Tell us a little bit about yourself :)
I have always loved and appreciated the performing arts. My parents and grandma would take me to see ballets, circuses, and musicals when I was a kid, and they would laugh about how mesmerized I was by the shows. I was involved in dance and theater when I was young, and did cheerleading and tumbling in high school. I actually didn't start aerial arts until my mid 20s.
How did you get introduced to aerial art ?
I was doing a ballet performance with my dance academy, and the group that performed before us happened to be a circus troupe with aerialists. I'd never seen aerial arts done up close before that time. After seeing it, I knew it was something I needed to at least try because it was such a beautiful, expressive art form. Luckily, I lived in an area with quite a few options for instruction, and started taking classes in tissu (which is still my favorite apparatus to this day). Later into my training, I started working with a variety of other apparatuses as well, like aerial harness, aerial hammock, flying trapeze, corde lisse, and aerial hoop.
When did aerial art get “serious” ?
I started doing some gigs here and there at about 3 or 4 years into my training. But the main thing that motivated me to start performing more was when I was selected to perform in an ongoing show at the LA Fair three years ago.
Each season, we perform in 95 shows over the course of a month. It is very intense physically with dance numbers, solo acts on several apparatuses, flying trapeze acts, etc. It really helped shape my performing abilities. After that, I was given more opportunities to work internationally and more frequently, and also to instruct classes.
Can you share your biggest challenges ?
I think the biggest challenge, for me in particular, is that aerial requires a lot of training to maintain the strength and flexibility needed to perform - and it can be difficult to make sure I have allotted enough time to train when I also have other responsibilities like instructing and working. It makes for a tiring schedule sometimes.
How do you handle pressure ?
With aerial, I feel like it's fairly easy to forget about pressure as soon as you start performing or training. It's instinctual to be thinking about your own safety, and as soon as I am 25 or 30 feet in the air, I'm focused on what I'm doing and what is coming next. That's what I really love about aerial - you really have to rely on yourself, and it takes away outside pressure.
Can you share your thoughts on self consciousness ?
When I first started performing, I was definitely self conscious. I was worried what people would think or if I was even good enough to be performing. For me, that just went away with time. I learned that I'll have my good days and bad days, and that everyone else has them too.
What was your most embarrassing moment (in regards to aerial art of course ;)
I can't think of one extremely embarassing moment that stands out, but I have definitely had many smaller embarassing moments. I've had some wardrobe malfunctions, because tissu has a tendency to pull on your costumes. And there was a time that I was performing and the ends of the tissu flew up over my face. So, I looked like I had a sheet wrapped over my head, and it took me much longer to free myself and get out from under it than I would've liked!
How did your passion influence your life in other ways ?
Aerial arts has made me a more confident person. I've always been somewhat on the shy side socially, but I never feel that way when performing. It brings me out of my shell, so to speak, and I think that has crossed over into the other aspects of my life. The health benefits have been great as well, of course. I am physically stronger and have even more stamina than I did when I was younger.
What does your daily routine look like ?
Well, my daily routine is quite exhausting! I am actually a full time Human Resources professional in addition to the aerial work I do. So, some days I will leave for work at the crack of dawn and won't get back home from training until nearly midnight.
I drive straight from my workplace to the studio most evenings so that I can train myself or teach my aerial class. And then my weekends are usually spent training or performing. I haven't had an actual vacation in years, because I use any time taken off work to do aerial work in shows. It's a very tiring schedule, but it's worth it!
And what about your flexibility training ? Where does that fit in ?
I usually do some flexibility work on the floor before and after my aerial training. But the great thing about aerial is that you have gravity to help gently push you a little further into stretches. I was already pretty flexible from ballet and cheerleading, but doing splits in the air on tissu, for example, improved my flexibility even further.
Now that I've gotten older, longevity is very important. So, I still try to push my flexibility, but also avoid anything that feels overly uncomfortable or starts to cause chronic pain.
What keep you motivated?
What keeps me motivated now, as far as training, is what got me into aerial arts to start with – seeing other beautiful performers. After I see a great performer or show, it makes me want to work harder. It's always refreshing to see someone with innovative ideas or a style that stands out. Also, my students are a major motivation. They work so hard, and it's always exciting to watch them gain new skills.
What are your future plans/goals/dreams?
I am very happy where I am at the moment, so right now I'm just maintaining! The combination of my two jobs creates balance, keeps me active and busy, and financially stable. One thing I would like to do, though, is make more time to work on other circus skills such as hand balancing and tumbling.
Any tips for passionate aerialist starting out ?
Just like with anything else, persistence and repetition is key to improving. Prior skills in areas like dance and gymnastics can be helpful when starting, but they are definitely not required! There are many aerialists that started out without this background. So, if you're interested in trying it, find a reputable instructor and go for it!
Anything you’d like to share?
Photo credits to Anna Cicone Photography
Anything you’d like to promote?
follow me on instagram : @aeriallison