Thursday, 31 December 2015

Chapter 121: My #Bestnine Circus Skills of 2015

Instagram is my playground, a scrapbook of images of life through a circus lens, #nofilter required. If you are a fellow Instagram user, you will undoubtedly have seen a variety of #bestnine photos on a number of accounts recently, and it got me thinking about what I have learned this year. So, from the top, anti-clockwise:

I have been learning tightwire at the National Centre for Circus Arts ( as a beginner, part of their Level 1 Equilibristics course, which I've done a couple of times now. It comprises 4 classes on tightwire, 4 on unicycle, and then a couple on rolla-bolla (the plank balanced on a ball) and globe-walking (a hard, giant ball). I have fallen head over heels for tightwire. Literally, on more than one occasion. 

See posts:
Tightwire and Wrong Turns (click here)
An August Summer, and where tightwire takes you... (click here)
Tightwire practice and Lessons Learned from the Edinburgh Fringe (click here)
Hold On - stunning performance at Greenwich & Docklands International Festival by my tightwire teacher at National Circus, Stefano Di Renzo (click here)

My love affair with all things pole is solely down to one person, Anna Milosevic, founder of Polefit London. Classes run out of Stockwell YMCA, which is a great height for floor to ceiling poles, and the more intimate studio in Merton that has up to half a dozen stand alone poles. A professionally trained ballerina, Anna has grace, patience, a great sense of humour, and fabulous taste in music to get you pumped up. Anna now runs aerial hoop classes as well, ballet stretching classes and aerial yoga  - see (click here).

See posts:
Pole, and Boudoir Photography (click here)
Back in Pole Position (click here)
Pole in the Park (click here)
Pole (the show) at Edinburgh Fringe 

Part of the Equilibristics course at National Circus. I ended up buying a neon pink unicycle, my very own Doris bike, very cheaply on Amazon. Soon discovered why, as a design flaw meant that one pedal kept falling off at random moments, and I would go flying, much to the kids amusement. Still, my enthusiasm, in principle, is kept going by a number of unicycle enthusiasts on Instagram, including someone all the way over in Patagonia. 

In Level 1 aerial skills at National Circus you have four classes each in static trapeze, flying trapeze and on rope. I assumed rope would be a transferable skill from pole, but despite some similar moves it never really clicked (see post on learning the ropes - click here). Trapeze on the other hand was a dream come true. The only space available for flying trapeze originally was on a Saturday, so by default I caught level 2 classes in static trapeze instead. Thanks to my wonderful teacher Layla Rosa, I have fallen in love with the discipline. There is plenty of scope for working on shapes and movement, and choreographing it to music, so it appeals to my performance-orientated nature, and I love the informal end of term group performance - see our latest (click here)

While my daughter was learning trapeze at Flying Fantastic in Battersea I was allowed to practice on hoop with another mother, a fellow aerialist, though way more advanced than me, as well as a couple of classes with Anna at Polefit. I thought it would be quite straightforward transferring moves learned on trapeze, but again, not so simple. Flying Fantastic (see has now started up adults and children's classes in Wimbledon, which my daughter is joining with some school friends in the New Year. 

See posts:
The Circus Mum (click here)
The benefits of learning circus skills for kids (click here)

Muppet that I am, it had never occurred to me that by the end of a two hour workshop with Sarah at The Fire School we would actually be swallowing fire, and while it is a skill that had never been on my bucket list before, I am completely converted. It's a very zen discipline, like tightwire, requiring absolute concentration in the moment. I am ashamed to confess publicly that my exotic fire-sticks are looking decidedly virginal, and am looking forward to going back in the New Year to reignite the passion. Next step: to have a go in an aerial harness. Worth noting that The Fire School has just extended its deal "bring a friend for half-price" until the end of January. 

See post:
Playing With Fire (click here

I first started learning handstands against a pole, thanks to Anna. Unsupported handstands are still very much a work in progress for me, but I find a deep relaxation and satisfaction in inverts and will carry on working on them, along with headstands, in yoga with my fantastic teacher Callum in the New Year - see In static trapeze classes Layla reiterates how important it is to keep yoga practice going alongside circus skills.

I learned to juggle three balls when I had to keep warm overnight in a bus station in Madrid, and haven't progressed beyond that. Balls, apples, bath-bombs - as long as it's small and round I'll give it a go, another form of relaxation for me. The goal for the new year will be to learn to jazz it up a bit, thanks to Circus Geek Jon Udry, after seeing him punch gravity in the face (click here).

In Autumn, I went to an improv workshop for parents at my son's school, run by Hoopla! that confirmed to me circus really is a state of mind (click here). It gave me the confidence to sign up in November to a course with clowning maestro Ira Seidenstein, which was a real eye-opener and a unique lesson in the language of physical performance. I even incorporated a few of the exercises into yoga practice, including my favourite, playing with Laurel and Hardy banter. Click here for my post on Clowning Around. 

Clowning and improv are part of an essential toolkit for any performer, while it taught me, a blogger, how to own my space and retain my centre, rather than constantly going out to others. As a result, it benefitted my storytelling, use of social media and ease in the world at large. Well, ok, maybe it's a work in progress!

2015 has been an extraordinary year in terms of challenges, frustrations and rewards. I haven't done nearly as much day-to-day consistent training in circus skills as I would like, but on the flip-side the time spent on writing has reaped dividends. My readership over the past year has tripled, and I am enjoying getting the word out about the terrific projects going on and #circuseverywhere. 

But that's another story...

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