Every(body) is Different

Aerial Fitness Class

If you look around at traditional images of aerialists you will likely pull up photos of people who are white, thin, lithe, with visible muscle tone. When I look at myself however I see a short black woman with a round stomach and a large chest. I will admit I was super intimidated when I first started aerial because I knew my body type was different from a “traditional” aerialist or circus performer. I had grown up as a cheerleader, but my body was different even then. I was worried that I weighed too much or was not strong enough to be an aerialist (even a recreational one). I forged ahead with my first class anyways and was delighted to find that I was totally wrong. First off, there is no weight you must be to train as an aerialist. Properly rigged points and high quality equipment can hold thousands of pounds. So if you feel like your body is too heavy to start, I am here to tell you ….it’s not doll. Go ahead and sign up for that class! Secondly, you do not have to have any upper body strength to take an aerial class. A good studio or coach will meet you where you are. They will provide moves that you can do at your current starting point and provide training to increase strength so if you wish you can try more advanced moves down the line. Lastly, you do not have to be able to contort yourself into a box to be an aerialist. I have so many students tell me they cannot do a full split and seem ashamed by that fact, they are always surprised when I look at them and say “neither can I.” Your flexibility will not determine your success as an aerialist. 

With that out of the way and you headed to sign up for a class, I do want to talk about how different body types can impact your aerial training overall. Though your body weight, strength, or flexibility will not prevent you from being an aerialist, certain aspects of your body might prevent you from being able to do certain moves (or you may have to modify a move). This is not a bad thing, and does not reflect your skill or talent, it just means that everyone is different and coaches must account for that. For me my body’s kryptonite has proved time and time again to be the melons that sit on my chest (hah!). I thought for the longest time I was just super bad at doing ball inversion under bar apparatuses. I tried time and time again. I compressed my body so hard my toes would start to cramp. One day a coach told me that a ball inversion on lyra or trapeze might not be possible because my chest would simply just not move out of the way (which I find extremely rude to be honest). Though it was frustrating, it was actually a relief to hear that it wasn’t my strength or skill that was lacking, it was simply my boobs getting in the way (something I cannot change unless I have a surgical procedure). I no longer felt like some failure and it led me to focus on nailing the types of inversions I was capable of! 

I think some form of this can be true for all aerialists. There might be something unchangeable about your body type that makes certain moves impossible or some sort of modification is needed. If you have a good coach they will recognize that, not shame you for something you cannot change, and provide you with alternatives. If you have a coach that can only make aerialists out of one body type, you might want to reconsider letting them train you. The circus has always been about having different people from different backgrounds show up and put on a show for an audience. How boring would it be if all the members of the circus looked exactly the same? This should hold true for more contemporary circus arts. Aerialists come in all shapes and sizes, all of which are valid and welcomed. You should always embrace where you and your body are on your aerial journey, and know that no matter what you are killing it out here!

With so much love, 

Casandra ♥️