Our Circus Training Journey
My interest in dance and fitness began more than a decade ago. At the time, I just enjoyed taking classes with my friends and trying something new. I started with Latin ballroom and then added Pilates and spin classes. My dance instructor had been teaching ballroom for more years than I had been alive, and my group fitness instructors had their certifications on the wall in the fitness rooms. When I took the jump from student to instructor, I already had an appreciation for the training and education that my instructors had and set out to model my fitness career after well respected professionals in the industry.
Love of the aerial industry and a desire for knowledge has led me to multiple certifications at this point in my aerial journey. I’ve been a group fitness instructor through AFAA since 2012. I’m also certified as a pole fitness instructor, an aerial yoga instructor, an advanced Barre instructor and most recently, I’ve been studying trapeze. While there are certain parts of the certifications that consist of repeated information, such as how to structure a class or write choreography, I find it beneficial to review this information every few years. One of the things that I value is constant learning, from reputable and accredited resources.
Recently myself and my aerial partner in crime, Kelly, have been training to certify in lyra and trapeze. We have held off releasing these classes to the public until we were at the point in our certification where student teaching was required to complete certification. For example, my trapeze certification required that I spend a year training the apparatus myself and then submit a practical video for acceptance into the program. Once in the program I had to read several aerial manuals, complete several packets of information, attend a 30-hour onsite practicum and then apply to the formal certification program. Now I am writing curriculum, mentoring with professional trapeze artists, student teaching, practicing skills for myself and completing multiple assessments. After all of that is complete, only after an interview and verbal exam, will I gain my certification.
Why go through all of this and delay programs? Simply put, you can’t learn aerial from a book or social media. There are nuances and tips with each of the apparatuses that we are teaching. If I’m using an improper technique because it’s how I interpreted the diagram in an aerial book or what I thought I saw on Instagram, I will teach my students that improper technique. When Kelly and I complete our lyra and trapeze certifications, we will each be 1 of 4 certified in our respective apparatuses in the state of Wisconsin. This means that in order to learn and train these skills, we must study on our own or travel to train with a professional. Without certifications and proper training from professionals and accredited programs, we would be unsafe and teaching moves improperly because we hadn’t been taught proper technique.
We choose to pursue certification prior to teaching an apparatus because we value the learning process and partnering with professionals in the industry. Personally, I feel more confident as an instructor when I’ve been taught how to teach various skills safely and how to help students at any level achieve success. Teaching aerial is an art within the art. We also require our instructors to complete a training program in their apparatus of choice as well. For pole, we utilize Pole Moves and Spin City which are both recognized by the Pole Dance Community and AFAA. Training with a professional and learning from an accredited program teaches us how to give students progressions and regressions for tricks, proper body patterning and conditioning techniques, how to ensure that they are setting themselves up for success and most importantly, how to keep students safe so that they can enjoy a long aerial journey.
There are only a few certification programs for aerial silks, lyra and trapeze that are accredited and approved group fitness programs. An accredited program means that the instructors are competent and qualified to teach the programs that they are offering and that they have presented their qualifications and program for approval to one of the governing bodies in fitness (AFAA, ACE, NASM). We can compare an accredited fitness program to a university. If a university isn’t backed by a governing educational body, then it isn’t accredited, and the degrees received from these universities don’t carry the same weight as a degree that comes from an accredited university.
The accredited aerial programs include Born to Fly, Spin City and the Circus Arts Institute. We have chosen to utilize all three of these programs to pursue our certifications. My trapeze certification is from Born to Fly and Kelly has received her silks certification through the Circus Arts Institute and is completing her lyra certification through Spin City. This allows us to pull knowledge in from the three major aerial training powerhouse sources in our industry and write a comprehensive program that teaches our students proper technique and conditioning and positions them for success in the aerial world whether they want to perform or have a fun workout.
While pursuing certifications in the industry has slowed us down in releasing new programs, it has also given us a strong circus program that holds its own next to the major circus schools in the US. Our students are learning the same curriculum that aerialists learn at Boulder Circus Center, Canopy or even the Madison Circus School. Our journey is ever growing and expanding so that we can provide our students the best training out there! We’ve studied aerial teaching and training extensively and are extremely proud to be able to offer a true circus program in the Fox Valley!