When you start out learning silks, you (hopefully) learn the fundamentals. Basic climb, footlocks, hammock knot, etc. From there you work your way up to classic, well-known silks poses and tricks, such as straddle-x, belay, and angel drop. As you become more advanced, you will probably begin to learn more drops, increasingly complex wraps, and combos (connecting skills together). Your teacher may eventually begin to teach you drops, sequences and shapes that she or he discovered.
Discovering original sequences and shapes has become one of the most, if not the most juicy part of silks for me. With the complexity of your body plus two fabrics to work with, there are at least thousands of possibilities. If the idea of finding new pathways excites you, read on for a couple tips on becoming a sequence designer.
The first and most important thing before you start making stuff up is to feel extremely confident in your relationship with the fabric. You understand where the fabric holds you and where it doesn’t. You know how to add a safety, such as a hand grabbing high, if you are trying something uncertain around your lower body. You are strong enough to hang for indefinite amounts of time by two hands and can also support yourself with one hand and various wraps on your body. You are prepared to practice wrapping skills from sitting, laying, or standing on the ground if you don’t know what will happen in the air. If you do not check all these boxes, you should not be originating new shapes and sequences.
So let’s say you feel competent in the fabric–where do you begin if you want to originate a sequence? Here’s the simplest approach I’ve come across:
1. Start a trick you know well.
2. Partway through, interrupt yourself. Look around you.
3. Do something weird.
Instead of going through all the steps of the skill like you usually do, consider going a different direction, moving the pole or tail to a different place, hooking where you wouldn’t normally hook, etc.
For example, in my first ever original sequence, I was sitting in a (right side) swing seat, a place I was extremely familiar and comfortable with. I crocheted my left leg and paused. Something occurred to me and I pulled my right leg through the center, arriving in a gentle backbend with one hand on and one leg crocheted. From there, the rest of the sequence pretty much presented itself to me, but I’ve been working its details out for over a year now. I named it Grapefruit Sparkles after my favorite healthy summertime drink. The sequence is posted at the top of the blog post.
Another great example of interrupting a familiar skill to make something new is my “Flirtatious Stirrup.” I was dong a Russian Flirt, and then passed my free leg through. This led me to a unique pose in which my bottom foot rested in a stirrup. You can see this in the video at the end of this post. There are several more opportunities for shapes and transitions in that one.
This interruption of your usual pattern is what allows for creative thinking. Instead of following the set of steps you are used to, resist your muscle memory and find a different pathway. To me, this is a very beautiful, intriguing, and satisfying example of how moving or thinking outside our default patterns in life can lead to exciting new discoveries. That feeling of discovery feeds me on a deep level, and its something I really look forward to in silks.
You can also approach a problem theoretically. If you know the elements needed to create a belay (you need an X and a loop!), you can probably think up some interesting ways to get there. Once I had gotten the idea that I wanted a new way into swing seat. I woke up from a nap one day and thought, I need to get my body between those fabrics over my thigh hitch, but in a new way…I got on the silks and immediately found my answer.
You may not plan for discovery. There can be a lot of happy accidents in silks design. Frequently, I encounter a new possibility when I get into a flow state. Sometimes this is when improvising to music, sometimes even when conditioning. Even though conditioning is by nature repetitive, seeing and feeling the same moves repeatedly actually helps me realize the different places various moves could lead to. So in this way conditioning is an ally to your creative self!
But one more thing…How do you know that it’s an original? Well, you don’t. Just because you’ve never seen it doesn’t mean another aerialist hasn’t also discovered it. But if you came up with it without any guidance, then it’s an original for you. By the way, as far as etiquette, most aerialists will be appreciative if you credit them for a sequence or trick you show on Instagram, so if you know the source, share it. Nobody owns the art of aerial silks, but someone may have worked on a sequence for years and will be grateful that you acknowledge them when you share.
If you discover something that takes you to a new place, work on it for weeks, months, or years. As soon as it takes you one new direction, it’s likely that there are many branches you can follow from there. I recently discovered a new pathway that I’ve been calling “The sequence that keeps on sequencing” because it leads to one thing after another. I’ll post that when I work it out in more detail 🙂
I hope you find this article helpful as you start thinking about creating original silks shapes and sequences! Feel free to comment or contact.