the very bottom of the sling and I’d had to engage my core in a different pattern coming up from the tuck than I would from the pike.
It meant that the move that follows the needle–a graceful fold back into a pike that lands my hips in the bottom of the sling–was awkward. My hands were in the way, and I had to shimmy them out to the sides, which left my body off its axis, which made the next transition awkward as well.
The most difficult part, though, was the moment at the very start, when I realized that my sling was too high and then briefly wondered if it was even locked off correctly. I had to make a judgment call: take a dangerous mount on a potentially-unstable apparatus over a hard stage, or hold up a show that people paid to see over what was probably nothing?
I chose to mount.
That decision came down entirely to a question of trust.
Did I trust the riggers? Yes, even though my sling was too high–scheduling conflicts meant we’d done only one tech run, and the window in which the sling height is acceptable for this piece is very, very small. I trade off halfway through with a girl whose part of the act involves a drop that is too dangerous to do if the sling falls lower than a certain point. She’s my height but longer in the torso. The difference between too low for her drop, just right for both of us, and too high for my mount is the difference in locking off the sling ahead of, right on, or behind a tape mark. Better to lock it off too high for my mount: yes, it makes my part of the piece less elegant by a significant margin, but it doesn’t endanger anyone.
Did I trust the rig? Not entirely. No aerialist can do their job if they don’t trust the equipment–but no aerialist worth their salt believes there’s a 0% chance of mechanical failure. For better or worse, I hadn’t had enough time on this rig to trust it as much as I trust mine or the rigging points at our rehearsal space or at Suspend.
But I trusted it enough, combined with one more factor: myself.
I would be, upon mounting the sling, about seven feet up, suspended head first over a hard, wooden floor. Did I trust myself–my brain and body, the reflexes that I began honing as a baby gymnast at 3 years old–to literally save my own neck if everything went tits up?
Yes, it turns out: I ran a mental calculation and accepted the sliver of risk. If something was wrong with the rigging, I had good evidence–a lifetime of experience–in favor of being able to successfully tuck and roll. It’s as automatic as pointing my feet.
A tuck-and-roll wouldn’t prevent all possible injuries–in fact, I knew that I was accepting the risk of bone breaks–but at the height in question it would keep me from breaking my neck or my back.
I made my decision and put it aside and went forward. I struggled to make things as smooth as they should be, but no one got hurt. My dismount, at least, worked beautifully: I drop into a single-knee hang, reach for the ground, and execute a back walkover out of the sling. I was able to just manage it by letting the leg in the sling slide into a heel-hang at the last possible second.
In the end, no one got hurt. Things were scary for a second, then difficult. I got through by making an active, informed decision to trust and then continuing to breathe and move forward.
It’s funny how apt a metaphor this becomes for relationships and for life.
We choose actively to trust: how deeply and how far depends on our experiences.
We choose actively to trust: but we do so knowing that it means accepting a sliver of risk.
We choose actively to trust–or not to trust–ourselves.
In the end, I’m glad I chose as I did. Every time we choose to be brave, we make ourselves stronger.
It’s true that my work in the sling came off less gracefully than it might have done–but it came off, nonetheless. That, as they say, is showbiz. You screw up, or things screw up, and you play it off like everything’s going to plan.
When your sling is set too high, you use your best demi-point and you pray.
You keep your face on. Roll forward.
You push through the hips.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that nothing is ever final until the curtain rises on opening night–and even then, it’s still not final.
This is a comforting thought, since circumstances have conspired to make tomorrow’s tech run the first time that the tandem hammock trio gets to actually be a tandem hammock trio! We’ve worked separately and in various pairings up to this point, but not all together because–honestly, I’m not sure why.
This morning, I worked out the drop sequence I’m doing–a variation from the one the girls are doing, since they didn’t get a chance to teach it to me and we didn’t have video I could work from, but if I don’t completely hose it up, the audience is unlikely to notice 😛
Tonight’s a literal walk-through rehearsal: the apparatuses are in the theater, but we won’t be because life in the arts is, shall we say, a little chaotic sometimes. I’m honestly okay with that: we got up at 4 this morning for a 3.5-hour newscast gig, and even though I managed to reclaim most of my lost sleep this afternoon (and, in my dreams, revisit pets of yore and rehearse in a really bizarre space), I’m still a little tired and totallu okay with not dangling from dangerous objects tonight 😉
^^That’s my kind of news crew 😀
Last night, instead of staying home and hiding from trick-or-treaters, I went to Handstands class and Acro 2. Both went remarkably well. I got to play on hand-balancing blocks, which I’ve been wanting to do forever, and a pair of those hand-balancing frames that look a little like pommel-horse grips sans pommel-horse. I’m finally regaining a really solid handstand, so that’s awesome. I definitely want to incorporate hand-balancing into my skill-set.
Anyway, tomorrow we’re finally in the theater for real (I got a preview as a function of doing the morning show!), and Friday we open. Saturday is just about sold out, which is awesome.
Oh, andI also know how to find my way out of the theater now, which is surprisingly complicated 😛
Our run of Orpheus went well—it wasn’t 100% perfect, but it was close enough. Our audiences didn’t know it wasn’t perfect, and that’s all that matters. We got another really nice review, as well.
Surprisingly, Mom loved it! I wasn’t sure what she’d think, to be honest. She’s been an avid fan of the performing arts for far longer than I’ve even been alive. I wasn’t sure that the combination of silent theater, aerials, and modern dance would appeal to her. In fact, she thought it was great (and not just the parts I in :D). I don’t think I would have predicted that!
For me, there was definitely a trial-by-fire element. I’ve never had so much choreography to learn for one show, and we had such an oddly compressed rehearsal schedule. On Wednesday, we were still pretty shaky about some things; full of challenging doubts. On Thursday, though, everything seemed to suddenly gel. I guess that dancers, like beans, cook faster in a pressure cooker!
Anyway, it was a learning experience in all regards, and a good one. Nobody ever did call or email to tell me they’d cast me by mistake, so that was cool. Our playwright said that my portrayal of Eurydice’s strict, mean father (we nicknamed the role “Papa Eurydice”) was one of his very favorite parts 😀 (That was one heck of a fun role, too.) I discovered that I like the acting bits almost as much as the dancing bits, and the I love the acting-via-dance element like crazy.
I learned that two shows in one day is very doable.
I learned that I look rather good in a slick 1920’s coiffure 😉
The most important thing that I learned, though, is that I can recover from mistakes without telegraphing them. I only made a few (basically, one biggie per show), but they felt enormous—like, at one point, I wound up way off my mark before a sequence en manège, basically standing at 5:00 instead of 7:00. I still have no idea how that happened, but it did.
In a way, it was funny: I rose from a floorwork passage and thought, “Something feels wrong, here.” By the time I realized that I was way off my mark, though, it was too late to move. Instead, I jumped into the manège sequence where I was, then adjusted by pivoting around another dancer at the end so I would wind up in the right spot. She also tried to adjust, and we bumped into each-other, but we made it. The audience didn’t even notice.
This week, I think I’m going to take it easy a bit. I’m taking a day off-ish today, though I think I’ll be back in class tomorrow. Friday, we’re heading out of town to celebrate our 5th anniversary.
Speaking of which, D gave me a mind-blowing anniversary gift:
The amount planning and subterfuge that went into this is incomprehensible! On the other hand, if I ever need a team of aerialist secret agents who can keep a secret, I know who call! More or less everyone was in on this, and planning phase dates back to January; maybe earlier.
Meanwhile, I had literally no idea this in the works!
Okay, one of these days, I really need to take an actual weekend.
I cleaned the bejeezus out of the bedroom on Friday (we were supposed to go to a party, and then drinks after said party, and then the party was cancelled and, as a result, so were the drinks).
Saturday, I did juggling and ballet class (which was something of a disaster, y’all, and I have no excuse, except maybe the lack of breakfast), got costuming details sorted, showered, then ran back out the door to do dinner, a Cirque show, and drinks afterwards with my cirque peeps (we resolved to do the “getting together for drinks” thing again some time soon).
Also, YOU GUYS, I SHOWERED. The fact that this feels like an accomplishment suggests to me that I may be overscheduled*.
*To be fair, I do bathe pretty often, but that’s more like physical therapy than washing up.
We got home around 2AM, managed to get to sleep by 4AM, then got up again at 8AM to go do Acro, Open Fly, and the Sunday dance class.
Though we both did quite well with the dancing and the teaching, both Aerial A and I were defeated repeatedly by technology during class. I chalk this up to sleep deprivation, you guys. Because, seriously, we were both like, “OMG WHAT IS THIS THING I HAVE NEVER USED THIS BEFORE” as our phones trolled us. They were like, “Tendu music? Imma let you fi-NO I’M NOT!!!! HAHAHAHA!”
I gave my Sunday class a rond de jambe combination with that lovely fondu-rond-allongé thing. To be honest, I was kind of expecting at least one person to fall over, and nobody did, which was pretty impressive. I should reiterate that these guys are doing all this without a barre. Fortunately, aerialists already tend to have strong core muscles and to know how to use them.
What we’re working on, in this case, is lines: using turnout through the full range of motion in order to maintain a beautiful line. (In case you’re wondering: hands on is the best approach, here. Rond de jambe definitely really benefits from poking and prodding, not to mention grabbing and rotating and pulling and guiding.)
This is really very relevant to performing on aerial apparatus — I use rond de jambe all the time on trapeze, lyra, and silks. Right now, it’s especially handy in my trapeze choreography to transition from gazelle on the right leg to horse on the left leg.
Oh, and then I started in on the Handstand Challenge. Gentlefolk of the internet, here is how you do not do a handstand for more than 8.4 seconds:
I’m home now and in the process of making dough for French rolls and cheesebread (breakfast of champions?).
After we turn them into meatball sandwiches and stuff them in our faces, my big plan is to collapse into bed and SLEEEEEP.
…And then tomorrow it’s Monday again, so modern class.
I feel that, as a kid, this is what I was probably imagining when I imagined what weekends would be like when I was An Adult. Like:
“DO ALL THE THINGS! ESPECIALLY THE AWESOME THINGS! Then fall down and sleep!”
So there you have it. My weekend.
Jeez, guys, I need a break**.
**Not really complaining, here; also, totally aware that this whole post is like FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS OMG.
We got a great explanation today about getting into this inversion (crossback straddle/v inversion).
Sure, you can try to just muscle it up with your legs, but that’s the hard way (and note the word try, here — many, maybe most, can’t actually invert from the upright crossback straddle just by muscling it up).
The — well, let’s be frank — the less hard way (it still requires a fair bit of strength and coordination, but feels pretty easy once you get it) is to use your abs to contract up through the hollow-body position while pushing the poles of the silks away with your hands (which should be quite high).
Basically, you pull your pelvis towards your face using the core muscles, just as if you were doing a head-tail contraction in Modern dance.
I couldn’t do this with any degree of polish before my recent break-for-illness — not because I was weaker (though I was, towards the end), but because I hadn’t grasped the point about using hollow-body to achieve the inversion.
Today, Tall C explained that, and it clicked. Huzzah! Denis didn’t hear her, and still wound up muscling through it with great struggle. A couple classmates and I mentioned the hollow-body part when he came down (we also mentioned it when he was on the silks, but he couldn’t hear us over the sound of his effort, heh).
He’ll get it next time.
Honestly, since I haven’t been doing silks, I expected today’s class to suck — but it was actually awesome.
We also have video in which I — clearly tired — basically mark my way through a bit of choreography and fumble into arabesque at the end. I’ll post it later. Watching it, I was surprised that my transitions didn’t look like complete crap, given that I was pretty cooked and really not even trying.
Anyway, it’s good to be back at it, and I think my newly-reduced schedule will help immensely.
À bientôt, mes amis.