Interview with an Aerialist: Katheryn Brown

02/08/2017 0 By Victoria Snaith
Interview with an Aerialist: Katheryn Brown

Katheryn “Kaz” Brown is a performer hailing from the UK’s good-old West Country. She has a background in Performance and in Education, but her real passion lies in the Circus Arts. Kaz has been lucky enough to have trained with and bonded with some of the top aerialists in Europe through her many visits to Circus Conventions. She attends Spinning@ (London’s largest social juggling meet up group) where she enjoys socialising and honing her craft. She has been the Assistant Director for Dread Falls Theatre for 3 years and recently performed an aerial hoop routine as part of Dread Falls’ historical promenade show; Until Death Do Us Part. She is a multiskilled performer, using aerial, fire and dance to amaze and captivate her audience.

How long have you been training/ studying aerial?
I have been training for around five years at what I would call a slow but steady pace.

You never went to “circus school”, is that correct? Where did you learn your aerial skills?
I have been a fan of aerial arts ever since I found the circus community in 2011, but it wasn’t until I moved into a house share with an enormous weeping willow in the garden that I decided to give it a try. I jumped right in and bought myself a hoop which I rigged up myself with the help of my muggle housemates and several metres of chain! Everything I’ve learned has been through skillshare sessions with friends, and of course Youtube! I have also spent time refining technique at The British Juggling Convention, they always have great aerial workshops (if you get up early enough to sign up)!

What other types of circus do you study? 
I started out with some poi when I was sixteen. I saw some at tiny field party and immediately thought, I have to try that. At that stage I really had no idea what I was doing, and YouTube was a mere pup of a thing which hardly anyone used for reference the way it’s used now.  When I finally moved to London and found Spinning@, my mind was blown by the number of props there are available to spin. Over the years I’ve toyed with poi, staff, contact ball, s-staff, and juggling, but the hoop is the one I feel the most affinity with, whether that’s an aerial or hula hoop.

You have a full-time job in a school, how do you balance your work life with your hobby? 
Errrrr…. I don’t?! It’s a continual struggle to remain motivated about your hobbies during term time, ask any teacher. In fact don’t. The average 4 year old asks 4000 questions a day, you do the maths, I’m too tired. I’m a teacher. Fortunately spinning a hoop or dangling from one takes a different part of my brain, and I see it as fun.  I find excuses to hoop in school. I have about eight of my own hoops at school, kept with the kids ones, and they are easily accessible at all times. If I’m outside with the kids, I’m hooping. And so are they! It’s great and really motivates me to keep going. I also run a circus club after school on Fridays. I’m usually pretty knackered by then but the kids are great and so enthusiastic that the hour disappears in no time. The rest of the teaching staff think I’m totally mental of course, but I just need to keep moving or I’ll grow roots.

In the holidays I can really focus and have the energy to try new stuff. I have done short courses in Contemporary Dance, trapeze and trampolining amongst other things.

How much time do you spend training?
It really depends on my energy levels. I no longer have a tree to hang my hoop, so mostly I use the hoops available at Spinning@, which is driving me crazy with a gigs to prepare for.

I am having a custom rig built to fit my tiny garden, so things are looking up. Having your own rig permanently installed makes it so much easier to train!

To be good at your chosen field, have you had to make any sacrifices? If so, what are/were those?
Obviously aerial isn’t the cheapest hobby, and if you’re committed it’s going to take a fair chunk from your salary. Unfortunately a really high level of skill is a full time job in itself. I would need to train religiously five times a week, which currently isn’t something I can afford or timetable!

What is your diet like? You must have eat healthily to keep strong and energised when you train in such a difficult field?
A good breakfast is where it all starts. Eating a healthy protein rich breakfast keeps you strong and focused. Recently I’ve been learning about the endocrine system, which is the underlying system which regulates all your other organs through the release of hormones. Sugar is the number one thing which messes with your endocrine system, so I’m trying to be aware of my sugar intake. I have to make sure I eat a good amount at lunch. Particularly at school I am too busy to focus on what I’m eating, and the staff room is stuffed with cake at time. So long as I’m full I can resist temptation of the sweet treats.

I am a firm believer in regular healthy snacks. I get hungry really quickly so I always try to have something  healthy on hand. The children at school have a snack break twice a day, and we are encouraged to eat a fruit or veg snack in the classroom with them.

What has been your proudest moment so far, in regards to ground based work, and aerial work?
Ever since I got involved with Dread Falls Theatre in 2012, I have been doing some really interesting ground breaking ground based stuff. There are many highlights in my time working with Victoria Snaith. Father Dagon the play was so great because it was a concept which I had helped to create.  Seeing it come to life and being able to perform in an immersive production was such a joy, being able to breathe life into new characters and really get to know what they are about.

In terms of aerial I have done several medium size gigs and performed in some wonderful places, but my personal highlight was flying 70 metres above a crowd suspended from a crane as part of the Wilderness Festival Spectacle in 2014. I really enjoyed being up there and would love to be that high in the air again. Maybe with my hoop?

Do you ever feel at risk when performing aerial?
I suppose from an outsiders point of view, aerial look incredibly dangerous and unstable, and it is. However, I would never get up on something that I wasn’t 100% comfortable with, and I think all aerialists would agree. Aerial is one of the most safety conscious disciplines. In fact fire tends to be the one that people get complacent with, I’ve seen some pretty dangerous fire breathers who have scared me more than any aerial performance, and several acquaintances have sustained nasty burns through poor practice.

If you had to provide a training tip, or words of wisdom to our readers, what would it be?
Don’t practice alone.

This one has two sides.

Literal. Don’t practice alone. Don’t take yourself off into the middle of nowhere and train alone. That’s plain dumb. Have you ever seen a thirty year old woman dangling from a web of failed rigging from a tree on the outskirts of Wincanton? No, well count yourself lucky. Those dog walkers got a real show. Accidents do happen and you need a spotter, for physical and emotional support!

Metaphorical. Having a friendship network of like minded people is the most valuable teaching tool available. Circus arts are so on trend right now that more and more access to classes and groups is available.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I’m at a bit of a crossroads in my life, within the next two years I will have my fall back career of teacher securely under my belt. I am hoping to spend more and more time in the arts world. My aim is to give back to community and humanity by promoting circus arts through teaching and performing.