Where do you even begin?!
Everyone's process is a little different and you may start with any element (story, look, music, character, apparatus, etc), but often if you're VERY lost and overwhelmed (so many possibilities! so many ideas!), it may be helpful to start with MUSIC.
Where do I find potential music for my performance?
A good place to begin is your favorite music streaming service (Pandora, Iheartradio, Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, etc). I personally like Amazon Prime Music. If you already have Amazon Prime, you have access to a ton of free music through the Amazon Music app, and you play prepopulated stations and playlists, or create your own playlist. I understand Spotify is similar. When I'm casting about for music, I like to create a specific playlist for possible songs, and then pick a themed station or playlist and leave it playing as I go through my life (in the car, at work, etc), adding songs as they "speak" to me, even if it's not for THIS show or THIS character. This is even nice for just creating your own soundtrack for playing at open studio.
If you prefer to be more pointed in your music search, try using keywords for searches of lists of music online and then search for youtube videos or music videos using that music. For instance, if you think you might like to do a piece about love or romance, maybe you do a search for best love songs, or wedding songs, or classic 80s romantic comedy music, etc. Try asking other people for their recommendations. You might get THE song, or you might get another song from an artist or album recommended by a friend. You might be surprised! Sometimes recommendations can push you in directions or towards artists who weren't even on your radar. Better, they may help you find new keywords or new playlists with additional song possibilities.
What should I think about when I am listening to music on my quest for THE song?
How does the song make me feel? Am I happy? Sad? Does it take me on a journey? Does it make me angry? How could I express or show these emotions?
Does it tell a story? With words or wordlessly? Am I okay with there being these words? Do the words facilitate the story I want to tell? Are the words THE story? Or do I want my movement to speak for itself and tell the story?
What is the speed of the music? Is it fast or slow? Does the tempo change? What does that mean for my movement? Do I want to match the speed of the music, or might I want to show a contrast? Is the speed even feasible for me in my performance?
Would this music be more fitting for a specific apparatus? Or perhaps not fitting for a specific apparatus? Does it "feel" more like lyra music? Or definitely NOT rope music? Does it need an apparatus at all?
Does this music make me move? It's going to be hard to dance if the music doesn't inspire you to move in SOME way. How does the movement feel? Is it graceful? Is it chaotic? Is it awkward?
Is this a widely recognized piece of music? Will it conjure specific connotations for audience members, and do I want that? For example, in one of the recent teen troupe shows, the main character was Beetlejuice, and the music for the Beetlejuice piece was purposely derived from the theme music for Beetlejuice and the Beetlejuice cartoon. If that same music was used as the background for another piece, many in the audience would think Beetlejuice anyway.
Okay, so I have some possibles. Now what?
Great! Now play with them. Bring your music to open studio and get on an apparatus and move with your music.
(BTW: Wireless earbuds or a portable speaker is a great way to bring your music in and work on an apparatus without taking over the sound system!)
Is the music easy to move with on the apparatus? Does it feel better on one apparatus vs another?
What kind of skills, techniques, and transitions lend themselves to the music?
Is the music more structured or more freeform? Are there specific points in the music you want to hit? Would this moment be best for a drop, this other moment best for a pause or stillness? Or do you have a lot of room to play?
What kind of character/s exists with this music? Are they similar or do they provide a contrast? Would the music be more fitting for a solo or multi-person piece? Does the music express a duality? Might it be interesting to have those played by different people? Might it be more powerful as a group number? How many characters do you "see"?
Remember, we are all just playing and working and processing and finding our pieces at the moment, so have fun with it! Listen to music you've never heard before, or go home to old favorites-- Whatever works for you! Don't feel that your piece has to be epically graceful or ethereal and dance-like. Perhaps it is comical, or awkward, or intense. Perhaps it is violent and angry. Perhaps it revisits music or stories that are iconic in our lives. In our mosaic of stories, there is room for everything, and pieces that are a bit different make the whole show more interesting.
Andy Lewis & Jennifer Layton
On November 11th, 2016, Camille Osborne (Teen Troupe) and Lina Solis (Kids Troupe) attended the 4th Annual West Coast Aerial Arts Festival (WCAAF) in Orange County, California. The WCAAF is an aerial arts competition comprised of (3) fundamental aerial apparatuses, the Aerial Tissu; Aerial Hoop; Single or Double Point (Static) Trapeze; and an invented apparatus category. The competition was divided according to age group and was separated between amateurs and semi/professionals. We are proud to announce that Camille Osborne won first in her division - Trapeze. Lina Solis won third in her division - invented apparatus. Congratulations!
On December 10th, 2016, Gregg Curtis along with Larissa Robertson (an Aerial Studio Troupe Aerial Instructor), Zoe Curtis, Camille Osborne and Kevin Holland (talented Teen Troupe aerialists from The Aerial Studio) traveled to Cleo Restaurant at The Redbury Hotel in Los Angeles, California to perform two aerial acts at Emilia Hamburg's Bat Mitzvah. Gregg worked closely with Special Occasions to make this Bat Mitzvah a very successful and classy event.
Aaron Nelson has been a dedicated student and performer with The Aerial Studio for four years. As a 13-year old he began his training with strength building and tumbling. After a year of focused practice he started learning beginning skills on the apparatuses. Soon after, he was training with the teen troupe.
Now 17 and graduating from the troupe in addition to high school, we caught up with him to ask him what the past four years have been like for him growing up with such a strong circus influence, and his dreams for the future.
TAS: Tell us about your history with The Aerial Studio.
AN: My family first met the Curtis's through All American Ballet, where my sisters did ballet with Zoë. The ballet studio began to incorporate aerial into their upcoming Nutcracker. After my sister Aubrielle was chosen to be one of the two hammock artists for the show, we began spending more time visiting the gym where Carmen and Gregg were coaching. Briefly following, I started taking basic tumbling and strength training classes with Gregg once a week. That was certainly one of the highlights of my week! After nearly a year of training, I began learning basic rope and trapeze tricks. I was eager to learn.
I continued working with Gregg throughout my foundational training. One thing led to another and before long, using the technique I gained with Gregg, I was able to do all the skills that any of the other aerial students could.
Although, in the beginning I hadn't intended on becoming an aerialist (and I'm not sure that Gregg and Carmen expected it either), it became one of my strongest passions.
TAS: Did you have any fears or any other feelings that held you back as you began practicing aerial? How did you work through them?
AN: Honestly, I'm not afraid of heights, I'm not afraid to fail, and I'm not afraid to die, because of the life I know I have beyond death.
When I began aerial, I wasn't trying to become the best; I did it for pure enjoyment. I believe this is one of the reasons why my passion for the art didn't die down over time, but continued to grow. After I completed my first performance as a "jungle boy" when I was 14, I truly began to fall in love with the art of flying.
TAS: How have you developed/progressed?
AN: Haha, Immensely! In the beginning, it was hard for me to even climb the rope once. Like anything else one wants to master, it takes time, effort, and dedication. For me, the hip key was the high point of my frustration with aerial. Mentally, I understood the "how to," but for the longest time I couldn't translate what I saw in front of me, into my body. Once I mastered it, everything else made sense.
TAS: How long after you began practicing did you perform in your first show? What was that like for you?
AN: About a year and a half after I started aerial, I debuted in the Extraordinary Experience (The Aerial Studio's first big show in Ventura with top level staging and performers). It was thrilling!
TAS: What are some memories/highlights of your time with us at the studio over the past 5 years?
TAS: What do you hope to do with your aerial work in the future?
AN: I dream to someday have my own production company, focused especially for aerial, but I would like to incorporate all of the arts.
TAS: Anything else you'd like to share?
AN: I'd like to thank Gregg and Carmen for their continual support and dedication to making me the best I can be; Travis Newman for going beyond just being a coach, but also being a mentor; Autumn Phillips for her sincerity and genuine love, always wanting to see me succeed; and most of all Jesus for His unconditional love that He continues to show me!
TAS: How do you think that learning the aerial arts has affected your life?
AN: I believe aerial is not only physically a healthy activity, but also mentally. It’s an amazing way to express yourself and become more aware of who you are.
Not only has aerial provided me with a safe (which is ironic, because most of the time I’m dangling twenty feet in the air), non-competitive sport/art throughout my junior high and high school years, but it has also opened doors for my future.
I honestly think that I’ll reap many more of the benefits from the hours I’ve spent training at The Aerial Studio in the years to come.
The adult troupe recently premiered their first show on Valentine's Day of this year, aptly called "The Delicious Life of Love." The Aerial Studio was transformed into a dimly lit, romantic night club where patrons got to enjoy delicious food and wine as they watched adult aerial students perform a professional-level show that explored love in all its forms.
Many troupe members were first time performers, aerialists who have day jobs and practice aeral arts regularly simply for their love of it.
We caught up with one of these performers, Andy, and asked what the experience of being in the show was like for her.
Amanda Lewis (most of my friends call me Andy)
How long have you been practicing aerial?
Not quite two years. I took my very first aerial class around June 2013.
What was the experience of being in the show like?
It was all things-- It ran the gamut. It was wonderful, incredible, fantastic, fulfilling, exhilarating and rewarding. But it was also, at times, frustrating, terrifying and stressful. There were tears and breakdowns and there were hugs and laughs and words of encouragement. Above all, it was full of love, excitement and cooperation. And it was amazing.
Did you learn anything about yourself that you didn't know before? If so, what was that like?
I learned I could do it-- that's the biggest thing. I don't have a performance background. I wasn't an athlete. I wasn't graceful. I didn't do dance, gymnastics, cheer or theatre growing up. I was the weird kid who read books and made art. I was the kid who got hit in the face during dodgeball in gym class. I think the last time I was in a "performance" as such, it was an obligatory class production of Hamlet in the fifth grade. So I wasn't really sure what was going to happen when I actually faced the prospect of performing aerial in front of real people. But I did it, and I'm incredibly proud of that.
What was your biggest fear? How did you handle it?
My biggest fear was [and remains] looking totally ridiculous and awkward-- without meaning to, of course. Rightly or wrongly, I generally feel that I move fairly awkwardly most the time, but it's hard to be that girl among such talented and gorgeous individuals and performers. When I first started, I had to bring myself across some mental/emotional hurdles about feeling awkward just to go to aerial class, and then again when I moved into the intermediate class, and then again when I decided I would put myself forward to possibly perform in the show-- and I ended up in two very different pieces!
There were times I didn't think I could go through with it all, but I committed to give both acts and all of my partners everything I could and we did it together. I'm very grateful to all three women (Marya, Deidra, and Belinda) for asking me to partner with them in the first place. If I had to perform alone, it would have been easier to quit and give in to the fear and self doubt, but having partners and working as a team makes you accountable to more than just yourself--and it means that there's someone else out there going through all of the same struggles and triumphs and adventures with you. Working with such wonderful women gave me the confidence I needed to just accept that the best I had to give was plenty, and reminded me that many times, we're our own harshest critics.
That, and rehearsing. Rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. Once the moves are in your body to the point that you don't have to consciously think about them as much, you lose a lot of the awkwardness, I think. I hope. :)
Would you do this again? Why?
Yes. Totally. For all the ups and downs, in the end, all of the work for the show was worth it. Together we made an amazing thing that was [hopefully] an amazing experience for the audience, too. For most of us, this is not our day job. We don't do this for a living. We are all adults-- real people-- who come from diverse backgrounds and levels of experience and who fell in love with aerial. We put in hour after hour of training while balancing our jobs, our families and our outside lives to work on this project together. We dedicated ourselves to doing the best we can and I think we're all closer for it, but beyond that, I hope that someone watching was inspired by the show to try aerial or circus or to pursue their dreams and realize that the love of a thing can be enough, if you just make the effort and try.
By Jordann Baker, Aerialist & Artist
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
For as long as I can remember, I have always been an artist and an athlete. From an early age,
my dad helped me to cultivate my creative side, and I was happiest when painting, drawing, or
doing some other hands-on creative art. As I became a little older, my athletic side began to
emerge, and I found a love for track and cross-country running starting in the 8th grade.
Running lead to collegiate rowing, and later on an addiction to 60-mile bike rides looping around
the New England countryside. For me, visual arts and endurance athletics were two forms of
meditation, activities that I could fully immerse my mind and body into, and things that would
yield better and better results the more time I devoted to them. I never imagined, however, that
there could be something out there that could fully and completely unite my polar loves into one
Even as late as college, I didn’t have a single idea of what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” An
Architecture major enabled me to take art classes and graduate on time, with a degree I was
kind of into, so I went with that. After a year post-college in Boston working at a holistic health
store, chance and circumstance caused me to move to NYC where I decided it was time to get
a “real job.” I worked in a building next to Grand Central Station doing product development for
a real estate insurance company. I was using my degree, I suppose, and when my inner artist
just had to come out, it was usually in the form of a weird haircut or manic-panic hair color.
Needless to say, I was definitely the odd duck in the office, and the job was utterly unfulfilling to
The Call of the Circus
My life totally took a turn on New Year’s Eve of 2006, when I went to a New Year’s Eve party in Brooklyn at a historical bathhouse-turned-theater. That night, I saw some very talented aerialists perform live, on silks, and only meters in front of me. My mind was utterly blown! I kind of knew about silks...I had seen them on TV once, and thought it was cool...but to see it performed live!
The height and death-defying moves made my jaw drop, and the elegance throughout it all piqued my artistic sensibilities and made my imagination expand. How could one discipline so perfectly combine art and athleticism? I had to try it!
I registered for a 6-week beginner aerial class taught by that same group. I learned to climb, I did wrist-lock splits (with a lot of jumping to get my inversion), and foot wraps. I was a decent enough learner, but let’s face it, this stuff is hard! Even at my top rowing shape, I couldn’t do a single pull-up, and my strength level had a long way to go to catch up with my size. But really, I didn’t care. The challenge was so fun, and I loved working hard.
The end of the 6-week aerial session arrived and culminated in a student recital for our friends and family. I performed a footwrap with side layout! During the post-show celebration I expressed to the company director how much I loved doing aerial and said something like :
“I wish I could do this all the time!”. There was a brief pause in the conversation, and he said,
“Well, how about we talk about an apprenticeship?” While extremely flattered and excited, my rational post-college-trying-to-be-sensible brain took over and I brushed it off. I couldn’t be a fulltime aerialist! I couldn’t even invert!
But life wouldn’t let me quit that easily. Several false starts on branching career paths and the total inability to shake the desire to be in the air led me to accept the offer. I began training full-time, 5 days a week for about 4 hours a day. I helped out the aerial company in exchange for my apprenticeship, and worked as hard as I possibly could. Let me say again, I was NOT good.
But finally, after 2.5 months of training, I got my inversion in the air! I felt like anything was possible, and quit my insurance job to leap head-first into the air.
From Passion to Career
My desire to learn new skills and challenge myself didn’t stop - nor has it since. I sought out teachers and coaches whenever I could. I would train with professionals coming through NYC, travel to NECCA (then Nimble Arts) in VT and visit Montreal. I began to teach out of the Streb Dance Company’s space in Brooklyn, and started picking up performance gigs.
In 2008, the opportunity to open my own aerial studio presented itself, and I partnered with some other Brooklyn artists to found The Sky Box at the House of Yes. My partners and I ran the House of Yes as a premiere underground performance space, and hosted regular aerial and avant-garde performances to audiences of 100 or more.
In 2011, the winds of change brought me to Los Angeles, and the next phase of my aerial journey. Almost 9 years have gone by since I took my first aerial class, and I have had the opportunity to perform professionally in Hawaii, El Salvador, Dubai, NYC, LA, and at the Bonnaroo Music Festival. I have performed in front of celebrities, over water, in airplane hangars, and premiered my original Aerial Rock-n-Roll Circus, SHAPESHIFTER, in LA in May 2014. I have also had the opportunity to teach many hundreds of people of many shapes and sizes to do what I do, and to share my passion with them.
Trusting the Wrap...
I am extremely thankful to the universe for providing me with that one crazy opportunity, for having someone see a potential in me that I could not even see in myself at the time, and to that wild spark that convinced me to give it a try and see how far I could take it. I think that circus is an arena that can bring out the best in all of us. It can force us to confront our demons and work through self-imposed limitations to find facets of our character, and probably also our physical body, that we didn’t even know were there.
“Running away with the circus,” whether professionally or sometimes on weekends, is like a big drop on silks: you make a conscious decision to do it, you wrap yourself up in technique, and then, as if by magic, you are launched into an exciting world of possibility and community, that you can trust will be there to catch you.
Below is my multi-apparatus aerial montage reel, set to a "Venus in Furs" cover by my favorite band, Devotchka.
The Aerial Studio Troupe students and teachers outdid themselves with an absolutely spectacular performance on November 8 & 9th!
Digital Divide was The Aerial Studio's Fall 2014 Showcase, where technology and art collided. The aerial pieces depicted a world where we are torn between the new excitement of the limitless cyber universe and a desire to express the natural self. Aerialists, Dancers, and Acrobats led us into a deeper reflection of our lives.
This stellar performance left the audience in awe of such amazing talent.
A huge applause goes out to all the performers and volunteers for their hard work and dedication to aerial arts.
Thank you everyone!
By Wren Schaefer
AIReal Yoga Instructor
Most of you might know me as the studio manager, your instructor, or that lady who sends you too many emails.
But what you might not know is one of the main reasons I began working at The Aerial Studio. I was living abroad, just feeling stuck in my aerial training and being really overworked. I felt like I was learning tricks for shows and not really getting to know real techniques behind what I was performing.
This past Wednesday, I finished Bianca’s Act Creation Series and it just reminded me of why I wanted to train in a different way. It is fun to learn skills and it is fun to link them together, but it is also so fulfilling to go deep inside yourself and develop an act from what you relate to.
Bianca gave us exercises where I found myself giggling because I was going so outside my comfort zone. I felt all of the exercises were so beneficial to the end result and I still feel inspired to continue working on my character.
It is so inspiring to be able to work with Bianca. You can tell by the way she speaks about everyone’s different characters, she has so much experience and wisdom to share. She really looks at what you are doing and helps guide you on your journey and discovery of your act.
I am so grateful to have had this experience and to be able to find a deeper movement in myself. Classes like this are why I returned home, in search of something more profound.
Here is a video link of my final performance in class.
if you’re thinking of taking a class with Bianca, i highly recommend it! Here are the details:
By Vicki Royal
Pediatric ICU nurse at Children's Hospital Los Angeles
Mother of two beautiful children
When I was 9 years old I started having trouble walking.
It took 3 years and a lot of testing to figure out that when my ankle joints were developing, they were missing the space and the cartilage that is necessary for movement.
At 13, I started having corrective surgeries for my condition, at first trying to make the joint work for me, and when that didn't work, just trying to make it less painful. I had five operations, one every summer from Jr High through High School. Each time, I was on crutches or in a wheelchair for 6 weeks to 3 months.
During this time, I was told by my surgeon that I should be prepared for the fact that I would never have full function of my ankles, and that since the rest of my joints were having to perform all of my collateral movements, they would start to break down too.
The goal was to get me to my thirties without needing total joint replacements.
I was told that I would never be able to wear high heels, that having children would be a problem for my joints, and that I should try not to gain any weight, as this would increase the stress on my joints and speed up the time frame for joint replacements.
I'm the type of person who, when told that I can't do something, it's of course what I want to do. Just to prove people wrong. Thanks to The Aerial Studio, I'm the healthiest I've ever been, and I feel like I can do anything.
I started taking AiReal yoga just before my 29th birthday this year. At that time, my arthritis had progressed to all of my weight bearing joints up through my lower back.
A few weeks in, I ran out of one of my arthritis medications. I've been off of these medications for short periods before, but the pain always made me get back on them as soon as I could.
This time however, it was three weeks before I realized that I hadn't refilled it, and I still wasn't in any pain.
I decided to see how long I could last, and shortly came off of all of my medications for the first time in 20 years.
In the last eight months, I've added conditioning and aerial classes as much as I can, and am happy to say that I haven't had to take any arthritis medications since I first ran out in February.
These classes have allowed me to build strength and flexibility without the impact that was always so detrimental to my joints.
I am stronger, happier, and able to do things that I never thought I'd be able to do. I even wear high heels.
Both of my girls have been diagnosed with the same condition as me, so I'm hoping, with how great aerial has been for me, that it can save them from some of the pain that I went through.
Thank you Aerial Studio.
By Carmen Curtis, Owner and Managing Director of The Aerial Studio
Founder and Creator of AiReal Yoga
Yogi and Mom to the two best kids in the world:)
Ever wondered about who owns the studio or what I did before Gregg & I opened the studio?
I started out as a gymnast, and received a full ride scholarship to UCLA where we won the NCAA National Gymnastics Championship in 1997.
While at UCLA I also trained to be a personal trainer and started taking yoga.
After college I moved to NYC to perform with the show De La Guarda. This led to me touring around the world.
De La Guarda was the thrilling off-Broadway aerial show Gregg and I both performed and toured with:
This was one of my fave acts to do:)
After De LaGuarda, I co-founded AiRealistic, an aerial performance and rigging company. If you go to airealistic.com you'll see videos of our work. These are some of the pieces I have helped, create, develop and perform.
- Andre Chenier Pastorelle was an opera in Austria
- Spinning Ring was also an act I developed for the Opera Andre Chenier in Austria
- Dancing with the Stars I performed in, awesome split screen of the aerial dancers and riggers.
- LA Philharmonic
Franco Dragone asked me to help create a new show for him, Le Reve at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas.
Le Reve, http://dragone.com/en/shows/le-reve#the-show
I was a part of the research and development of this show, helped create the aerial acts and was the dance captain and performer for many years.
These are just a few fun videos and images to get a sense of where aerial and acrobatics have taken me. Most recently I've recently finished production on MTV's new show Beyond Dance, so stay tuned!