By Olivia Egerstedt
Instagram is a great place to get inspiration for tricks you want to learn with your aerial coach, performance style ideas, and places you might want to train when you have the opportunity. I want to share some of my favorite aerial Instagram accounts. I chose these circus performers due to their diversity of equipment, advocating of safety, and creative and unique content and skills that I believe set them apart from others you may see online.
- Dan Saab (@dan_saab)
Dan Sabb is a Las Vegas-based performer and coach specializing in hammock and lyra. He is known for his dynamic movements and exciting performance style. He creates fun engaging content that is unique to him.
- Matthew Casey (@flyist.kid.in.town)
Matthew Casey is a lyra, trapeze, straps, and hammock performer and teacher based out of Las Vegas he’s known for his fast spins and dynamic sequences. He uses his platform to show his progress as well as his amazing and fast sequences.
- Zoë Isadora (@moodystreetcircuskid)
Zoë Isadora is a 3rd generation circus performer based at her family gym in Massachusetts. She is best known for her slow, controlled movements and beautiful lines. She trains, performs, and teaches on silks, straps, lyra, and rope.
- Aerial physique (@aeralphysique)
Though not a specific person, Aerial Physique is a studio site that advocates for safe practice and good technique. On their Instagram, they demonstrate progressions and skills to promote safety and help teach, as well as feature aerialists from around the world.
- Camille Swift (@femme_fenix)
Camille Swift is an aerialist based in Chicago and specializing in trapeze and hammock. She is a teacher and performer who focuses on the importance of conditioning and technique. She is best known for her unique acts and interesting sequences.
- Shannon McKenna (@the_artist_athlete)
Shannon McKenna is a silks performer and coach based in Georgia. She uses her social media to advocate for safe aerial practices. She emphasizes body positivity and the growth of strength within the aerial community. She creates unique and challenging sequences and demonstrates good conditioning and stretching practices that everyone can do.
- Izzi Kessner (@cirquessner)
Izzi Kessner is a teen performer and instructor based in Los Angeles and specializes in straps, lyra, and rope. They create fun and engaging content and use their platform to help advocate for the rights of young LGBTQ+ individuals.
- Sarah Romanowski (@sarahromanowsky)
Sarah Romanowski is a performer and coach as well as a former Cirque du Solie performer. She specializes in silks, lyra, hammock and rope. She is known for her clean lines, beautiful choreography, and great technique.
- Audrey (@aerial.audball)
Audrey is a lyra performer based out of Texas. She is known for her slow controlled movements and interesting unique sequences. She has clean videos that show a diversity of lyra skills.
- Grace Good (@gracegood)
Grace Good is a self-taught circus performer skilled in many circus skills. She is known for her amazing and unique use of hoops, fire, and ball as well as amazing costumes. She travels, creating unique and fun content and performing in a variety of events.
Instagram is a great place for inspiration and making connections in the aerial community. But it’s important to know your level of skill and to always train with safety in mind. Check with your trainer before trying new tricks. And if you do get inspiration from a performer you see on Instagram, or train with in real life, it’s always nice to tag and credit them if you post the trick or choreography online.
By Daisy Coleman
Do you ever set up your silks or Lyra or circus apparatus, and then realize you have no idea where to begin? If you’re wondering what are the best and easiest ways to warm up, stretch, and condition safely on the ground, here are some suggestions!
5 Warm-Up Exercises (10 minutes):
- Mountain Climbers: In a plank position, bend one knee to the opposite elbow, then straighten the leg and place back on the ground, repeating on the other leg. 20-30 on each side.
- Hollow Body Rocks: Lying back flat to the ground, lifting the arms/shoulders and legs off the ground in a hollow boat shape. Use the abs to rock back and forth on the back holding the shape, 10-15 times.
- Hip Rotation: Start in a tabletop position, lifting one leg and rotating in circles inwards, (knee moves in towards the stomach without lifting the hip too high) and then outwards, lifting leg out, rotating it behind the back – repeat 4 times both ways, on each side, then keep the leg lifted behind the back, and extend the leg out and then back in 3 times each side.
- Shoulder Circles: arms extended out to the sides, hands flexed, small quick circles forward, about 30 seconds, then switch to backward, 30 seconds. Switch to forward and back motions, and then up and down motions, 30 seconds each, finally, switch to circling the shoulders backward and then forward 10 times each.
- Superman Arches: Lying on the stomach, lift the legs and arms off the ground at the same time, keeping both the legs and arms straight to arch up. Repeat 1-15 times.
5 Conditioning Exercises (10 minutes):
- Squats With a Kick: Standing with the legs slightly farther than hip-distance apart, squat down, stand back up and kick one leg forward, then squat back down again. Repeat again on the other side, and continue 10 squats for each leg.
- Back arch – upper and lower body isolation: Like the superman arches, Lie down on the stomach, but lift the chest and arms straight out above head ten times, keeping legs on the ground. Then, switch to legs! Lift the legs straight ten times while keeping the head and chest on the ground.
- Straight Leg Lower Downs: Lying on the back, point the legs straight up to the ceiling, keeping them straight. Place hands beside the hips, and slowly lower down the legs, as far as comfortable, keeping them straight. Bring the legs back up, straight, and repeat 10-15 times.
- Crunches: Lying on the back with knees bent and feet on the ground, lift the upper body and abs towards the knees. 20-30 times.
- Plank Hold Lifting Alternating Arms: In a plank hold on arms, legs separated, lift one arm to tap the opposite shoulder or reach arms straight out, keeping hips and body stable so as not to move. Repeat switching arms, 10 taps on each arm.
5 Stretching Exercises (10 minutes):
- Pike Stretch – Flexing and Pointing the Feet: Sit with legs straight out in front, fold over the legs, keeping the back as flat as possible (no rounding). Reach for the feet, and switch between flexing one and pointing the other. Then switch to flexing and pointing both, staying folded over the legs. 30 seconds or so.
- Side Stretch: Sit with one leg bent, the other leg pointed straight out to the side in a half straddle. Reach the opposite arm as straight leg up and over to the side, 5 times. Then hold with the arm reaching over the straight leg for 20 seconds. Repeat on each side.
- Pancake Stretch: Sit up with both legs in a straddle position, fold forward, arms straight. Keep the back flat and try to stop it from rounding, reach forward as far as possible. Hold for 30-45 seconds.
- Hip Stretch: Sit up straight, stacking one ankle over the opposite knee in a parallel position. If the knee is flat against the ankle, fold forward over the legs to increase the stretch.
- Upper Back Stretch: Facing a wall, place hands overhead onto the wall, step feet out, and slide arms and upper body down to feel a stretch in the upper back.
Now you have a few different ways to warm up and stretch, go be strong and flexible!
By Annika Egerstedt
During the Covid shutdowns, there has been an influx of home rigs. A home rig seems like a good idea to keep up strength and tricks or even to get some extra practice in between classes. However, if done incorrectly it becomes dangerous real quickly. I have a home rig and through my process of building my aerial space, as well as gaining my teacher certification, I have learned tips about rigging and safety I would like to share with anyone considering getting a home rig. An at-home rig is not right for everyone, and should be done with safety in mind. I am not a professional rigger nor am I claiming to be but I have taken a beginner rigging course through Circus Arts Institute. I would highly recommend taking a rigging training course before getting a rig. Here are some advice I give to my students when they ask about home rigs:
Knowledge: Before getting a rig, I recommend being at an intermediate level on a piece of equipment. At this point the aerialist is fairly familiar with the apparatus, and with their capabilities, and is less likely to do something they aren’t ready for. In addition to knowing aerial, I strongly recommend having at least a base knowledge of rigging. This way the aerialist will know how to check equipment and retire it when needed. All pieces of home equipment should be checked regularly.
Rigging: For any home rigging system, I always recommend using a portable rig, as it is built to withstand the force used during aerial. Portable rigs are specifically designed for aerial use and are a very safe option for a home rig. There is also the option to establish a rig point in a home or building structure. This is by far the more expensive option and leaves room for more potential flaws. The act of building a rig or adding one to a preexisting structure requires a structural engineer to ensure that the structure will be able to withstand certain levels of force, which are many times the weight of the aerialist. Creating a rig in an existing structure also requires a professional rigger to install the actual point.
Rigging from trees may seem like an accessible way to rig outdoors but even the most sturdy looking trees could be unsafe. It is practically impossible to know the weight limit and strength of a tree and even the smallest amount of force could end in disaster. Sudden Limb Drop Disease is when a perfectly healthy looking tree cuts off the nutrients of a branch and eventually drops that part of the tree. This means that not only is the aerialist falling but in a worst case scenario, a tree branch is coming down with them. It is also unwise to rig from places such as bridges, signs, or any other structure that hasn’t been inspected and approved by a structural engineer. The direction and amount of force placed on a structure during aerial is not what most structures are designed for.
Other Equipment: To practice aerial safely at home, there must be a mat. I am a firm believer of the phrase “better safe than sorry.” A crash pad is the best option of mat for most occasions. I have seen several posts on social media where people use yoga or thin folding mats. This is not a safe alternative when doing aerial.
The quality of equipment is also essential to a safe aerial rig. There are several different websites that sell quality rigging, my favorite being Aerial Essentials. Make sure to do extensive research about what is best for each specific type of rigging, and ask your studio or trainer where they buy their equipment. Amazon is not a good source for aerial equipment. The Safety in Aerial Arts Facebook group has a lot of information and advice on how to safely do aerial and is a good source for information.
Finally, there should never be an occasion where someone is performing aerial without someone else present in case of an emergency. This goes for at home rigs as well as studio learning.
I hope this is helpful to anyone considering at home equipment. Practicing aerial at home is a great way to keep up conditioning but should be done with caution, and only by experienced aerialists. Please consult a trainer before beginning the process of getting a home rig.
A circus legend’s story in quotes by Emily Fulton
When you think of Judy Finelli, what comes to mind? I’m guessing your response was either “Hold up; you didn’t tell me this was a test” or “I have no clue, tell me more.” Those are both completely valid responses, and probably how I would have answered that question just six months ago. Keep reading if you want to learn about this incredible woman.
You will notice that most of the article consists of quotes from an interview I did with her, with a bit of commentary from myself. I chose to do this because I wanted you to have the opportunity to hear her story in her words, to get a sense of her personality and texture.
As you read, I want you to keep in mind that I can’t capture even a fraction of her story in such a short article. It would be an overestimation to say that I even scratched the surface of all of her accomplishments. Because of that, I will be focusing on what I think you would be most interested in out of the many topics we discussed and thoughts she shared with me in our interview last November.
And now, Judy Finelli. Enjoy!
She Started Young:
“I saw the Beatles and Elvis Presley, but every week they would have some incredible circus acts from the international circus community.”
When Judy was a young girl, she would watch circus shows on television. These shows were her first exposure to circus arts, and she quickly fell in love with the art through the TV screen.
“I understood what the jugglers were doing as I watched them.” As a circus artist, I can say that is a true gift. She was very talented from a young age, despite not receiving a formal circus education. She even self-taught herself how to juggle when she was only six years old.
“So it was kind of a secret little thing that I did because back in those days, I’m sure it wasn’t proper for a girl to juggle.” Wow, could you imagine having to juggle secretly at six years old? It makes me grateful that the youth circus movement has sprung up to give us a place to showcase our skills!
“In ’66, I went to theater school, and the first day we supposedly learned to juggle, but I could already do it…. And, it was kind of funny because I liked acting, but I was much more taken with the circus.”
Luckily for Judy, her acting program had a circus component, and, as you can imagine, she took to it quite readily. At that school, she met Hovey Burgess, whom she was married to for a time. Together, they traveled and sought to bring their abstract “New Circus Movement” to life.
Discovering an Undiscovered Artform:
“If you cut away all the junk surrounding Ringling Brothers, all the filler and all the spectacles, and just focused on the good acts and even kind of got rid of the animals, there was something there that was basically an undiscovered art form” Judy firmly believed that there was much more to circus than animals and flashy costumes. This belief prompted her to set out with Hovey Burgess to discover that art form, which later became known as the New Circus Movement. The New Circus Movement became what we now call Contemporary Circus. “Hovey was one of the fathers of the new movement, and I played my part.”
Judy and Hovey traveled around the world to see how circus was used and performed in other cultures. These travels greatly influenced and inspired them to develop the New Circus Movement back in America.
She specifically spoke about the incredible circus artists of Russia. “They were very wise; they told folktales. They were very inventive with their use of the circus, and it was like being in another world.” She went on to say, “the artistry that we found was something that we wanted for the United States.”
Another fascinating vignette that she mentioned about her time in Russia is that the circus itself was used as a force for political change. “If there was a government official whose name was Zelenyy (pronounced ze-len-i), which means green in Russian, and they didn’t like him, they painted a pig green and had him run across the ring.” While this action may seem small and indirect, it would have been considered a daring act of protest in the Soviet Union. Keep in mind that when she visited Russia, it was called the Soviet Union, and there was much less freedom of opinion allowed in those days than there is now.
They also “saw the Chinese acrobatic troupe and a Taiwanese troupe early on.”
Starting Off In America:
“In the beginning, it wasn’t so easy.” At first, they struggled to book events in America. Hiring circus artists to perform at events or functions was a very new concept at that time because many people were used to only seeing the circus when it came to town as part of a touring show, and they were surprised that Judy and Hovey wanted money to show their skills. They eventually decided to form a troupe and performed in Central Park, making money by passing the hat. I found this video online of them performing. Check it out; you’re in for a real treat! https://www.vdb.org/collection/browser-artist-list/circo-dellarte-circus-arts
“Nobody had ever seen circus activities up that close before, and the response was quite positive….. It was for adults, for kids, old people. Everybody seemed to like it.” The nature of their performance was up close and personal, a stark contrast from many shows of the time where the audience was far away from the performers.
Judy had no idea the New Circus Movement would spread so quickly and grow to be large as it is today. “I never could have predicted that in 2021 there would be this tremendous number of youth circuses, circus schools, informal recreational training sessions, people teaching juggling to corporations… using it to help with depression.”
She went on to say, “It kind of kept branching out and branching out… I think it spread very quickly.”
Thoughts on Clowning:
“I think that people underestimate how difficult it is and how rare it is to be truly funny, and when you see it, it’s great.” You may be surprised to learn that it wasn’t common for girls or women to clown back in the day. I mean, how weird is that!? Judy, being the trailblazer she is, hired female clowns anyway. When I asked her if she was concerned that people would steer clear of her show because of the female clowns, she replied in her typical spunky fashion, saying, “I didn’t care.”
The Future Of Circus? Us:
Judy coaches circus to kids now and loves to watch youth perform tricks, saying, “I don’t get tired of that…just kind of watching their discovery.” She thinks it is “beautiful in its way, and it can transform people; you can see them change.”
Her Message to the Youth:
“Just work hard. And trust your instincts even if they might seem to you wild and crazy or who knows what, because you have to break the rules and that’s how innovations happen. By breaking the rules and understanding – maybe for safety you don’t break rules – but for other things, for ideas you might have, try ’em out. When you’re young, try things out because you never know. And really pay attention to the audience, and the audience will tell you a lot; you’ll get a lot of information from them.”
Furthermore, she says that “It’s all great to watch; it’s all been great to watch what’s happening in circus.”
Throughout this entire article, I never brought up that she was the first female president of the International Jugglers’ Association, co-founded the San Francisco School for Circus Arts, was the artistic director of the Pickle Family Circus, performed on Sesame Street, or any of the countless other accomplishments she has had. I didn’t mention that she now has Multiple Sclerosis and had to sit in a special chair with a voice-activated computer throughout the duration of our Zoom interview. This woman casually talked about how she could pass ten clubs only after I asked her specifically about it and was careful to tell me she never performed ten clubs and had only done it in practice. I didn’t mention all of these things in the body of the article because it was clear from my conversation with Judy that they are not what define her. She isn’t one to brag or ask for favors. If I remember one thing about this interview, I will remember how humble she is.
Thank you, Judy. Thank you for your contributions to the art form that has stolen my heart and those of many other youth. Thank you for being one of the kindest, humblest circus artists I know. It isn’t easy to believe that I didn’t even know that you existed just a year ago, and now I have had the honor of interviewing you.
When I think of Judy Finelli, I think of her charisma, ingenuity, and grit. I think of someone with a great imagination who wasn’t afraid to use it and changed circus forever. She is a person who has significantly contributed to the progression of circus, a true modern legend. Now let’s return to our original question: What thoughts come to mind when you think of Judy Finelli? Let me know in the comments!
Here are some fantastic internet resources where you can learn more about Judy Finelli or Hovey Burgess if you are interested:
By Jocelyn Bridges
We know that the internet can be very beneficial for many things: publicity, getting discovered, making friends/connecting with people, and widening your knowledge. But, what about the downsides? For example, getting publicity from unwanted people, viruses, and other potential dangers are all problematic. Here are 3 ways to protect yourself from these unwanted problems.
1. Password protected – As technology progresses and gets more advanced, so do hackers and scammers. Do not share your passwords with anyone (not even your friends)! Make sure you have hard enough passwords that no one can guess but also not so hard that you will forget them.
2. Be nice! – Treating people the way you want to be treated isn’t just the Golden Rule, it’s true and important to remember. Annoying, rude, and hateful people have higher chances of getting attacked for their behaviors anyway. If someone is annoying you, just block them! You don’t have to put up with them, engaging in bad behavior just gives them satisfaction. If it does get really bad, make sure to tell a trusted adult or friend.
3. What’s their motive? – All of the social media compliments and love can definitely feel flattering. However, it’s important to ask yourself, “Do they truly like me and find me impressive, or do they have other intentions?” Having a huge fan base of supportive people who find you and your talents “impressive” is not always ideal. Not all the likes, comments, and follows are from the kind of fans you want to have.
I hope this was helpful and gave you some more ways to be safe on the internet. Good luck as you continue on your circus journey!
Hi! My name is Emily Fulton (she/her), and I am a 15 year old circus artist from New Hampshire. I fell in love with circus arts and set my heart on performing professionally ever since I attended the Silver Lining Circus Camp in the summer of 2017. Now, I perform with the Flying Gravity Circus Blue Troupe. I have enjoyed taking advantage of the many fantastic online classes offered from all over the world thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and am grateful I have the opportunity to learn from even more coaches than before. My aerial passion is lyra, but when I’m back on earth contortion and hand balancing are great substitutes. Outside of circus you will most likely find me snuggling with my cats, nerding out about circus fun facts, or staying up way too late reading books. I am honored to be joining AYCO Hup Squad for a 3rd year and am excited to step into the role of AYCO youth Social Media Intern!
My name is Lyra, I’m 15 years old, and I live in Culver City California. I started circus when I was 6. As a kid, I was always on top of play structures instead of inside of them, leading my parents to decide that I needed to do my crazy shenanigans somewhere safe.
I practice circus at Le Petite Cirque in LA. It’s quite hard for me to pick my favorite thing to do in circus because I love a wide variety of circus arts, but I’d say duo straps or aerial hoop are probably the most fun for me.
Outside of circus I am on my school track team; I play soccer; I play piano, guitar, ukulele, and sometimes drums; and I also love to surf!
Hi! My name is Jocelyn Bridges, I will be 12 years old on February 19th and my pronouns are she/her. I live in Williamsburg, Virginia. I have been dancing since I was 2, I started doing acro/contortion when I was 5, and I have been training in aerial since I was 9. I train at Transcendence Aerial & Dance and Trapeze School New York (D.C.) My favorite circus skills and specialties are lyra, contortion/hand-balancing, acro, and dance.
My other hobbies are reading, video games, playing with my dogs, and hanging out with my friends!
My name is Annika and my pronouns are she/her. I am 17 years old and have been doing aerial since I was 5. I live in Atlanta, Georgia and train / teach at Challenge Aerial and The Artists Asylum. My main apparatus are silks, hammock and Lyra.
I also do CrossFit, weightlifting and recently ran my first half marathon!
Hi there! I’m Daisy, 16 years old, and my pronouns are she/her. I live in Chicago and train at Aloft Circus Arts, MSA, and Chicago Center for Dynamic Circus. I started doing aerials when I was about 3 and absolutely fell in love with silks. My favorite skills to train are silks, straps, and trampoline, but I work on a lot of other skills as well, including handstands, clown and teeterboard. Even though I love my circus community in Chicago, I’m grateful to have trained in the summers with Circus Smirkus and San Diego Circus Center.
Outside of circus, I really love to read and I recently learned how to cross stitch for fun! On Instagram I’m @tweedledaisy
Hey my name is Olivia (she/her) and I am a 17 year old from Atlanta, Georgia. I specialize in silks and hammock but also do lyra, juggling, and hooping. I have been doing aerial since I was 5 and mainly train and teach at Challenge Aerial and The Artist Asylum.
Outside of circus I love to weight lift, do CrossFit, and I just ran the Disney half marathon! My Instagram is @circus_twins_atl.
My name is Marah (but Mars is my nickname), my pronouns are she/her, and I am 14 years old. I live in New York on Staten Island. I’ve only been doing circus for about three years but I’m so passionate about it. My favorite circus skill is probably contortion because a like seeing the progress I’ve made.
I also love love love reading and artsy things. I’m so glad to be a part of this!
Hi! My name is Audrey and I just turned 16. I live In LA and am a part of Le Petit Cirque, and I’ve been doing circus on and off since I was about 8. I really love exploring all types of art subjects and mediums and it’s really become one of my passions.
I also have always loved music, and I’m currently in a band that I sing in. I’m excited to be a part of this community!