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Cross Training for Pole – Part 8: Acroyoga

Yoga has always been a part of my bodywork practice. Even before dance, yoga showed me ways to start loving my body for what it could do. I still practice yoga almost everyday, but I am now learning about acroyoga and finding the benefits are tenfold in supporting my aerial dance practice!

For pole dance and aerial training, supplementing your program with acroyoga can support body awareness, core stability, balance, and be a great introduction to partner work on the pole or aerial apparatus.

For those new to the idea of acroyoga here is a definition from Maggie McCracken

“Acroyoga is a combination of acrobatics and yoga performed between two partners. One partner is the base while the other is the flyer. The base supports the flyer in a series of movements that combine balance, strength and acrobatics.”

At the circus we play around with group and partner shapes at the end of a handstands or flex class. It’s a great way to apply the skills that we are working and push through boundaries of fear and trust as we work with each other. I am constantly amazed with the breakthroughs I have been able to make. From not being able to hold a freestanding handstand, to being able to fly in the pose below was truly exhilarating!

Many pole and aerial studios offer classes for acroyoga, or use elements of the practice to add variety to a handstand class. Below are six benefits of acroyoga and how you can use the practice to support your aerial dancing.

– Increase in spatial and kinesthetic awareness
If you are a pole dancer or aerialist who forgets their left and right as soon as they are upside down, acroyoga could help! Kinesthetic awareness is about knowing where your body is in space. For example, you don’t need to see your foot to know how to grab it when you bend your knee up behind you. Many acroyoga poses require you to move your limbs while balancing and maintaining your focus out in front of you. Working as the base or the flyer in acro poses supports body awareness and challenges your body and brain to adapt to changes in position or balance quickly.

– Whole body workout
Many people who start acroyoga are initially surprised at how much of a workout it is, or under the impression that the base works harder than the flyer. This is simply untrue. If you are the flyer you will learn how to engage your core to create a stable centre of gravity of which to move around. Your arms are also pushing against the base in many poses, much like a handstand. Rather than being a “dead weight” the flyer supports their weight and compliments the forces applied by the base. The base offers support through a stable core and active legs as they hold the flyer in air. Acroyoga also requires stamina as you hold poses for a extended length of time. The encouragement you are able to provide to your partner, or group, is great motivation to work harder (within your body’s limits, of course). As you become more advanced you will discover muscles you didn’t even know you had in your core, back, hips, glutes, legs, and arms, that are activating and making small adjustments all the time, gaining strength as they keep you stable and respond to your partner.

– Learning how to fall
If you are a beginner I highly recommend working in teams of three, so someone can also act as a spotter. Learning to fall is all part of the fun, however a spotter is essential in maintaining the safety of both the base and flyer when entering poses and dismounting from them. With this in mind, it is also useful to play as both the base and the flyer, as each requires different skills and strengths and also allows you to understand the pose from two perspectives. For example, if you have tendency to push harder with your right hand than your left, you may be able to predict this behaviour and respond to it when your partner does the same. Knowing how to protect yourself and your partner is essential in preventing injury.

– Breath work
Matching your inhalations and exhalations with your partner can be an effective way to connect and enter or exit a pose. Learning how to breath through movement, exhaling into a stretch or inhaling through a strength based invert brings energy and oxygen into the body and helps you maintain focus. Making these techniques habit will allow them to transfer easily to your aerial training.

– Better communication

“In order to work closely with your partner or partners, you must consciously focus on maintaining presence without distraction. Your partner’s safety, as well as your own, depends on your ability and willingness to read each other’s physical, verbal, and visual cues without much discussion” (Source)

If you have aspirations for doubles pole or hoop, learning how to read the non-verbal cues of your partner is essential. Additionally, learning how to talk about positions and adjustments with your base or flyer, will support your kinesthetic awareness, and increase your communication skills as an aerial instructor and student.

If you need anymore convincing, take a look at this stunning acro inspired pole routine by trio Carolyn Chiu, Rosabelle Selavy, & Marcy Richardson.

Happy dancing!

Wrist Care

As humans, we have spent a lifetime walking on our feet and ankles. As pole dancers and aerialists we now spend hours a day trying to balance and hold ourselves up on our hands and wrists. If you are finding that your wrists and/or forearms hurt when attempting various pole tricks, or ache after a workout, you are not alone. Aside from shoulder injuries and torn hamstrings, wrist injuries are one of the most common aliments for pole dancers and aerialists.

Personally, I have a genetic predisposition to Carpul Tunnel Syndrome. My mother, grandmother, and great aunt, have all had various surgeries to reduce pain and support their mobility and well being in their wrists. Hopefully, the strength and mobility I have attained from pole and aerial training is working in my favour. I still get odd nerve pains and tenderness, but have found massage, nerve flossing, and rest (which even included learning how to use my computer mouse with my left hand!) are all effective in reducing pain and allowing me to continue my aerial training.

I have known many dancers who suffer from wrist ailments, such as ganglion cysts which all impact on their ability to pole. It is important to listen to your body and know when to stop or alter a move. There is no use pushing through and hoping the pain will go away. Many spins and tricks can be accomplished with the forearm on the pole, or in cup grip which allow the wrist to stay in a more neutral position. Variations for an Ayesha/Static V are pictured below.

 

Disclaimer – The following content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

The wrist is a very complex set of joints, ligaments, and nerves that support the movement of the hand in four directions – flexing, extending, and deviating side to side. The wrist can also twist, what is known as pronation and supination.  The structure of the wrist is made up for four main ligaments, three nerves, eight carpul bones, and five metacarpal bones. It goes without saying that a lot can go wrong if you fall on your wrist on put pressure on it in the wrong way!

It is important to warm up the wrists just like you warm up the rest of your body before pole. As well as wrist circles and stretches for the forearms and fingers, try this exercise:

Wrist lifts from all fours

 

Moving your hands closer or further away from your body will alter the amount of pressure and change the required strength to execute the move. What you are aiming for is quality of movement over quantity. Try to make the movement as smooth as possible. You also don’t want to fatigue the wrists. This exercise involves lots of tiny muscles, ligaments, and tendons, that may not be used to working out.  5-10 repetitions as part of your warm up is more than enough.

If you have a theraband there is also a great wrist exercise you can do with a pole or even just a railing. Standing next to the pole with the theraband at waist height, wrap the band around your palm and make a fist. Bring your elbow to you waist so your forearm is pointing out in front of you. Move away from the pole to increase the tension in the band. Fold your hand down (in flexion) with your hand in a fist and slowly release back to a neutral position. Repeat 5-10 times with both hands. The tension offered by the theraband will support muscle strength throughout the wrist joint.

Massage can be great for the wrists too, especially after an aerial session. You can massage your own wrists with the opposite hand, or if you are lucky to have a friend to help you, this is a great partner exercise –

Have you partner interlock their fingers with yours as they are facing you. Let your hands and arms go limp, as your partner shakes your hands up down. They can alternate with large motions or short and fast ones. I find this exercise is great for releasing lactic acid after a workout.

For the next section I talk about the split grip position on the pole. I am primarily talking about the pose known as a jamilla or an apprentice, where many dancers report feeling pain in their bottom hand.

When setting yourself up for a split grip, be extra mindful of your hand placement. Rather than gripping the pole and trying to support your weight, the action should be more of a sideways push. As your strength and technique increases you will soon be able to do this without your fingers wrapping around the pole at all.

Other things to remember for a successful and pain free split grip are:

  • Try not to place your bottom hand too high on the pole. Allow the wrist to remain in a neutral position rather than extending.
  • Point the index finger of bottom hand downwards reminding you to push rather than grip (you can see my bottom hand in this position in the video)
  • Bend your bottom arm just a little, don’t lock out the elbow
  • Remember to pull with your top arm, this will help take the weight away from your wrist in the bottom hand

Split grips like the apprentice/jamilla are not beginner pole moves. You need to be strong enough to carry most of your weight in your top arm.

The team at Vertical Wise also offer advice for other wrist intensive moves too.

“In moves like handspring, butterfly, flag, etc. it is best to keep a straight line from the elbow to the wrist.
This way, our body weight is evenly distributed and we don’t put too much pressure on the wrist joint.

By forming a straight line from the elbow to the wrist.

  • Our grip strength comes from the shoulder blade (scapula) and not from the wrist. This results in activating all of the muscles of the core body instead of using only one specific group, that of the forearm.
  • We prevent prolonged hyperextension of the wrist, which might even lead to a carpal tunnel syndrome.”

As pole dancers and aerialists we all dream of being able to continue flying forever and ever. But to do this, we need to take care of ourselves. Listening to our bodies, stopping moves that cause pain, and developing good technique to reduce injury are essential for any dancer. Taking appropriate rest days to let our bodies heal will also ensure we can dance with strong, healthy bodies right into our 80s!

 

Imagery and Visualization for Choreography

I have always been fascinated with the process of choreography, actively seeking out connections between pole dance and other forms of movement. For me, the elements of choreography for the pole, aerial, or floor routines, should overlap. Incorporating narrative is important, as well as including motifs and themes. These help the dancer communicate with the audience as well as tie the whole routine together so it is much more than just a sequence of clever tricks and poses.

I recently came across Wayne McGregor from his TED talk and hearing his ideas about choreography just blew my mind!

Dancers from the pole and aerial community talk about “combos”. Thousands of videos are all over social media, linking tricks together in familiar or innovative ways with the change of leg or hand or direction around the pole. Hundreds of questions flood pole discussion groups asking how to link poses – what do I do after a superman? – any tips for my leg hang to ayesha transition?

Creating smooth combos is an essential part of creating a routine, but listening to Wayne McGregor opened up an entirely new way of thinking about movement and what comes together to make a dance.

What struck me is that he didn’t talk about poses, but about movement. Rather than stationary shapes connected with transitions, he uses spatial language and direction to inspire dance. Sometimes he places an imaginary object in the room and asks the dancers to move around it, to trace it’s shape, go under it, or respond to it changing. The eventual dance may have familiar shapes and poses but how they were created and how they flow together becomes a unique collaboration between the choreographer and the dancer.

When we work on a spinning pole we are essentially holding a shape and allowing the motion of the pole to accentuate our movements. The language of pole dance can be limiting as we think about choreography as a sequence of poses – climb, straddle, scorpio, butterfly. Even for floor work, movements can also become quite static, one pose to the next, even if they are choreographed to the rhythm of the music. Naming poses is useful, especially to help us communicate choreography with other dancers, but it should be remembered that this is not the only way to think about movement.

What if there were other elements on stage to inspire your movement? Real props, or imaginary ones, can fill the space and will influence the way you can move around it. If there was a box in the middle of the room, you could leap over it, dance around it, or even pick it up and dance with it!

I first heard Kristy Sellars talk about giving the pole in your routines a character or status, which offers similar possibilities. Think of the pole as a lover, or an enemy, and explore how you might respond to it differently, in the way you touch the pole, walk around it, or dismount from it.

Using these ideas will change the way you enter a pose and move through it, or may inspire a new shape or movement all together. Rather than your combos looking like everyone else’s, your dance will become uniquely you.

I highly recommend watching Wayne McGregor’s TED talk and taking inspiration from his ideas about dance, choreography, movement, and expression. We all have movement habits and it’s easy to let muscle memory and familiarity take over. Adding imagery and visualization to your choreography will help you break these movement habits and dig deeper into your creativity. For those who also feel uncomfortable with freestyle, these exercises can also be a great starting point to exploring new movement and inspiring a new direction for a routine.

I created a simple dance flow with a scarf to explore the prop vs no-prop concept. A small dance was recorded with the scarf and then repeated without it, attempting to recreate the movements as closely as possible.

This clip could be worked on and polished for accuracy, however the point of the exercise needs no more clarity. What amazed me was how the eventual choreography would never have come about without the experimentation with the scarf in the first place. Sure, I could have danced and imagined I had a scarf in my hand, but the result is a completely unique flow that emerged from my body interacting with the scarf in the first place. My body learned “the dance” so to speak and could then repeat it for the second take.

These experiments may never become a final dance, but they do teach us something about the way we move in relation to our environment, and how to inspire new movement through the use of props, imagery, and visualization.

I’d love for you to share your experiments too! Tag me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with your videos!

 

Reflecting on Fundamentals

A lot has changed in my dance practice in the last year. Without access to a pole I am in a position to discover other ways to dance, to move, to create, and to express myself. More recently, however, I am finding that underlying all of my new discoveries on lyra, silks, yoga, chair dance, and even life modelling, is a layer of fundamental movements.

In many ways I am a beginner again. Five years of pole dance prepped my body for other aerial arts but each apparatus requires new techniques and new revision. I’ve found myself in a process of coming full circle and actually enjoying relearning many foundations of movement.

Noel Burch talks about the learning cycle offering four stages of learning. Rather than thinking of learning as a liner process – not knowing —> knowing. the four stages can be viewed in a cycle. This allows you to adapt to new skills and information that may support or refute what you may know already. Your skills in relation to pole dance and aerial arts do not exist in a vacuum, putting you forever in motion of learning, relearning, revisiting, and mastering.

“The Four Stages of Learning suggests that individuals are initially unaware of how little they know, or unconscious of their incompetence. As they recognize their incompetence, they consciously acquire a skill, then consciously use it. Eventually, the skill can be utilized without it being consciously thought through: the individual is said to have then acquired unconscious competence.” (Wiki)

Let’s think about this in relation to a pole class. The first time you ever walked into a studio you were probably in a state of unconscious incompetence – unaware of the skills and concepts you were about to learn. After a few classes and watching some inspirational dancers, you may progress to conscious incompetence – that overwhelming feeling where there is so much to think about when doing pole moves, everything feels way harder than it looks, and the inevitable question, “when will I ever straddle?”

Gradually, through persistence and regular training, some skills become less difficult. You feel consciously competent – pole dance offers you so much joy and you find endless street poles to show off your new tricks!

The fourth part of the cycle is unconscious competence. An area where things have become familiar allowing muscle memory to take over. You can spin, invert, and dance with a sense of grace and letting go.

Learning does not stop here though. In my case, I took up lyra and silks and although I still remember how to straddle, I have had to consciously revisit the basics. Assuming that my pole dance experience was going to let me just start doing crazy advanced aerial hoop tricks was quickly leading me down the road of developing bad habits.

For instance, knee hangs. Very similar to our trusty outside leg hang in pole, but also very different. What muscles should I be engaging to hold me up? When placing my leg, where should the contact points be?

Interestingly, instead of be being frustrated as I waver between conscious incompetence and conscious competence, I have found that I am really enjoying the process of relearning. And my body is thanking me for it, remaining injury free, and continuing to become stronger and more flexible. I am also learning how to make moves less painful as I revisit how to engage my glutes, and hamstrings rather than just trust that my bent knee will stop me from falling to the ground.

I have found support in instructors like StudioVeena who stress the importance of learning proper technique and focusing on fundamentals. Veena’s Teaching Manual is a fabulous resource for both students and instructors.

She states –

“As instructors we need to remember that every level of pole dance can be fun, improve physical fitness, and provide emotional freedom and expression”

Returning to the basics does not just have to be repetitive drills and boring shapes. Learning about muscle engagement, correct alignment, contact points, and how to use your breath should all be part of each and every move you learn on the pole, or other apparatus. Taking your time to learn slowly, also offers you space to listen to your own body. How did your shoulders respond to that pole hold? Do you need to work on coordination and balance to refine your fireman spin?

My journey into training my goofy side was probably the first step I made towards revisiting the basics. So many pole holds and spins were now muscle memory (unconsciously competent), but to successfully complete the move on the other side meant re-entering the cycle and starting again, albeit with a bit more strength and a lot more knowledge.

Where do you find yourself in the learning cycle? If you have just completed a course or term in a pole studio, you may be resting a the top of the cycle – unconsciously competent. Enjoy it! Fly with freedom and relish in your new skills and learning. But also be aware that as a new term starts the process of learning will start again. Frustrations may brew as you feel like a beginner again but strong foundations are your key to further success!

Nutrition for Pole Dancers and Aerialists

Since moving to Cambodia, my training schedule and format has changed dramatically. It rarely drops below 30C here, even at night, meaning that even a simple walk up and down the Riverside turns me into a dripping mess.

Joining the circus to train on lyra and silks in a large warehouse with no air conditioning also has it’s challenges. By observing and listening to how the locals train and manage the risks of dehydration, I have learned a lot about how to maintain optimum form during my training sessions, and to recover adequately afterwards.

It’s common practice to consider carbs and protein intake when thinking about how to prepare for, and recover after, a workout. But if you find yourself finishing your aerial dance sessions utterly exhausted, or taking longer to recover than your peers, or even if you feel sluggish mentally and emotionally days after your workout, your diet could be lacking in trace elements that support your body and it’s functions.

Trace elements such as zinc, magnesium, potassium, iron, and selenium occur in many foods that you may already be eating. Depending on how intense your training sessions are, and the unique make up of your body, you may need to consider adding more or less of each of the ones described below. Ensuring that you are eating nutrient dense foods before and after your aerial or pole session will support your energy levels throughout the workout and your recovery afterwards.

Let’s look at each mineral, how they work together, the effect it has on your body and which foods will offer you these benefits *

 

Zinc supports the function of over 200 enzymes in your body, including wound healing. If your pole kisses are beginning to build up, adding more foods with zinc in your diet could help them heal. Zinc also works to strengthen the villi in your intestines, increasing the surface area of your digestive tract, allowing your body to absorb more nutrients.

Where to find zinc – Brazil nuts, pecans, kelp, beans, cashews, chickpeas, whole grains, dairy foods, egg yolks, liver, red meat, seafood, oysters, dulse flakes.

 

Calcium is important for bone health and muscular growth as well as cardiovascular health. Your levels of vitamin D affect how much calcium you are absorbing from your food so make sure you get a little bit of sun every day too – what more of a reason do you need to take your pole outside or to the beach?!

Where to find calcium – almonds, brewer’s yeast, Chinese cabbage, kale, broccoli, salmon and sardines (with bones), dairy products, fortified foods such as cereals and tofu.

 

An important mineral that works in conjunction with zinc and calcium, supporting strong bone health. The trio (zinc, calcium, copper) also help transport red blood cells around the body – read: more oxygen delivered to your muscles.

Where to find copper – Cocoa, peas, raisins, almonds, barley, beans, beetroot, broccoli, oysters, liver.

 

Required for strong and flexible joints, skin, and bones. Silicon also supports the health of your heart. By ensuring foods with silicon are part of your diet everyday, you set yourself up to be able to train from a strong and healthy starting point.

Where to find silicon – alfalfa sprouts, beetroots, brown rice, oats, capsicum (peppers) apples, cereals, raw cabbage, peanuts, carrots, onions, cucumber, pumpkin, fish, whole grains, almonds, and oranges.

 

Supports strong healthy bones, nerves, and muscles. This element is also responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. If you find you are craving sweets or a high energy hit after a workout, adding foods rich in manganese could help you curb the cravings and stabilize your blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Where to find manganese – avocados, nuts, pulses, tea, whole grains, seeds, pineapple, and seaweed.

 

Selenium is an important antioxidant used to support the immune system, heart health, and thyroid function. Deficiencies in selenium can weaken the cartilage in your joints, something you want to avoid given how much pressure we put on our joints through during aerial training. You don’t need a lot so it’s safest to get this trace element in whole food form.

Where to find selenium – Brazil nuts, grains, brewer’s yeast, egg yolks, garlic, whole grains, broccoli, dairy products and red meat.

 

Low iron is the classic diagnosis for someone who has low energy and finds it hard to recover after a workout. Iron is responsible for transporting oxygen to the blood. When you are pole dancing, or engaged in any other workout, your muscles need oxygen to function. This is also why learning to breath properly doing a workout is essential.

Where to find iron – Green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, eggs, fish, red meat, poultry, liver, fortified foods, nuts, peas, whole grains.

 

Essential for thyroid function and regulates the function of every cell in your body. Due to soils having naturally varying amounts of iodine, you may need to find supplements and iodized food to ensure you are getting enough.

Where to find iodine – Kelp, iodized salt, seafood, saltwater fish, corn, prunes.

 

Supports strong bones and muscles and assists in metabolizing calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Boron is also believed to reduce the symptoms of arthritis as well as support cognitive functions such as hand-eye coordination and short term memory, all skills that aerialists need to be safe and successful.

Where to find boron – apples, dates, oranges, plums, sultanas, kiwifruit, carrots, grapes, pears, whole grains, avocado, soybeans, chickpeas, hazelnuts, peanuts, lentils, onion,  and potatoes.

 

Find yourself drinking gallons of water but still feeling thirsty? Get half way through a routine and have to stop due to muscle cramping? Your body is probably in need of electrolytes such as sodium. This mineral maintains the body’s water balance and is one of the key ingredients in sports drinks. Skip the sugars, though, and get sodium from these other sources.

Where to find sodium – olives, miso, celery, shrimp, ham, salt.

 

This mineral supports nerve and muscle health and is also an electrolyte like sodium. It can also help to stabilise blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Insufficient potassium can lead to muscle weakness and dehydration.

Where to find potassium – Coffee, bananas, whole grains, molasses, parsley, mushrooms, pumpkin, fish.

 

Supports bone health, cell renewal and your metabolism. Phosphorus is also needed to make ATP (adenosine triphosphate) a molecule which provides energy to our cells. It is rare to be lacking in phosphorus but if you find you have a low appetite or muscle pain it may help to add some of these foods to your diet.

Where to find phosphorus – asparagus, corn, pumpkin seeds, bran, pulses, leafy green vegetables, eggs, beans, lentils, pork, dairy products,

 

Essential for healthy bones and the functioning of nerves and muscles. Magnesium is also a relaxant and can be used to soothe aching muscles. Add some Epsom Salts (Magnesium Sulfate) to your bath or start taking magnesium supplements to support recovery after a workout.

Where to find magnesium – Eggs, green leafy vegetables, shellfish, dairy products, nuts, whole grains, almonds, wheatgerm.

 


* This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

 

 

Beginning Aerial Fabric Instructional Manual – Review

For one of the most beautiful aerial arts, fabric, tissu, or silks, is one of the most complex. A student of aerial fabric needs to be strong in their upper body and core, similar to other aerials arts, but also needs to train their brain and spatial awareness skills to think about how the knots and fabric are keeping them safe and supported in the air.

Many students report that their initial instruction comes from a “monkey-see, monkey-do” class structure. However, for a student to excel and eventually learn to create and compose moves on their own, it is essential they work from a basis of proper technique and understanding.

Rebekah Leach, a pioneer in the aerial arts, has created a set of manuals for aerial fabric, aerial hoop. aerial yoga, and rope, to ensure students and instructors can do just this!

This review looks in detail at the Beginning Aerial Fabric Instructional Manual (4th Ed)  published in 2011. The Intermediate Part 1 and Part 2 versions are also available to purchase as paperback and digital download from her website and on Amazon.

What you need to know
The Beginning Aerial Fabric Instructional Manual contains

  • over 250 step by step photographs including close ups of knots
  • over 40 poses, tricks and transitions on the fabric
  • amazing explanations of knots and wraps using clear language
  • conditioning tips
  • teaching, spotting, and safety advice

With chapters based on moves and transitions from basic climbs to single and double footlocks, students and instructors can easily see how moves can be connected together and even begin to play with their own variations once comfortable in each position. The progression of moves also introduces the student to the hip lock (aka the hip key) and various climbs inviting students to develop strength and techniques that will support them in their aerial dance journey.

For students:
Although being a fan of aerial fabric dance for many years, I have only started training on the apparatus recently. My background in pole dance and lyra offered some familiarity in going upside down and being off the ground, but nothing prepared me for the complexities involved in tying knots with my feet and learning how to control my body as it spun and sway in the air!

 

Currently, my instructors (who speak only a little English) work from a modelling approach, completing the move or sequence themselves and then spotting carefully while each student in the class attempts the same pose. If your circumstances are similar, of even if you are learning on your own, you may find that this manual fills in many gaps in your training and understanding.

Rebekah Leach borrows language from ballet to clearly explain the direction of wraps – en dedans and en dehors – supporting the mind-body connection that pure modelling cannot achieve. Studying the manual outside of class and revisiting how knots and footlocks are created, offers essential theory to my practice. Her notes about weight distribution, exit strategies, and common mistakes, revise concepts taught in class and have even made great talking points for me to discuss with my instructor.

From a safety standpoint, the advantages of such an approach are obvious. To really understand what is holding you up and why, you need to learn how to see the knots in your mind and be able to follow the direction that the fabric is wrapped around your legs or body.

The clarity and quality of the photographs in the manual are really impressive! Each movement sequence used to create knots and transitions have been broken down with photos at every step. Close attention has been paid to make note of how to position your feet, or keep the fabric running along one side of your body, to support your progress in replicating the moves and ensuring the fabric ribbons don’t slip from where they are meant to be.

One of my favourite parts of the book is also how the author notes how to practice the pose on the ground first! If it’s just for balance, coordination, or to train strength and flexibility, this is such a great training tip for beginners, allowing you to feel what the move is like before attempting it in the air without all the nerves of danger and physical exertion. In a similar way, Rebekah Leach also regularly refers to the concept of “exit strength” making note of how important it is to have the strength to return to the ground safely as well as the technique. This idea may not come naturally to beginners who will also benefit from learning resting poses in the air.

 

For instructors:
Even if you are a seasoned aerial fabric instructor, each year or term your students will arrive to class with different skills and learning abilities. Rebekah Leach has laid out the Beginning Aerial Fabric Instructional Manual as a curriculum for a term of classes with references to how to know if your students are ready to progress or attempt certain moves.

Sharing her teaching expertise, Rebekah Leach offers instructors guidelines of how to structure the entire class, from warm up to cool down, and how to maintain the motivation of students who may not be ready for aerial poses or to go upside-down.

Most importantly perhaps, the author’s notes on spotting and how to catch common mistakes, supports best practice in focusing on how the student entered a lock or wrap, how to verbally direct a student to unwind or de-tangle themselves, and where to support a student when physically spotting transitions and tricks.

I also love that Rebekah Leach has included reference to pioneers in the field, and innovators of certain poses, inviting instructors to broaden their knowledge base and find inspiration from other aerial artists.

One of my favourite quotes from the Beginning Aerial Fabric Instructional Manual is

“Each skill is like a word which builds sentences to tell a movement story”

Something that comes through in each tutorial, is the author’s passion for unique expression. From a solid foundation in understanding how the wraps work and support the dancer, one can then explore movement with the fabric as a form of self expression. The emphasis on proper technique is strong, but not without vision for what can be achieved even from students at the beginning of their aerial fabric dance journey.

Get your copy of the Beginning Aerial Fabric Instructional Manual from Rebekah Leach’s website and begin your own exploration into aerial fabric dance!