The Countdown Has Begun

It is now May 5th.  Our show is May 22nd.  We have our first full run through on May 10th – that’s 5 days away.  FIVE DAYS!  I have only one more day to work on my piece before that.  We then have one more week to finalize costume details, fix any little bugs, and launch ourselves into hell week.  Erm, tech week.

I will attempt drive-by bloggings until then.

In the meantime, I would like to share with you the sneak peak video I made and posted to YouTube over the weekend:

Enjoy!

And if it leaves you wanting more, and you are in the Denver/Boulder area – May 22nd at 7:30pm – ONE NIGHT ONLY.

Click here to buy tickets!

Sometimes I Adult

(OR)  Randomly on Friday

Randomly on Friday – I am proud of myself for my mad adulting skills.  (Also, I honestly appreciate that “adult” has become a verb.  I know there is the camp of people who dislike it, but I think it is more accurate than calling oneself an adult.  We are not truly, completely, “adult” – we have moments of childishness and immaturity, and moments when we buckle up and take care of business.  I have moments of being an adult, but I am not one every moment of the day.  Therefore, “adulting” more accurately describes my pattern.)

Randomly on Friday – I completed my daily French lesson early, in the time I had between getting the child on the bus and getting myself to work.  I felt really productive first thing in the morning – and that rarely happens.

Randomly on Friday – A friend added me to a Denver based face and body painters forum, at which I squeed audibly because this blows my mind.  I am constantly surprised by how connected this community is, how supportive, and how there is a group of people that do everything I want to do.  Cyr – yep, there’s a group jam.  Juggling – group jam, preceded by game night.  Dancing – so many groups for that.  And now, face painting.

Randomly on Friday – I have been networking my little tush off, putting in bids for gigs and sending out promo material – kicking butt and literally taking names.

Randomly on Friday – a Chicago blues dancing friend is in town for an audition, and tonight we are going dancing.  I have been excited about it for days.  I need to dance – not the choreographed group stuff I have been working on, but the deep and soulful, intimate dancing that I miss about Chicago.

Randomly on Friday – one of my best friends booked his flight to Boulder for my showcase next month.  I may have jumped around the house for a few minutes when he confirmed his plans.  One thing I dislike about being an adult is having my friends spread around the world.  While it means I have friends in cool places that I can visit, it also means I don’t see the people I am close to very often.

Randomly on Friday – I still need help funding the tail end of my tuition and gear payments.  If you have anything to spare, I would appreciate it so much!  I have literally been scraping the bottom of my bank account for the past two weeks just to put food on the table.  Visit my GoFundMe page by clicking on this link: http://www.gofundme.com/annasaerialdance

Randomly on Friday – Tickets for our showcase have gone on sale!!  If you are in the Denver/Boulder area, you should come.  Buy your tickets now, because we are going to sell out.  There are eight aerialists each with iron wills and amazing routines – we are totally selling out.  Here’s the event page, and this is where you BUY TICKETS.

Randomly on Friday – April has been kind of a crummy month for me.  Anything that could go wrong did.  I’ve been struggling to pick up the pieces, create some semblance of order, and continue moving forward.  And I mean really struggling.  I’ve plastered on a smile when I’m in public and broken into tears as soon as I get home, or as soon as someone has been nice to me and asked me what’s going on.  Yesterday was a fairly good day, and it feels like today is going to be as well.  Chin up, Buttercup.

Beginning The Countdown

I have been fairly MIA in recent weeks.  Our training, commitments, and personal lives have simultaneously exploded into a frenzy after the realization of how much time we actually have left in the program – 6 weeks.  When I am not working on my final piece, I am cramming in as much training on my secondary apparatus and trying to take as many extra classes as possible, while still searching for contracts and planning what happens when it’s all over.

My attention was directed to work shopping my final piece in hopes of  having something presentable for the critique process, which took place two weeks ago.  I was worried I wasn’t going to make it through my piece, since every time I had tried to run it before the showing, I stopped halfway because I had either sunk too low on the chain, or simply ran out of strength.  Almost every day, I curse at myself for deciding to concentrate on a chains piece in the last 2+ months of the program.  Not only that, but I have chosen one of the more difficult ways to hang the chain as it requires a lot of brute strength, endurance, and pain tolerance, coupled with the desire to be “delicate flower” and not a hardened biker chic, and I’ve definitely pushed myself so far over my own physical limits that my body is cracking slowly.  (I took a rest day yesterday in an effort to patch those fissures, primarily the ripped callouses of my palms and punctuated bruising on my shins)

The week of routine showing/critiquing followed the Liz Lerman Process – a method of giving feedback that removes as much subjectivity as possible out of the feedback and is designed to promote thought in the artist.  For instance, rather than saying “i liked when you did transition A,” an audience member would say, “When transition A happened, I felt (insert colorful descriptor here)”.  Similarly, the artist had several questions prepped for the audience, such as “Were there any moments in the choreography that did not follow the same flow as the bulk of the piece?” or “The overall mood of the piece was intended to be angsty, does my costuming reflect that?”.  After this, the audience has a chance to ask questions, but again, removing any subjectivity/opinion/biases.  So, rather than asking “Why?” the audience would ask “What was your intention?”  At first, remembering the language was hard, and some had a more difficult time than others when it came to withholding opinions.  For me, if I really enjoyed an element of a piece, or a piece in it’s entirety, it was very challenging not to say “OH MY GOD THAT WAS FANTASTIC YOU ARE SO AMAZING!!” and remember to phrase it via Liz lingo: “This moment in the piece made me feel ecstatic, excited, nervous, and so very very proud of you!”

The process took an entire week, and was a big physical and mental drain on all of us.  Immediately following my showing, I scrapped about half of my choreography as well as my entire costume and started anew.  The piece of feedback that really struck me was this biker chic/Western vibe I was giving off, which is exactly the opposite of what I was going for.  Rather than being the dancer that manipulates the chain, I want to be the vine that grows around it, portraying a soft, yet free-willed movement that overcomes the relentless barricade of emotions.

fragments

Still, it’s all starting to come together, and I am working on convincing myself that even as time ticks down quickly, it’s all going to fall into place as we approach show time.

Hanging in There

I am the type of person that needs to have a physical day planner to survive life.  Not only do I need a physical book to log and look at, everything within it is color-coded, so that at a glance, I know exactly what is happening and what the priority is.  Blue is for school, green is for work, yellow is for due-dates, purple is for pay days, and pink is for extracurricular.  My book is mostly blue, followed closely by green.  And pink and purple feel almost non existent, while the yellow is always surprising (my rent is due today? what?)

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I’m not complaining though, because seeing all that blue means most of my time is spent hanging around – quite literally.  Out of curiosity, I counted how many weeks we have left in the program – this epic 9 month adventure we undertook.  The quickly dwindling number was bittersweet.  Nine months is not a long time at all, yet the days have all blurred into one and I feel like I have been here for ages, so having a blank schedule again sounds rather appealing.  On the other hand, aerial dance gives me so much inspiration and appreciation, I cannot imagine doing anything else.  The completion of this program results in our mama bird coaches pushes us out of the nest and telling us to fly with our own two wings, yet I still feel like a baby aerialist.  I have started putting together my promo material, updating my CV, and tentatively stretching and spreading my baby bird wings in hopes of landing a summer contract.

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While I am currently in the process of creating work (a chains routine and a static trapeze routine), I feel like I spend a lot of my time actually doing this – hanging off of my equipment comfortably as I socialize and contemplate what I’m doing.  I filmed one of my practices a week or so ago, and laughed myself silly at how I spent more time casually sitting on the bar than doing the conditioning I had come for, as well as how much more comfortable I am hanging out up there than on the ground.

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Progress is a Sneak

Tunnel Vision – we all suffer it occasionally, especially as we work hard on specific goals.  Sometimes , it’s really easy to identify the headway you are making – a swath of fabric becomes a shirt, for instance.  And sometimes, it’s really hard to see the growth; suddenly you’ve arrived at your destination after a flat landscape and countless miles.

Twice a week, I’ve been taking a fitness class.  Pair that with how much dancing, biking, lifting, and general circus skill training I’ve been doing, and one would think my physical strength would grow in leaps and bounds.  But, over the past six months, my strength, and lack of, has broken me down in the middle of training more than I care to admit.  The frustration of doing the same exercise over and over and still seeing no progress would alternate between making me incredibly angry with myself and have me biting my lip so I don’t burst into tears then and there.

The support of my peers and instructors did nothing to temper this frustration either.  “Be kind to yourself.  No judgment.  See where you are this moment.”  I have started to resent these words, resenting living in the moment and being kind to my body, when I had been kind to it for so long but the strength wasn’t improving.  I would jump down from the trapeze in irritation because my long beats just weren’t working, and I growled at my skin the cat maneuvers because I couldn’t get my shoulders to engage.  I would work my core as often as possible, and still could only manage one knee hang sit up.  I had given up being kind.  There was no progress.  It just wasn’t working.

At the suggestion of one of my primary instructors, I scheduled a private lesson with the pilates instructor in hopes of finding out why I wasn’t progressing.  Was it a strength issue?  Was it how I sequenced my muscles?  Was I even using the right muscles?  After an hour of trying out different things, taking through how my body was feeling in each exercise, and a bit of poking at different muscles, we had come up with a plan.  Turns out, I wasn’t engaging the right muscles at the right time, my breathing was off, and I had to learn how to turn off over-eager muscles.  The next day, I added an extra knee hang sit up.

At the start of this program, we had a fitness assessment.  A page of exercises and stretches, along with a number, that we had to be able to achieve by the end of the 9 months.  The requirements were taken from audition requirements for some of the top schools/companies in the industry (National Circus School in Montreal and La Reve, for instance).

Our first assessment was in September – 6 months ago.  Our mid-term assessment was yesterday.

image In September, I threw myself into this program and risked injuring my shoulder again.  A lot of exercises I was unable to complete for fear of tearing a tendon or bringing back the intense inflammation.  My hamstrings were really tight, my body was compensating, and my back muscles wanted to engage when my core couldn’t.

Yesterday, I had biked 13 miles before arriving at class and I was still recovering from the chest congesting plague.  But at the end, I looked at my numbers and was amazed.  It was not only exciting because I was able to complete most of the list, but primarily because my shoulder isn’t twinging anymore.  I did 8 push-ups!  I sat on the floor for a moment after, marveling at the fact that for the first time ever, I stopped because my muscles were tired and not because I thought I risked tearing something.

I feel like Progress is sitting back on his heels now, chuckling merrily at the prank he pulled on me.  He withheld all hints of progress and then unleashed them at once, watching my eyes bulge in astonishment as I complete each task.

Tied In Knots

It’s been awhile since I’ve released any sort of knitting anything, so I’m fixing that today!  I’ve had a few things sitting around, totally finished, tested, and proofed, ready to be published, except that I was missing something – pictures!  When I went home to Wisconsin last month for the funeral, I set aside some time for a photo shoot with Dark Moon Photography, one of my favorite people to work with behind a lens.

We have a few things we’re working on to be released soon.  I’ve also got a couple more patterns in the works that need to be tested before I can do anything more with them.  I’m so excited to be releasing this one, since it’s been sitting on the back burner, lonely, dusty, forgotten for the past 8 months or so (yikes….)  I’m wearing it right now as I write this post.

DSC_6733It’s like being wrapped in a hug all day.  I first saw a rib warmer in my lyra class a few years ago.  It seemed like the strangest thing to me.  The one my instructor was wearing was white, and looked more like a medical bandage than anything.  She wore it every class.  After a few classes, I had one mapped out in my head and immediately put it on the needles.

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I wanted something a little more interesting though – twisted and intricate.  Thus, the Silk Knot rib warmer was devised.  I called it Silk Knot because the cables reminded me of the knots I would tie in the silks I was teaching with.  Since this was the first of my circus-inspired patterns, I felt it very appropriate.

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This is the second of many circus and dance inspired patterns (the first released was the Lyra Legwarmers).  There are more in the works, and I finally have some space here to take pictures in, so hopefully it’s not months between releases.

Find the Silk Knot Ribwarmer by going to the Patterns page of this blog, or by going to Ravelry directly.  Remember to link your project to the pattern page so we can see how it goes!

The Art of Crying

Yesterday was really hard for me, but I felt some personal growth throughout the strains that I want to share.

Life is hard.  We are 3 months into this program, with 6 more to go.  I’m training and working beyond the point of exhaustion almost every single day.  But you’ve heard this before.  Basically, my life hasn’t changed much in the past 3 months.  I train, I eat, I work, I shower, I sleep, repeat.  It seems that this is going to be my routine until next summer.  Most days, I’m excited about this.

Yesterday, however, a series of events occurred that had me fighting to keep my emotions under control for much of the day.

Everyone in the program takes their training very seriously.  We each have specific things we want to gain from it – enough so that this was our homework over our holiday break.  I am not a soloist, for one.  Also, at some point in my teen years I learned I had a knack for making people laugh, and that when they laughed, I was less self-conscious.  My natural tendency is to become a clown, and this is something I enjoy doing in the air.  When I was taking a musicality class with Destiny Vinley at Aloft in Chicago, we were given scores for our improv.  I felt really awkward when I tried to be edgy or elegant, and totally relaxed when I was pretending to be awkward.  My creative process is to turn off my brain and find a flow in my movement, and I have the most fun and feel the most inspired when I’m being silly with other people.  This group I’m training with isn’t very silly, and it hit me in the morning during a conversation about our final showcase.  I became very frustrated.  I want to mess around, try new things, and maybe we create something and learn through the process, and maybe we don’t create something but we still have fun and learn from the process.  But what I see are the students working independently and offering critique and advice to each other, but no teamwork beyond that.  I want to run around the group, putting clown noses on them all and shaking them until they start to laugh.  You guys!  Loosen up!  We need it.  We’re getting too narrowly focused on our end game and not creating enough while we have the chance.  We’re constantly learning vocab and trying to recall it the next day, but not applying it to anything outside of class.

This conversation and the resulting frustration led me to feeling like I was on the outside of the group – the sad, lonely clown watching a party through the glass, knowing i can help but the door is locked.  This is going to take some serious strategics to find a sliver I can fit through.

Already feeling on the outside a bit, when I arrived at the studio, I found out about an impromptu gathering that would be happening after class – nothing major, a clothing swap – and I think I lost it.  While I was invited, work prevented me from joining.  I was angry, I was lonely, I hated everything about my situation.  I felt like I was missing out on so much because I was so focused on being able to be here – the working constantly and being a mother and trying to train hard.  I know that being a mother has set me apart from the rest of the girls in this program, that my responsibilities are heavier and my time not as spontaneous.  And, in the past, the fact that I am a mother has prevented me from participating in so much, and people stopped inviting me places because of that – I started to worry that it would happen again.

All through our first class, I was struggling to get a grip on my emotions.  The tears were right on the edge and I kept trying to blink them away.  Our next class was ballet, and that has been a struggle in itself for me, and the frustration over the fancy footwork brings me to tears, so I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it.  In between classes, I mentioned to the teacher that I was having a hard day, and I was drained physically and feeling lonely, and I didn’t know how the class was going to affect me.  She gave me a hug, let me vent a bit, and offered encouragement and support.  From there, I sat down between two students and began to talk to one about how I have been feeling.

The personal growth is that the rational understanding of events was right there as I was allowing myself to feel upset.  I knew the bulk of emotions was coming from being tired and feeling drained.  That was making me feel disconnected.  I also know that the others in the program are feeling similar, and no one really has time or energy to get together outside of the studio.  I also felt like it was ok, if not necessary, to cry and let out all of those frustrations, that there was nothing wrong about those frustrations.

Human beings are interesting creatures when it comes to our emotions.  We have a hard time facing them, dissecting them, and coming to terms with them.  We would rather tuck them away somewhere, guarded and then forgotten.  When we finally start to open up, we are surprised by where the emotions have been hiding and the flood that accompanies their discovery.

Several times in this program, we have had students burst into tears unprovoked.  Sometimes all it took was a push against the shoulder blade to open the chest, a stretch of the spine or relaxation of the hips.  We dropped some physical wall and the deluge of tears was waiting on the other side.  I’ve spoken to several people about this – athletes, body workers, massage therapists, trying to understand why it happens.  No one really knows why – just that it happens.  A lot.  And, when it happens, YOU HAVE TO LET IT.  GIVE IN.

For me, trying to relax into my center splits has been making me feel both nauseated and inconsolably depressed.  It doesn’t hurt to stretch into it, but once I’m down and leaning forward, the pit of my stomach feels heavy, like a water balloon is sitting in my pelvis.  The more I relax my hip flexors and psoas, the more I want to cry.  And others have seen it and urged me to let go.  Relax, whimper, sob – do what your body is telling you to do, because it knows what it needs.

If you don’t let yourself cry, the emotions are going to get stored somewhere.  You can’t rationalize them into nonexistence.  You can’t push them aside and expect them to leave willingly.  Your mind puts them somewhere else until it’s ready to handle them, or until you cannot contain them anymore.  But really, you have to ride them out.  Revel in the nuances of them, the ups and downs and backwards.

What I find the most interesting is that this program has been pushing me past all of my limits, but I’m still standing, excited and inspired, albeit exhausted now and again, and I think it’s because I am not pretending to be strong.  When things get hard, I let people know.  I look for a hug and I hold on tight, squeezing out all of the stress.  When things go well, I have people to share my accomplishments with.  When my body says STOP, I am learning how to listen, and when my body says THIS IS TOO HARD, I let myself cry and feel pitiful.  And only then I can mop up the emotions, wring out the sponge, and face another day.

Don’t think of crying as something weak, selfish, or unwarranted.

Think of crying as cleaning your brushes, so you can start a new painting.

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