So excited to share some new things on the blog this month, starting with introducing you to my amazing friend Kerry Wee. Kerry and I both grew up in Ohio and danced together through high school. After graduation we took very different life paths. Kerry ventured off to LA where she became an aerialist, dancer and choreographer with much professional success. So proud to know her, I aspire to be her and I love I can call her my very close west coast friend.
As dancers it is important to know, dance and be able to create in multiple different styles. Moving into the professional world it is also important to test your abilities and try new things on and off the ground. Kerry zoned in on her aerial skills after moving to LA. She performs as an aerialist, teaches and trains. She has an amazing blog and shares tips and tricks in her online space. I wanted to share my great friend’s work with all of you.
Read one of her blog entries below. Click on the link to subscribe to Wrap Your Head Around Silks to learn great insight about the dance world and fall in love with silks through Kerry’s eyes.
Class Etiquette 101
Rules on how to behave in a class setting exist for both the teacher and the student. They help facilitate a serious learning environment where the teacher has the undivided attention of the students and vice versa. They create structure and a safe place for the vulnerability that students experience when trying to comprehend, absorb and execute something difficult like silks. At some point in our lives, we have all been in a classroom environment and have been informed on the do’s and don’ts. Here’s your cheatsheet from a classically-trained dancer’s perspective.
Be on time.
Punctuality is what we attempt to do everyday with all of our appointments. We all have busy lives, but if you commit to going to class, then commit to being on time. Filing in late is disruptive to the teacher, the other students and it takes away from your own training time.
Having said that, this is a simple rule but not always so easy to do. I’ve got a long time student (who is also my editor) who races from her job through LA traffic to just barely make it to 6:30pm silks. On top of that, she’s got a boss who doesn’t seem to understand that getting to aerial is the most important thing in the world! Sarcasm aside, I get it. Even with the best intentions, sometimes it’s difficult to be on time. In other circumstances, it is possible to get in the car just ten minutes earlier. Make this small effort and you’ll feel more settled when the session begins.
Come prepared to work.
In any learning scenario, if you don’t do your homework, dress accordingly and follow instructions, you’re not going to reach your goals. When you walk into the studio focused and prepared, you are respecting your teacher, classmates and your own time. Aerial space in almost every city in the world is limited. Even in LA there’s a shortage of open gyms and classes during primetime hours (weekday evenings and weekends.) Take advantage of your studio time with the right mindset to receive the full benefits of your practice.
Have a good attitude.
Good energy is just as contagious as bad energy. As they say, “One bad apple spoils the bunch.” If you’ve had a crappy day, be aware that your classmates may only have this time out of their entire week to enjoy being in the air. In addition, you never know what how hard your classmate may be struggling to make this positive despite their own terrible day. Try to be positive even if it’s just for the good of the group.
Take corrections well.
Accepting and absorbing corrections can be challenging because it can feel very personal. Depending on many factors including your relationship with the teacher, how you feel that day, your strengths and weaknesses, corrections can feel like criticism. As a dancer, I often took it that way and it negatively impacted my growth and my experience in the process. I had to shift my perspective to get more out of my career. If your teacher corrects you, it’s a good thing. It means that he or she wants you to get better. In fact, any correction given in class can be applied to your practice. Soak it up like a sponge.
Get off your phone.
Put your phone down, you don’t need it. When you’re on your phone, your attention is divided. You get cheated out of your learning potential and it’s disrespectful to the teacher. You’ve committed to going to class and if it’s not a family or work emergency, then it can wait. Classes are usually an hour to ninety minutes, so being without your phone is doable. I challenge you to go DARK during that short amount of time.
Stay engaged for the entire class.
Being mentally present when you’re learning aerial is extremely important because your own life is in your hands. Most people are acutely aware of this, therefore I don’t usually see students mentally disengaging when they’re in the air. However, what I do see all the time, is that disengagement before and after airtime when other students are on the silks. Whether it’s stresses at work or at home or the very common addiction of checking your phone every five minutes, there are plenty of things that work against us in our task of staying in the present moment.
Here’s an exercise that I picked up in yoga that helps me keep my mind from wandering. Take note of the feeling of the fabric in your hands, the sweat on your brow, how the studio feels to you and the voices around you. Concentrate on what your body feels like in that moment and nothing else. Remind yourself that whatever needs your attention can wait.
Do not instruct other students.
Students instructing students in class is the most common thing that I come across when teaching aerial. It’s usually born from a place of empathy and helpfulness but with it comes an adult version of the game “telephone.” The teacher instructs and a student tries to help out a peer by repeating the instruction. They have only heard it once and more often than not, regurgitate it incorrectly. It’s like the blind leading the blind. Learn from your classmates by watching their mistakes and successes but let your teacher do the teaching.
Put on your listening hat on.
Listening is one of the most important human skill sets to practice. My teacher used to say to me, “you can’t really listen when you’re talking.”
Somedays I am a teacher and other days I am a student. Writing this blog and working with an editor is a good example of role reversal. As someone who wasn’t actually trained to write who is now doing so quite a bit, I know that I need guidance and corrections. When my editor takes out the time to make detailed notes, handing my drafts back bleeding red ink, my response back to her is always THANK YOU, regardless of how my ego may be reacting. She is trying to make me better and it’s my choice whether or not to take it in. Fighting it or arguing out of a bruised ego will not serve me.
As an aerial instructor, I give my students my time and all of my experience through lectures, instruction and corrections. Mentally checking out while your teacher is instructing you or your classmates cheats you out of what you could get out of class and devalues the time, knowledge and effort that your teacher puts in. On the flip side, when I’m in aerial class, I am a student who follows the same rules and I’m grateful to do so. It’s luxurious to have the time to work on myself with my ears open and mouth shut. Try refreshing your practice with these simple guidelines and I’ll bet you’ll see the payoff pretty quickly, whether it’s a feeling of stability with more structure, a sense of calm or a physical improvement.
Wrap Your Head Around Silks
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Don’t be afraid to fly –