It is no secret to anyone that the younger you are, the easier it is to learn new skills; language for example. I once taught a kid who spoke five languages. Five. Most of my students could barely speak one! The younger you start, the easier it is, and the same can be said for circus skills. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try though. I didn’t discover my love of aerial circus until I was almost thirty.

“Almost thirty?” you say, “That’s not old at all!” And ordinarily I would agree with you, but for me, coming into aerial at this age has been a rewarding but challenging experience.

My First Class
Unless you are lucky enough to start training as a child through a company such as Circomedia or AirCraft Circus, coming into aerial circus at a later age can be daunting. My first class was filled with men and women much younger than myself. They may not have had previous aerial experience but they were younger, fitter, more athletic and more active than I was. What was I doing?

My first aerial hoop class was a nightmare. We were taught, like most students, how to get ourselves onto the hoop through a move called a Pike Mount. I was the only person in the class who couldn’t do it. I was taught a second way to get into the hoop and I still couldn’t do it. Eventually I invented my own move that I like to call “The Monkey”, where I just sort of grabbed onto the side and scrambled for dear life until I was in Double Hox and could pull myself up. I was horribly embarrassed and felt like a complete failure, I kept apologising to my instructor, and this is where I learnt my first lesson: “You are too concerned about the destination; it’s the journey that’s important.” My instructor was right; I was so concerned with nailing that first move that it was ruining the experience for me.  I wanted to be the best in the class. I wanted to make the most progress. I wanted to play the underdog in a movie about my life: small town girl realises her dream of making it big in the circus world. Most importantly, I wanted it to happen overnight and that’s not how aerial circus works.

Words of Wisdom from a Wise Old(ish!) Woman
Once I stopped comparing myself to others and focused on my own abilities, I was able to enjoy the journey. So here I am, imparting words of wisdom for you in the way my instructor did for me:

– Conditioning! You’ll never get any better at aerial without conditioning. You can warm up and cool down as much as you like, but unless you train alongside learning tricks, it’s all a waste. My instructor got me to do A LOT of pull ups inside the hoop because I had a very weak upper body.

– Talking of weak upper bodies; whilst you train those parts of you that need work, learn moves that play to your strength. Got a strong core? Got strong legs? Brilliant! Use them!

– Your hands will hurt. Your hands will get callused, but resist the urge to wear gloves. Own those calluses, they mean you’re getting stronger.

The most difficult moves will never earn the biggest applause. The moves that earn the biggest applause are the ones that look the fanciest. Learn to give yourself “inner applause”; i.e. remind yourself of how far you’ve come.