Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Running away to join the circus

So I rescheduled my lessons tonight, and when I explained to my students why they were all amused enough to be kewl with it. Why? Well I went to circus school. Seriously! One of those "well why not?" moments :)

Went to learn "aerial silks" at the Centre of Gravity (which has a coffee shop next to it called Sideshow hahaha made me laugh anyways :) Think Cirque du Soleil with long curtains hanging from the ceiling.

So after stretching on the ground, we did some strength/familiarity exercises with the silks. The first was to simply reach up, wrap one around each arm, hang and lift your knees to your chest 10 times. The interesting discovery here was just how stretchy the silks are! Not like holding on to a rope, when you put all your weight on these they stretch and you sink! Good to know :) This was followed by lying on the ground and lift yourself up to your feet hand over hand on the silk -- and then back down again.

Then the fun stuff began. Lesson one? How to climb! Wrap the silk outside-in (for the horsepeople out there - think opposite of how you'd wrap a polo :) around once and then on the second time around drape it over your foot. Then put your other foot on top, holding it in place; reach up as high as possible; pull your knees up, let the silks slide through your feet (keeping them wrapped the same way) then when there's no slack, stand up. Rinse and repeat! hahaha took me a minute or two to get the hang of it and then I was fast. It was a really kewl feeling. And it seemed to work that way for the others -- either they got it and were really good at it quickly, or they never got more than about a foot off the ground.

So next was some balance and coordination exercises. Somehow I ended up being first for everything. Somehow I always end up being first. hahaha with riding I'm ok with it, but here I had no more idea than anybody else what was going on. Sheesh. So holding the two silks together, Coach Emily tied a knot in them, making a swing of sorts. Step one? Get ON the swing! hahaha you basically hold one side of it, then kick both your legs up as high as possible and loop one of them through the silks. Fortunately for me this is not far off how one gets on a horse :) Slight advantage there. So getting in the swing was no problem, then it was stand up on one foot and hold your hands out to the side. Still no problem. Basic balance there :) Made for kind of a fun pic though *g*

I have to admit it was sort of interesting watching the others do this. All but one managed it, but there were definite degrees of . The one couldn't manage to get ON the swing, so our coach made a much lower knot so she could step onto it :) After that she was ok.

So then the fun and games -- sit on the swing, slide off the swing and flip over backwards. Then let go. ummmm I'm sorry, what??? Personally I liked "It seems counter-intuitive, but the farther back you go, the easier it is" uh huh, but how do I *get* to that point w/o dying? hmmmm Kinda like telling the horse that's bucking to go forward when all you really want to do is stop *g* And sure enough...

And then apply core body strength, flip around so you're hanging from your shoulders...

Now admittedly they were the two easiest things we did. But the first one required pretty serious guts for that first moment. hahaha

So we went from the easiest to one of the hardest. And this one was NOT worth the effort it took cause it didn't look all that impressive. hahaha difficult things should at least look kewl! This was a star -- so stand on the swing, spread your feet aside, push the silks away from you with your arms. No problem. Except that you're on two ropes tied at the top and the bottom, so the wider you spread them, the shakier it gets. My balance and core strength is reasonable, but I was shaking trying to hold that one!

After that, Emily took pity on me and told me to hold much higher, this puts the silks closer together and is significantly easier to hold. Watching the others do this after, I was sort of bemused to discover most of the people couldn't move their feet apart. That part was a non-issue for me. So once we finished the star, we moved to the reverse star. This one was really easy to hold, but tricky to get into. Slide your feet back together, then you have to take one out and wrap it around the outside of the rope -- so you're no longer actually standing with that foot on anything. No problem -- except then you have to do the same with the other foot! So until you get the other foot organized, you have to be able to hold yourself up. Once there though, it was just a matter of slip both arms through in front of the silks and good to go. No strength of balance to maintain this one, but only a couple of us actually managed to get there.

Next we had to learn a new skill. Starting on the ground. Take the silks together and wrap them around your leg and foot the same way as to climb (remember WAAAYYYY back to the beginning :) Then you pull down some slack from the top and loop it under your foot (so in essence there's a figure 8 around your foot). Ok. Took me a minute but I figured it out. No problem.

Except yeah, you have to do it w/o using your hands *sigh* Ok, still possible.

Except yeah, you have to do it in the air.

I'm sorry, what? Think this one through -- so far, we've learned to wrap the silk around one foot and hold it in place with the other one to climb. Ok so they said climb up about two jumps (3-4') and then work the knot. But as soon as you move the foot holding the silk in place, you're suspended entirely by your arms -- so how do you get the slack in the silk to wrap the second half of the 8? So basically you jump yourself up the silk so you're in the right place, then you lean way back so that your body makes an L with your legs out in front of you as though you were sitting on the ground, and your body straight up, hanging on to the silks from your arms and using serious ab muscles to hold this position (so the silk makes the angle of a triangle. Ascii art version: L\ THEN let go with the un-tied foot, push it against the now angled silk to create some slack and use that foot to tie the rest of the 8. Then use whatever arm and ab strength you've got left to stand yourself up.
Uh huh. Sure.

1st try! hahaha I was pretty proud of that. Esp when only one other person got it at all *g* But I worked for it. And while I'm at it? The reminder to make sure the bottom of the 8 goes across the ball of your foot. hahaha had a good laugh at that -- as if after decades of riding I'd put it anywhere else *g* As if I had that much control at all! I was just thrilled I accomplished something that vaguely resembled what was supposed to happen.

So then we moved on. Emily showed everybody how to fake the knot so we could do the next step "except you," she says looking at me, "you should do it properly." Oh gee, thanks. On the one hand, the next couple times were easier because I knew how the logistics work, on the other, by this point my body was starting to object, so I couldn't hold anything very long!

Now once you have your knot and are standing on it, bend the other knee up, holding the silk inbetween the leg and the hip, then tip sideways. Seriously. So you're lying parallel to the floor. Hold the bent knee with your lower hand (in my case right knee with left hand) and then let go of the rope. hahaha have to admit this one took me two tries. First time I couldn't get my balance right well enough to let go. Second time everything just felt right and I could've hung out there for a while :) I was pretty proud of that one too!

After that there was only one move left to learn (no pics of that one). The scissors. This is not something I'm going to be able to explain well, but if you know how to do scissors in valuting it's essentially the same thing only instead of your legs going behind you over the horse, they go sideways and as you twist, you grab the silks in the process so you end up able to hang. It must've taken me at least ten tries to get this and even then it was so loose I only ended up about 6" off the ground! hahaha One other girl got it much better than I did. Nobody else even came anywhere close. Nobody was taking pics of that one, but for the curious youtube saves the day:

So yeah, circus school was an absolute blast. Didn't laugh *quite* as hard as I did the day N and I were on the trampoline (another circus act? hmmmm should I be concerned) but I was much better at this one *g* Perhaps if the riding thing doesn't work out? >;-P

I suspect I'm going to be some sore tomorrow...


What a great and fun post. really cool pics as well... My hat is off to you. That looked like some seriously hard stuff.


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