The CircoFit Blog

Welcome to The CircoFit Blog. Here you'll find blog posts about silks, rope, trapeze, circus training, fitness, and overall awesomeness, not to mention interviews with super cool, fit, inspiring athletes.

Amanda's Flexibility Journey

We asked Amanda if she'd share a little bit about her flexibility work. She became interested in contortion 5 years ago and has been dedicated to training to, and...read on to check out how far she's come!

A lot of people have asked me how I got started with circus and contortion, and I actually really love telling them. Though circus is growing to be popular, it is still a pretty small community and people are curious. 

Back in the summer of 2012 I was volunteering at a festival in Northern BC (ArtsWells Festival of All Things Art) and there were musicians, painters, performers, puppeteers, you name it, all around. The locals sometimes call it Hippy Fest. During the cleanup of the festival I found a hula hoop someone had left in a field and I picked it up and tried to use it. It fell to the ground lifelessly. One of the performers also helping out saw me and came over to show me how to use it and just like that I was caught. I made that hoop fall to the ground over and over for hours that evening, just trying to get control of it.

Since I was heading back to Edmonton for university in the fall, I went to Google and looked up anything to do with hoops so I could get more instruction and I found Firefly Theatre and Circus. I quickly signed up for aerial classes there and had the time of my life. I started with the intro class which included corde lisse, silks, and trapeze, and I moved to just the silks and corde lisse when I was past that intro course. My first teacher, Meghan, pointed out to me that I had a flexible back. I had never noticed before, so naturally I wanted to see what I could do with that. 

I started taking the flexibility classes at Firefly as well, then I decided to focus on flexibility as it was something I could practice at home without a high ceiling and silks rigging. I joined up with a network on Facebook called the World Wide Splitters Network who host splits and back bend challenges where you practice certain moves for a certain number of days each week and take photos, and then professionals and coaches critique your form along the way to help you get better.

I moved to Amsterdam for a few months, mostly just touring around, but while I was living there I took several classes training with a contortionist named Angie at Dance For Your Pole who pushed me so much further than I could have gotten alone and taught me a bit more about safe practicing so that I don't get hurt without a spotter. Now that I am back in Edmonton I am training alone again currently, but I know a bit more about how to push myself safely.

I think the most important thing (and probably also the most obvious) is consistent practice. If you aren't practicing almost every day it is hard for your muscles to remember. The professionals in shows like Cirque Du Soleil will say that they practice at least three hours every day for their art. I am not quite there yet as my muscles get tired before I hit that time, but I try to practice every day. Some days I need rest so I do stretches that aren't as intense, but I still warm up all my muscles every day. 

That's another thing: warm ups and cool downs are important. I am itching to go straight into deep stretches sometimes but I know that will only hurt me. Do a cardio warm up first (just a little bit is needed), then do some muscle work. Leg raises are great for lower abs. Long arm planks are great for shoulders. Elbow planks are great for everything. After you do the exercises you like to work on, then you can start going into our stretches slowly. The cool down is hardest, I find. After doing the deep back bends I kind of just want to lay down. NOT A GOOD PLAN. If you don't do your cool down you WILL be sore the next day and possibly more. I made that mistake a few times and ended up with low back pain and not being able to stretch that next day without it hurting. Bending forward to counter the back bends is good, but also lay on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Put your arms straight
out to the side and let your knees fall to one side, twisting your spine. Do the same to the other side. Keep your arms straight out and your shoulders flat on the floor. The gentle twisting helps to relax your back to its natural shape after pushing so hard to bend it. If this isn't enough, do the same thing with legs straight as you twist. 

There were (and are) several barriers I had to work on overcoming during my training. With stretching, at first you don't really think about it being something you would need to do strength training for, but it is definitely something I needed to work on. Have you ever tried to do a waterfall back bend from standing and then stand back up again? It takes a lot of muscle to stay steady and to pull yourself back up! I was so excited the first time I succeeded at standing back up again after dropping into a back bend. I did it as many times as I could in a row so I could get used to the feeling and what muscles were being used, so that I could make those ones stronger. With the chest stand or scorpion pose, you need those same muscles but they need to be used backward, bringing your legs up over your head. That's what I am
working on currently (and it is HARD). Once there in a chest stand, you need your side muscles to keep you balanced in one spot. I am still working on that part as well, as I am quite shaky in that pose.

One big thing for me is confidence. I was practicing aerials for a few years and I was moving slowly, so it was hard for me to keep being confident because I am used to picking up skills quickly. Circus was a challenge and I wanted to be better. It has taken me quite a while to get the confidence, but because I never gave up, I went from barely being able to push myself up into a regular back bend to this, yesterday: being comfortable on my elbows in a back bend, with my toes standing on my fingers, and I plan to go further still

5 Tips for Circus Photo Shoot Success

CircoFit Laura Neigum Codie McLachlan Photography

Aerial circus is pretty damn spectacular to begin with, but take proper photos with proper lighting and it’s stunning. Professional studio lighting and a skilled photographer will make you your most beautiful, but make sure that you get the most out of your session by coming prepared.

1. Plan Out Your Moves

Come prepared with a list of what you want to get on film, and make sure that you are comfortable holding them for longer than you typically would during a practice or performance. Because you need to hold them for so long – 30 seconds or more – it’s best to pick tricks that you are comfortable with. A good shot of your easiest trick will look infinitely better than a by-the-skin-of-your-teeth shot of your hardest move.

Write down that list, because you WILL have a brain fart and forget what’s on it. Come with more that you can get through and rank them by preference so that you for sure have time for your favourites. Practice all of them the week leading up to the shoot.

Drops and rotations usually can’t be captured in studio due to the lights being too low. Fabric movement however can look fabulous, if your timing’s right. Practice beforehand and be prepared to spend a decent amount of time trying to get the shot.

Our suggestion: sandwich your hardest moves in the middle. That way you have easy poses to warm-up and easy poses near the end when your grip is fatigued. Avoid tricks that you find painful because you’re going to be sitting there for a while.

CircoFit Stephanie Horosko Codie McLachlan Photography

2. Come Looking Your Best

Remember that stage make-up is vastly different than photo make-up. DO NOT WEAR STAGE MAKE-UP! There’s no one in some back row 300 meters away that’s trying to see you. The photographer is up close and personal, so regular day-to-day make-up will look just fine, and the lighting and shadows will add extra drama and definition to your features even if you go without.

Our suggestion: a bit of foundation to cover up any dark circles or even out skin tone, eye shadow and mascara, and subtle lipstick (or match your lipstick to your costume if you’re going themed or dramatic).

Do your hair, but also keep in mind that inverted poses will make most down-do’s look messy. If you have your heart set on showing off your long hair, try to stick to upright poses and save the upside down tricks for last.

Our suggestion: simple up-do with hair out of your face, use some product in your hair (guys too) to prevent frizz. Don’t be afraid to accessorize with feathers, fascinators, etc.

3. Test Out Your Costume

Make sure that your costume and props actually work on the equipment! If your shiny pants are so slippery that you can’t do half your tricks, then it doesn’t matter how good they look. If you are planning to wear a long flow-y skirt, make sure that you can still safely do the poses you’ve planned out.

CircoFit Caitlin Mader Codie McLachlan Photography

One thing that’s fun about photo shoots is that you don’t have to worry as much about rope burn, since you’re so close to the ground, so it opens up the door to shorts with bare legs or thin, designer tights.

What colour are your silks? Chose a contrasting colour for your costume so that you don’t blend in to the fabric, but make sure they go together. (FYI, we’re using white silks on the 27th, so any colour will look great!)

Also, if you are going for a theme, go all the way! Make sure the whole ensemble works towards your vision.

Our suggestions: patterned lace, stripes, fishnets will bring a fabulous texture to your limbs. If wearing pants or t-shirts, avoid any degree of flared bottom as it will create strange shapes in the photographs. Opt instead for skin-tight clothing OR poofy clothing, such as tutus.

4. Prepare Your Photographer

Before the shoot, make sure your photographer has an idea of what aerial circus is. There are different challenges than with other subject matters such as height of the lights, swivels turning you to face the wrong way, and of course your limited grip endurance and pain tolerance.

During the shoot, try to describe the shape and orientation of each pose before you go up.

 
CircoFit Meghan Schech Codie McLachlan Photography
 

5. Get There Early

Arrive 45 to 60 minutes early to touch up your hair and make-up, warm-up, and get settled. You want to ready to go the minute it’s your turn, so your splits should be already at their max and your hands should be thoroughly rosined.

Our suggestion: arrive, warm-up and stretch, do a couple climbs, fix your hair and make-up, and all the while watch the photographer and see how they are working with the other models. If you plan to eat between home and the studio, bring along dental floss and a toothbrush.

Want in on the action? The photo sessions with the talented Codie McLachlan Photography - the photographer of all photos in this blog post - are taking place on Oct 10 and 12th, 2017.

Best Circus Instagramers of 2016

Fill your Instagram feed with beauty and inspiration by following these accounts. (Handles and images are linked to their Insta accounts.)


Based out of California, Brett Womack and Rachel Bowman are an impressive duo that has been featured all over the place - from Cirque du Soleil to True Blood. Both are strong, creative, and flexible! They now co-own The Loft in North Hollywood. Their Instagram account features fantastic sequences on a red tissu with a brick background.


@rachelnevillephotography

Rachel Neville mostly photographs ballerinas and ballerinos in NYC. All of her work is beautiful, but her aerial circus photography is particularly stunning. She captures the movement and emotion of the silks like no other. Every picture is the perfect moment frozen in time.

https://www.instagram.com/rachelnevillephoto/
https://www.instagram.com/rachelnevillephoto/

@aerialistinthewild

Kaydee Barker's account has a very cool theme and she executes it phenomenally. Her Insta feed features her and her silks and lyra rigged in the most amazing places: hanging from cliffs, soaring above waterfalls, overlooking canyons, and nestled in forests. What a cool theme and beautiful photographs!


@kat_cirq

Badass corde lisse artist Kathryn Clark has performed in Australia, London, and Dubai. She posts amazing videos of rope sequences that will make you envious. Her beats and catch/release skills are unbelievable.


@elizabeth_bfit

I don't think I've ever seen anyone make human flags look as easy as Elizabeth Blanchard.

She posts videos of pole, straps, and hand balancing. Want some roll-up inspiration? Check out her account! (And if her strength wasn't impressive enough, she also has over splits every which way.) Her dedication to strength and power has led to some amazing abilities. (Photo credit @xanadu4.)


@cirquedusoleil and @cirquedusoleilcasting

I thoroughly enjoyed the content from the Cirque du Soleil Instagram account during the 2016 Rio Olympics. They interviewed past Olympian athletes that now work as Cirque acrobats! The footage was usually a composition of Olympics and Cirque. 

Check out @cirquedusoleilcasting for some behind the scenes Cirque action. Many of the performers will post to this account. You might even catch a glimpse of Kristi Wade in her Na'vi blue Toruk costume.


@that_circus_freak

This 15-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, is on track for a successful circus career. From her handle to her CRAZY drops to elbows on lyra, this chick is strong and badass.

 


 

This talented fellow has over 40K followers and it's easy to see why! Contortion + strength + creativity = a new kind of triple threat!
 

 

 


CLIMB - Edmonton Fringe 2016

CLIMB, Edmonton Fringe Festival 2016, photo by Abbye Dahl

CLIMB, Edmonton Fringe Festival 2016, photo by Abbye Dahl

Have you made it to the Fringe yet? It's the last weekend here in Edmonton! We found a killer physical theatre show that features corde lisse (aerial rope) so of course we had to reach out to co-creator Esther de Monteflores about her show, CLIMB, touring from Vancouver.

What show?

  • CLIMB by Deathbench Productions

Where?

  • Fringe Venue 1 - ATB Financial Westbury Theatre

When?

  • Friday, Aug 19th - 10:15pm
  • Sunday, Aug 21st - 12:15pm

(CircoFit) Tell us about your show! Why should we go see it?

(Esther) CLIMB is something of a hybrid of circus and theatre that draws inspiration from a bunch of different sources but at its heart is the question of how movement and personal narratives change over the course of our lives. Do you remember how, when you were a kid, time seemed to move more slowly and a year was unimaginably long? 

We got thinking about how it felt like, as we got older, time was speeding up a bit and that led us to look at how growing up and growing old changes our self-awareness, our motor control, our cognition, our movement, and the narratives we tell about who we are. 

Oh, also, there’s cool aerial acrobatics and some really funny and moving writing as well as a gorgeous original score.

How were you introduced to circus?

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in California and was fortunate to be exposed to a lot of phenomenal circus as a kid. The Pickle Family Circus and Make*A*Circus as well as the San Francisco Mime Troupe were all really influential for me. In addition to local troupes, companies like Cirque Eloize were touring to San Francisco when I was young. I was so lucky to be able to go to these circus shows and see world class performers.

Where do you train now?

I co-rent a studio in Bellingham, Washington called the Cirque Lab. A bunch of circus performers who live in Bellingham all pitch in to maintain the space as a training facility as well as a performance space.

Is corde lisse your apparatus of choice?

If I'm working as an aerialist, corde lisse is my apparatus of choice. I love the simplicity and clarity of the rope, I think that it really highlights the performer's movement. 

In reality, though, I work mostly as a slackwire walker these days. I was an aerialist for a long time but always secretly wanted to be a wire walker. So I started training slackwire, eventually found a coach in San Francisco who I worked with, and then started performing slackwire about two years ago. Now that's my primary circus discipline.

So CLIMB is super special for me because it's so different from most of my other work.

CLIMB, Edmonton Fringe Festival 2016, photo by Abbye Dahl

CLIMB, Edmonton Fringe Festival 2016, photo by Abbye Dahl

What are your top tips for avoiding bruises and rope burn?

I actually bruise super easily, it runs in my family, so there's no real avoiding it for me. Besides, it makes you look cool, right?!? 
Basically, I try to really understand the mechanics of the movements that I'm doing and then dress appropriately for it when I'm training so that I don't burn myself. Circus can be really hard on your body but it's so worth it.

What's your favourite trick? Is it the audience's favourite?

I think that I'm most proud of my single arm hang. It's a move that seems to speak to both audiences and other circus artists. You don't need to know anything about aerial arts to know that hanging by one hand from the top of a rope is neat.

Rock rosin, spray rosin, neither, or both? 

Rock rosin + isopropyl rubbing alcohol. I try to resist using rosin when I'm conditioning so that I can train my grip strength but I do use it in performance. For CLIMB, I'm on stage for a full 45 minutes and it does get quite sweaty so the rosin really helps keep my hands from being slick towards the end of the show.

Any advice for our readers who want to story tell on corde lisse?

I think that what's especially cool about aerial arts is that there is already so much symbolism to the very act of being a human up in the air. I try to start from the place of, "What is this movement or this position or this action already saying?" and then I build from there. 

Thanks, Esther! Where can our readers see CLIMB and learn more about you?

We have two more shows at the Edmonton Fringe Festival. One tonight (Friday the 19th) at 10:15pm and our final show is Sunday the 21st at 12:15pm.

You can pick up tickets here: https://tickets.fringetheatre.ca/performances.php?eventId=601:575

You can also check out our website: www.deathbenchproductions.com for a bit more info about myself and Meredith Hambrock who co-created CLIMB. 

 

Photo credit: Abbye Dahl.

Subtext - What Brought Us Here

A bit about what brought us here...

Last night I ran into an old co-worker that I haven't seen in 5 years. She told me, "You look good. Wow, you seem...really different." Well I FEEL really different. Looking back at the last 5 years I feel like a completely different person.

The main difference? I learned to stand up for myself.

I was raised to be kind and polite, and society groomed me to deflect to men (I'm looking at you beloved Disney movies of my childhood) and always apologize (I'm Canadian eh) and always try to make others happy no matter what the cost to myself. Couple that with my eagerness to love and a certain naivety that others will return that love "if only I'm good/talented/thoughtful/caring enough" and what was created was...a total push-over. A doormat. Meghan in early adulthood was the easiest person to take advantage of, whether you set out to or just (reasonably) assumed I would speak up if I didn't want to do something.

Then, little by little, I started to realize that I needed to be an advocate for myself.

I started saying "no" to attending events that I wasn't really into, even if I didn't have plans that conflicted.

I left jobs where I didn't feel respected in search of better work culture.

I stopped making an effort to keep friends and acquaintances, except for the ones that I really enjoyed the company of.

I stopped saying yes to every performance opportunity thrown my way. If I didn't dig it creatively, I didn't do it, even though performing is my #1 passion.

I made it clear that I was unhappy at my day job when I was asked to absorb another position and greater responsibilities without a promotion.

I burned a bridge. I said goodbye to someone whom I respected, who gave me wonderful opportunities over the years, and whom I felt in debt to, because keeping them in my life meant not pursuing my ambitions.

I left a lover. A person whom I desperately wanted a future with, but who only ever put just enough into the relationship to keep me around. A person who others told me was my perfect match and who had the qualities I love in a partner, but who's dark half wore down at my self esteem and gaslighted me and left me worse for wear.

And here's where I ended up:

I do the things that make me happy. Sometimes that involves staying at home by myself for some self care.

I love the entire team at my day job. I got that promotion and a $7/h pay raise because they didn't want to lose me.

The acts that I've created in the last couple years (and my other creative pursuits) make me PROUD. They fulfill me. They have creative integrity.

The friends that remain are all MY BEST FRIENDS. They are the people I want to be stranded on an island with. They are the people that have faith in me even when I falter and lose faith in myself.

I can breath. I'm open to the future. Some people are like poisonous fruit: they look really fucking good on the branch, but they make you sick, and the longer you keep them around the more damage they do. Mental abuse can be subtle and unintentional and come from people you want to love and trust - boyfriends, girlfriends, employers, mentors, family, friends. You must be an advocate for yourself.

I will never stop wearing my heart on my sleeve, and of course that comes with the risk of having it broken over and over. I still have a lot to learn but I'm taking it one step at a time, and now...I'm investing in myself.

CircoFit is only a couple weeks away from opening. This is a scary place for me, but it's exciting, and I'm ready to pass along the tools that have helped me on this journey to becoming strong.

This gym is my heart. I'm sharing it with the world because that's what I do with my vulnerabilities. That will never change and it's not a weakness but a strength.

CircoFit will be a place for growing. Getting stronger. Expressing yourself.

CircoFit will be a place for empowerment.

CircoFit will be a place for excitement and creativity and passion.

CircoFit will be a place for accomplishment. For surprising yourself. For overcoming fears and negativity and self-doubt.

 

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