I’m not usually one for “quick tips” or “hacks” because I really like to go deep on the things I care about. The reality is the quest for grace is much deeper than anything written here, and involves quality of consciousness and your relationship with yourself, your expectations, and more.
However, there are some super practical tips to get yourself looking and feeling more graceful, and I wanted to share them. So for now let’s just look at a few ideas that can make you feel and look more graceful right away, and then at the end, if you have thoughts you’d like to share on the long-term journey of grace, please fill out the survey!
Eliminate your swing
Unless you are intentionally incorporating pendulum movement into your act, strive to eliminate side-to-side movement in your apparatus. The side-to-side adds a distracting visual and kinesthetic element.
When mounting your apparatus, make sure your apparatus is hanging directly beneath the rigging above. E.g., if you wrapped a single footlock on the ground, when you stand on it, you want the tail of the fabric beneath the rigging, rather than your head beneath the rigging with your foot sticking out in front of you, no longer under the rigging.
As you put your weight onto the apparatus, avoid adding lateral forces. Practice standing just far enough away and allowing just enough force to swing you under the rigging and no further. Climb on with intention. Depending on how you are mounting and what your apparatus is, you may have to calculate where you stand or hold the apparatus as you mount.
Move slowly and intentionally
You do not *have* to move slowly to be graceful, but moving slowly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to practice gracefulness. I had a beautiful moment teaching a youth class once. They had really been rushing through everything, so I paused everyone for a moment and asked them to move very slowly for the next segment. They listened and tried it, and they looked more graceful than I had ever seen.
Rushed movements are the enemy of grace. It’s not *fast* that’s a problem, but rushed. Artistic movement is not trying to “get” anywhere. One of the beautiful opportunities of aerial movement is to become present. See how much you can prolong a simple movement like a reach or a leg extension. Appreciate every breath, pose, and transition. The next pose is not more or less important than this pose.
Try lingering in your poses and transitions. We often feel like we are holding longer than we really are, and if you have an audience, they will really appreciate your pauses, especially if you have a spin. Some poses look like nothing from one angle and spectacular from another.
But if you are merely frozen in space, this might not be very interesting to watch. Keep the moment alive with expressive movement in the feet, toes, fingers, hands, neck, or even face. (Purpose is key. If you have choreographed a “frozen” moment into your act, awesome!) A spin can also help contribute a sense of continuity in your movement even as you are still. Stillness is a really interesting element to work with in aerial art. We don’t want to stutter or stop per se, but pauses are definitely valuable.
Of course, moving slowly in aerial is HARD. It often requires longer grip endurance and very good apparatus awareness (so you are not partially falling out of wraps or holds). If you strive for grace, keep up your conditioning!
Put on some chill music you can get into a flow with and focus on taking your time. If you video yourself and don’t mind sharing, please tag me on @wakefulascentaerial! Don’t worry about being “good enough” to share–it is the beauty of your journey that stands out the most.
A gentle spin with minimal swinging can offer a really lovely effect, and, as I mentioned, help you maintain a sense of continuity in your movements. Keep in mind that if you’re using silk or rope, a longer tail can interfere with your spin. You may need to pick it up to keep it off the floor.
When adding a spin to aerial silks, think of stirring a big cauldron slowly, rather than rapidly flailing the tail around. Sometimes the way your fabric is wrapped makes handling the tail quite difficult, and you don’t have room to make a big circle with your arm without hitting yourself or your other tail. In this case a tight rapid spin of the tail may be necessary. Take some time to explore your options and break down your spin a bit before trying to work it into a sequence.
Touch with intention
Think about how you reach for and touch your apparatus. Strive for the least amount of grip you need, except when gripping hard as a form of expression.
If you’re reaching your hand to grab somewhere on your apparatus, try closing just one finger around at a time, super slowly (…damn), while looking at the camera/audience.
Think about how other body parts touch your apparatus or your own body as well. If you are grabbing your ankle for a split, can it be less of a grab and more of an invitation? Meet your apparatus and body with the minimal amount of force (unless using force as a form of expression…are you noticing a pattern here? haha).
Technical hands, feet, and legs
There are many ways to make your hands beautiful and interesting. Doing SOMETHING is the important part. Bring energy in! Extend your fingers. For a classic pretty hand, drop your middle finger slightly and hover your thumb beneath it. Don’t overly flex your wrists in either direction. Stay supple and intentional through the hands and wrists.
Avoid sickling your feet (turning in) except as needed to secure yourself on your apparatus. This often happens when the legs are fanning over, like the toes are pointing to where you’re going next. You generally want your feet slightly everted (turned out) so watch out for this.
Pointed toes are the rule, but flexed feet offer an amazing form of expression when used intentionally. Try flexing and pointing your feet alternatingly or together with the music.
Legs should *generally* be turned slightly out in external rotation, with strong quad engagement to eliminate your microbend when legs need to be straight.
Relax your face and breathe
Strong muscular engagement is essential for safe and beautiful aerial work, and applied appropriately, so is softness and relaxation. Finding the balance between strength and relaxation is very much the work of grace, and it is not always straightforward or easy.
Try to breathe, unclench your jaw, and open up the range of (e)motion in your face muscles. I regularly cue my students to breathe, and I can often sense their need to open their lungs by observing a quiet rigidity in their body, even from far away. However, it is far from being something I have mastered myself!
We need regular reminders to breathe while we spend so much energy focusing on *what* our body is doing. One of the benefits of working on a skill or sequence over and over is that eventually you need to give less energy to the technical details, and you can move on to the rest of the nuances.