In the Aerial Teacher’s Handbook, I talk about different levels of understanding of a single skill (no matter the level that skill is in the curriculum). To recap, a beginning understanding of a skill means the student knows one entrance to a pose and one exit. An intermediate understanding of a skill means the student knows multiple entrances and exits, and advanced understanding means the student is able to use the skill to generate new material.
I recently came across an outline for a classical curriculum, and it got me thinking about how this could bring more clarity to structuring courses in the aerial arts. A classical education begins with the trivium, which is composed of grammar, logic, and rhetoric.
Grammar is the foundation, the alphabet, the building block vocabulary of a subject. In the aerial arts, grammar covers basic components like mounts, inversions, basic shapes or poses, and bases of support (the thing that keeps you in the air - a foot lock is an example). Grammar is also about learning class structure, which includes warm-up, review, new skills, and cool-down. This matches a beginning understanding of skill (one entrance, one exit), and if you’re a fan of Bloom’s Taxonomy, it aligns with the first two levels of learning: remember, and understand.
In general schooling, the grammar phase takes place from kindergarten through 6th grade (ages 5-12), which is also true in many movement classes. It’s important to note that beginner aerial classes must also cover aerial grammar (like foot locks) for both safety and technique. Very young classes (ages 5-7) focus on ground movement skills like coordination and balance for developmental appropriateness.
Logic is understanding cause and effect, how things work, and being able to organize thoughts into logical statements/arguments. In the aerial arts, students in this phase understand the positive effects of a proper warm-up, cool-down, and conditioning program. They become interested in solving aerial theory puzzles and discovering why a skill works, thus reinforcing grammatical concepts learned previously. This phase aligns with an intermediate understanding of a skill, which involves knowing multiple entries and exits. It also correlates with the third and fourth levels of Bloom’s: apply and analyze.
In general schooling, the logic phase shines in 7th - 8th grade (ages 12-14). This means that generally speaking, older kids are more cognitively ready for logic puzzles than say kindergarteners (although I’m sure there are exceptions). In aerial, it is possible to offer logic puzzles on Day One of a beginner class, as long as it is level appropriate and highlights a Day One concept like hand placement.
Rhetoric involves articulating one’s thoughts persuasively, and generating new ideas by re-organizing old ones. It’s about asserting one’s opinion on a matter, or one’s unique point of view. In the aerial arts, students at this phase know how to warm themselves up properly, regulate a conditioning schedule, and cool-down effectively. They know the demands of the art form and what makes their own body function best. In skill development, rhetoric involves creating entries and exits from a skill (mastery). In Bloom’s, it correlates with the highest levels of learning: evaluate and create.
In general schooling, rhetoric is the focus of grades 9-12 (ages 14-18). While it may be easy to see how rhetoric can be part of an advanced aerial class, what about everyone else? I think it’s possible to do even on Day One in a beginner class. For example, the instructor of a low sling class may invite students to use the skills learned that day in a brief improvisation. For younger students, this might be “free dance” time at the end of class. (Notice how a simple change in verbal instruction makes improvisation appropriate for different age groups, but that is another blog post.)
Conclusion: Understanding different levels of learning is useful in structuring a logical, cohesive, and creative curriculum without being restrictive. Each part of the trivium can be addressed in all phases and levels of learning. Different parts of the trivium can be highlighted depending on the needs and goals within a class (a beginner class can still include logic and creativity, but in smaller doses than advanced classes). In Bloom’s Taxonomy terms, getting to higher levels of thinking (like rhetoric) is a great goal to have in every aerial class, even for beginners. Just remember that safety is key, so choose activities that are level-appropriate.
Have you offered puzzles or creative prompts in an aerial technique class to take them up to the logic or rhetoric levels? If so, how did it go? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
The Aerial Teacher’s Handbook by Julianna Hane
The Ambrose School - The Classical Approach:
Julianna Hane traded life on a cotton farm to become a dancer and aerialist. She is the Director of Training at Born to Fly, and enjoys nerding out on teaching and anatomy.
Photo Credit: Nina Reed Photography
We are thrilled to welcome April Moore Skelton to the faculty here at Born to Fly! April will join Julianna in running the Trapeze 1 Teacher Training in Castle Rock, CO June 4-8, 2018.* I've asked April some questions so that you can get to know her better.
Q: What is your current role in the field (i.e. teacher, studio owner, etc.), and in what city are you based?
I recently wrapped up two years as Education Director at Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance in Boulder, Colorado, and moved back to my "chosen hometown" of Asheville, North Carolina. I am proud to be an aerial instructor at Empyrean Arts in Asheville!
Q: When did you start training in the aerial arts?
I started my aerial journey in 2004 at Canopy Studio, in Athens, Georgia (founded by Susan Murphy, now led by Melissa Roberts). My first and favorite apparatus is dance trapeze, but my interests and style on that apparatus have evolved greatly.
Q: What motivated you to start aerial training?
I was a photojournalism student in college who attended a show at Canopy to shoot some images. I was transfixed by what I saw and decided I had to sign up for class as soon as possible! At the time it seemed like a novel and quirky adventure, and a way to meet people and make friends.
Q: What keeps you going today?
Aerial arts has served so many purposes in my life over my 15 years in this form. One thing that remains consistent for me, is that it is a way to be fully present. I can really be with myself, my physicality and emotionality, or with my students and their experiences, completely in the moment. That is remarkable, and is more and more precious to me every year.
Q: How has your teaching evolved from when you first began?
My first teaching assignment was for a group of 5-10 year olds, with my best friend and trapeze partner. We were so overwhelmed by the challenge of corralling these kiddos in any semblance of an organized class, but we did have a lot of fun! Thank God we had lots of energy, mats, low equipment, and patient parents. Contrary to some people's belief, teaching children is not "easier" because they may be doing less advanced skills! I apprenticed beside an experienced teacher when I started teaching adults. I think early in my teaching career, I tended to use a lot of words and talk too much. I like the sound of my own voice! One thing that transformed my teaching was going back to school to get a degree as a physical therapist assistant. Through my work in that field, it became so apparent that good teaching involves careful observation and listening. I think the world could use a lot more good listeners. I try to use fewer words now, and give my students space to show me what they need.
Q: What are your primary interests as an instructor/teacher trainer?
As ed director at Frequent Flyers, I trained our new teachers over the course of a school year, and I really enjoyed helping them refine their lesson plans--using different ideas and approaches, and helping them understand that there are so many ways to reach a goal--choosing a different way to get there is fun for the students, but helps keep the teacher excited as well! I love creating a classroom "container" that is inclusive and where students feel safe to share their own ideas, and enjoy working with teachers in training to figure out how to create that for their own students. After teaching many kinds of students, from novices to professionals, I know that my favorite students are intermediate/advanced recreational students--there is something so life-enriching about being able to create a place for adults to explore their playful, resilient, artistic selves.
Q: If you could choose just one thing, what would you like for people to know about teaching in the aerial arts?
Great Teachers are Great Learners. Teaching aerial is a craft that one learns over a long period of time. A beginning teacher will not be a Great Teacher, but should be at the minimum, a safe teacher. An average teacher, however, can become a Great Teacher, with mentorship, curiosity, an appetite for continued learning, and a willingness to work. Embracing the process--the reality that Great takes time and commitment--will allow you to embrace and enjoy where you are in your journey without judgment!
*April will join us if the class has 5 or more participants enrolled by March 15, 2018.
Julianna Hane traded life on a cotton farm to become a dancer and aerialist. She is the Director of Training at Born to Fly, and enjoys nerding out on teaching and anatomy.
Post by Rebekah Leach
I think you definitely have to have the right mindset and advertising when it comes to running taster classes. When I first opened my business, I did them once/week (1 hr for free) because I was desperate for students, but I quickly got very bitter when I ran into a very common problem with Free One-Time Classes --> few people ever came back. They just wanted a free class. They wanted to “try it once” for fun and be done. (Note: We call these "bucket list" classes and they are a huge source of revenue, so it's not the best idea to be giving them away for free all the time.) I started getting really bitter because of all the free-loaders who should have booked a private group lesson instead -- I’m running a business!!! And so I stopped running them. But then...my student population was shrinking and I was desperate again...so I started them again, but with a new mindset and new rules in place. Now, I consider my “Test-Drive Tuesdays” to be one of my most effective ways of getting in new students. But, I had to structure it very carefully to make it successful (and me not be bitter). One degree to the right, I would be a bitter teacher running a bunch of free classes for a population that can’t afford aerial and just wants to suck me dry. One degree to the left, now I am a kind-hearted studio owner, graciously offering free classes in return for word-of-mouth advertising and a chance to welcome eager new students into a non-intimidating environment to find out if we are a good fit for each other.
So, here are the rules I live by which have made all the difference. Disclaimer: these rules fit my personality. and my studio vision. They may not fit yours. If you would like help finding more about what would work for YOU, sign up for a mentorship hour and let’s talk more!!!
1) I only run Free Taster Classes when I have other lessons going on in the space. At first, I did this simply because I couldn’t afford to clear the studio for a free class, but I’m starting to realize the benefits are far more deep than the financial side. Often times my taster students are really inspired by what they see other students doing on the other side of the room. At first, I thought that this could go south, that the intimidation factor would discourage them. But, seeing other students is very powerful. They end up really want to join because they see other humans doing this, not just the amazing instructor. :)
Another benefit that I didn’t anticipate- but what has started happening at my studio--is that my regulars cross paths with the newbies and encourage them to join! They have become my biggest advocates and sellers of my classes right there in the studio to the new people. For the ground-up, we’ve established a welcoming air, an community attitude that is excited to have new people join and we encourage each other. So, rather than new people feel intimidated by the other students because they are advanced and awesome, those amazing aerialists actually encourage the newbies to stick with it and try it a second time because they looked and felt the same way on their first class. They might call over, “Yeah, that hurt for me too when I first started. It takes some time but you’ll toughen up.” Or they might chat with them before or after class and answer questions that they have about how long it took to get comfortable going upside-down or something...and it means SOOO much more coming from another student than an instructor.
2) When I run a taster class, I run it at the same day and time as the first day of a new intro 4-week course, (which is sold at a ridiculously good price, so many new people have gone straight for that rather than the free class). That means that paying customers who have signed up for a 4-week session are right alongside freebie students who might only come once. This motivates me to feel like the hour is not wasted because I actually have paying customers in the mix. Having more people on the first day of the session makes it feel fun and festive, so everyone welcomes the extra newbies. The whole time, I talk about what we will learn over the next 4 weeks and the Taster students can definitely take my hints! (I want them to sign-up for the whole session.) I don’t give any discount on the session because it’s already at a low price, so when they sign-up for the whole session at the end of the first class, no one feels like they are getting a bad deal. After all, they did just take the first class for free...so they are understanding about it. And when they sign-up for the rest of the session, I feel amazing and justified because that class wasn’t free afterall. They end up paying the same price at everyone else who already planned to be there all 4 weeks.
3) The next time I run a Taster Class, it is right smack dab in the middle of the 4-week course (week 3). I only do this if the enrollment is less than 6 people. Because my intro course starts on a new apparatus every week, it's easy to have new people jump in in the middle of the course. For example, if I only have 4 people signed up for the 4-week course, I will allow 2 people to come in for a taster course at week 3. If they are interested in signing up for the course, I let them finish out that course with us and then take the first two weeks of the next course, so they get all 4 classes in the end. Or, they might start at the beginning of the next course, but that’s still a win because they are coming back!
4) Sometimes I get a session where no one signs up for the intro course. That’s when I slightly change my strategy for the Taster Classes. I have the room for more people into my Taster Class, so I might get up to 6 people trying it for the first time (which is more risky because I might get a bucket list group). I still run it every other week, but I shorten the time to 45 minutes. And I describe it as an orientation class. I want people to feel like they are getting a tour, not a free class. It's important to make the small shift in expectations so that they come in with the right mindset. Also, since no one in the class is paying for this free class, I am not obligated to give them a full class-worth of aerial skills. While I still introduce them to aerial things, I change what we do based on what they might be interested in.
I typically start with a short tour of the studio,chat about rules and guidelines, and while we are warming up, I tell them about myself and the studio. I have them share about themselves and why they are here. It's important to note WHY a student came. If they tell you, "I just wanted to try this once and will likely never come back," I politely tell them about our "Bucket List" private parties where you get a group of friend who all want to get together and do the same thing. Even just the name hits them where they are at and they see the possibilities...
In this way, the class becomes a strategic way to advertise. But, it's important to figure out why they are coming and what they are interested in getting out of aerial. If they came for a gentle stretch, and you give them a crazy workout, it's not a great match. And vice versa. So, as we go along, I tell them all the different things we offer which makes them want to TRY all the different things we offer...or they might pick one that they are really interested in.
Typically, we start with a gentle aerial yoga introduction. As I’m going over the moves, I might say “If you come Mondays at 6:30 to Aerial Yoga, this is the inversion that you will be doing...Can you come Monday nights? Does that work for you?” The whole class becomes more of a probe to see what classes they would be interested in and what fits their schedule. I also want to make sure that fit the prerequisite for any classes that they are interested in. If they are going to be dropping into aerial yoga, I want them to feel comfortable with doing an inversion, and can access if they will continue to need a spot or can do it on their own after the first class. Occasionally, I get people who come in super strong, and they can already invert and climb well. I’m practically begging them to enter our higher level classes by the end of the class.
It’s important that the students envision themselves at the studio. If I can understand what they are looking for, and explain what would best fit their schedule, then they are generally asking about prices by the end of class. I save the last 15 minutes to talk about our pricing plans (punch card or automatic monthly payments). I always offer a special introductory deal for them to help entice the sale. After all, you are speaking to the population who came to the free class, they are deal-hunters and deal-snaggers. If they were of the other type, they would have already signed up for a session.
I've learned the hard way how to make these small tweaks so that this class is a purposeful part of growing our program. None of this comes instantly. It's amazing how the smallest change can have a large impact on a program. Don't immediately dismiss an idea because it's not working. There are many Tuesdays where I have had no one show up for class. When that happens, I simply take away the positive message that my prices are not what are keeping people away! If they are not showing up for a free class, then that tells me that they are not even hearing about the studio in the first place.
However, many times, the free class sparks a large chain of word-of-mouth advertising, which is a powerful form of advertising. Whenever I get students who don't come back, I don't worry, because they no doubt told their friends about this crazy thing that they tried last Tuesday. Some of my biggest advocates have been people who just tried it once and they just wanted to show off pictures of them doing something cool on Facebook and Instagram. Then their friends signed up for a session. It's really hard to track word-of-mouth growth, but I swear by it because it's the only form I'm engaged in at the moment. I can't afford any other kind. These Test-Drive Tuesday classes I run seem to help fire up the word-of-mouth train like nothing else, so until I figure out something better or I get enough students to afford not to have them, I'll keep having them!
To give you a little statistic of encouragement (or discouragement depending on how you look at it), you can generally expect to retain 10% of your reach. So, if you can reach 100 students with your advertising, you are likely to get 10 people in the door. If you get 10 people in the door, you are likely to have 1 become a dedicated student. If you send out 100 e-mails, you are likely to get 10 people to read that e-mail (about 20 will open it, but they won't really read it). To take my studio for example, we got about 400 people in our doors during the first year, and we have about 40 dedicated students who pay automatic monthly payments at the moment. Sometimes it's nice to know it's not me when people don't come back. It's just the reality of running of a business. There are what the numbers look like for everybody! If you do any better, pat yourself on the back and send me your secrets. :)
Let me know what works to build your clients. Feel free to comment below or continue conversations in our secret Facebook group. :)
by Julianna Hane
I’ll never forget accidentally feeding a whole tortilla chip to a toddler (I was only 7 years old at the time and didn’t know any better). Of course, the child choked. Luckily her mom was nearby and as trained nurse, she administered “back blows” to save her. After that frightening incident, the mother kindly said to her daughter, “take baby bites.” This lesson has stuck with me and still influences my teaching today.
I often see teachers shoving metaphorical tortilla chips into the beginner aerialist’s mouth by teaching way too many steps at once. The funny thing is, I used to teach this way, too. When I was a new teacher, I didn’t realize I was teaching too many steps until the students responded with blank stares, head scratches, etc.
Part of the challenge is that many of us teachers learned aerial arts in environments designed for advanced movers. While a gymnast, dancer, or other high level athlete can process high level sequencing and coordination, the typical recreational learner isn’t prepared for that. They need more incremental progressions leading up to what acrobats classify as “basic” skills.
According to web designer Susan Weinshenck, the human brain can only remember four steps at a time. It’s important to break skills down into small bites so more students from different backgrounds can find success.
If you are a Harry Potter fan, check out the classroom scenes from Sorcerer’s Stone (1st book/movie). Notice how the instructor gives a brief demo and explanation of a single skill. The students then practice that single skill under guidance of the teacher, who offers small corrections and reminders along the way.
An aerial class can run in the same fashion. The instructor models one skill at a time (with a maximum of 4 vital steps or details to remember in the first attempt), and then students practice that skill with teacher guidance. If there are more details to highlight in that skill, the teacher can layer it on during a second or third turn, or save it for another class day.
If you offer “free time,” games, sequence building, or explorations at the end of class, try incorporating the skills learned that day so students can review them more independently. Repetition is key to remembering skills over a longer period of time.
How do you know when a student is ready to move on to the next skill? See the next post on assessment to find out.
100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinshenck
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
by Julianna Hane
“Discipline” is a tough word for some to swallow in this day and age, but it is absolutely crucial to a safe and fun aerial practice. As the instructor, it is your responsibility to set the tone for safety and to enforce rules appropriately.
Discipline is generally related to working with kids, but it also applies to adults (as those of you who teach adults know!). The goal of discipline is to create a safe, respectful space in which to explore, create, and learn. Discipline done well actually creates more freedom, because it allows all students access to quality instruction, support from one another, and ample time on the apparatus.
Why is discipline necessary?
During their development, children move through multiple stages of rebellion, or healthy separation from their parent(s). The terrible twos and the teenage years are the prime times of separation. Rebellion statements include, “No,” “I don’t have to,” and “Why don’t you make me?” as the child test their boundaries. The child is finding out if the parent means what they say, and if there are real consequences to their actions.
Even though children are rebelling to get their way, what they secretly crave are healthy boundaries enforced by a loving parent or teacher. Boundaries actually make people feel safe and cared for. In Bringing Up Bebe, an American mother describes the task of raising her child in France while learning about the French concept of parenting. French parents believe that discipline frees children from their own inner tyrant (the ego or selfish one). Discipline teaches children that true pleasure in life cannot be experienced without learning how to wait. What a contrast to American society’s focus on instant gratification!
How does discipline apply in the aerial world?
Success in the aerial arts requires patience, consistency, and perseverance. Our classes are a great opportunity to teach these character traits, which give students access to vast potential in the art form (and in life). Getting a solid straddle inversion takes a lot of time and hard work, and so it should - it requires a great deal of strength, coordination, and body awareness to accomplish. This hard work establishes a solid foundation for students to progress safely into learning their first drop.
How can instructors enforce boundaries consistently?
First, share behavior expectations with the students by posting studio rules on the wall and reviewing them on Day 1 of a session. Eliminate any arbitrary or unnecessary rules, and keep the list relatively short and easy to remember.
Once rules are established, decide what to do when a student breaks the rules. This list is known as a Progressive Discipline Plan, and it outlines consequences for poor choices. You may need multiple plans for different populations (see below).
The plan progresses from light to strong consequences. For example, in a kids class, the first time a child breaks a rule, simply remind them of the rule. If they break the rule a 2nd time, you decide whether to stand near them and remind again (if they truly forgot), or have them sit out a turn (if they were being defiant). If there are too many or too few steps in the plan (or deviations in application) students may call the teacher out and begin to lose respect for them.
Consistency is key, hence the need for a solid plan:
Progressive Discipline Plan for Kids
Progressive Discipline Plan for Adults
The number of times you repeat each level depends on your studio’s goals as well as the population you work with:
How do I know if I am using the discipline plan effectively?
Have a more experienced instructor observe you teaching and get their feedback. You may also ask your instructors or studio manager to help establish specific discipline plans per population served. Perhaps the staff could observe each other testing out different plans, noting what works and what does not. Then modify accordingly.
How can I discuss discipline issues effectively with parents?
For larger classes or multiple classes, you may wish to document disciplinary actions in a daily log. Note the date, child’s name, class, situation/portion of class, and action taken, which can then be a solid piece of evidence to use when talking to parents. If you present a clear log of events to parents, you are able to speak in facts rather than with emotions.
During a conference with a parent, show them that you are on their side and that your goal is safety and enjoyment for all. Preventing defensive reactions through positive language can usually generate a productive conversation. The goal is to let parents know their is a problem and to decide on next actions, both for the instructor to use in class and the parent to use at home. You might also ask the parent for suggestions on how they’d like to move forward.
In spite of your best efforts, the parent may still become upset. Remember that safety and respect in your class/studio is of prime importance, and you could be held responsible if a student gets injured. Some parents may still be pushing boundaries themselves or may not instill much discipline at home. Others may be dealing with divorce, losing a job, etc. and the child might be acting out as a result. Use compassion here, but stay on task regarding expectations for behavior at the studio and take the necessary steps to remedy the situation.
How can I discuss discipline issues with adult students?
If you need to have a private conversation with an adult student who repeatedly dismisses your directions and authority in class, it’s a chance to figure out whether or not they are the right fit for your studio. In that private conversation, remind the student that safety is your top priority.
If they want to advance more quickly than the class, you could put them in a different class or enroll in private lessons. If they disagree with your teaching methods (and you have carefully reflected on your methods and have positive feedback from most of your students), the student should consider training at a different studio. If there is a personality clash between you and the student, perhaps they could try a different instructor.
In any case, the goal of this conversation is to settle the matter. There is no reason an adult should continually disrespect an instructor in the recreational environment when they have choices about where they take class. You also have choices about what behavior you’re willing to tolerate in your class/studio. When in doubt, document each contact with the student in a log so you have evidence to present to a supervisor for advice or intervention.
For more student scenarios and suggestions for next actions, see The Aerial Teacher's Handbook.
In spite of the challenges of discipline, your other students may thank you for it. While a disciplinary action might upset one student, it can actually improve the experience of the rest of the class because boundaries and safety were protected and prioritized. When you see a positive response and renewed sense of trust from the rest of your students, you’ll see that it’s worth it.
Have you experienced a disciplinary problem in your class that you’re not quite sure how to solve? Let us know! We’re happy to answer you privately if you submit your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Sarah Bebe Holmes
So many things come into play with this question, ego of course being one of them.
The first question to ask is: WHO’S EGO IS AT STAKE?
Followed by: HOW DO I DEAL WITH IT?
It’s important to distinguish the difference between YOU thinking your student is seriously advancing in skill and YOUR STUDENT thinking they are advanced in skill. Sometimes you will agree, but not always.
If your student thinks they are advanced it’s important to ask yourself if they really are or not. If truly not, then your job as an instructor is to continue to instill the safety, and foundations that they need as well as continue to challenge them in fun ways. Students can fall under the false impression that they are better than they are. Delusions of grandeur can commence. It may be because their understanding of the material, their proprioception and their general ability are better in their minds than in reality. This is when we as teachers need to be our best and lovingly hold these beauties back. It’s not about stunting them, it’s about maturing them through giving them variations that stretch their understanding or extra challenges that increase their strength.
It’s your job as a good aerial instructor to only give them tricks when they are ready. Make sure they meet the prerequisites that you think are necessary, even if they think they are boring. The number of times I have walked into a private lesson and had an “improver” level student ask me to teach spiral drop to ankle hang or some other advanced drop is wildy frequent. It’s ok to say, “Great, we can work up to that, let’s start here . . . “ Again, it’s about being loving. Not saying “NO” or “You’re not good enough”. But instilling the concept that this is a journey and you are happy to be on it with them, but we need to start at the beginning together.
So you’re a teacher, you’ve been doing this for a long time. You earned it the hard way, before Instagram or YouTube. You had to get the nuts and bolts first, you worked hard, you got injured and for some time you have not been working on yourself and your skills, but you’ve been teaching. And here comes this young student who has climbed to your level in a third of the time it took you to get there. They may or may not think or know they are advanced. But you know it, and you don’t want them to surpass you.
Well, tough luck. It is not our job to hold people back when they are ACTUALLY READY. Even if they are going to get the next gig, or start teaching where you teach. If you are their teacher and you love teaching, then teach them what you know. If they surpass you in skill but keep coming remember they are coming because you have something to offer, it might be nuance, it may be creative choreography, it may be character work, or they just may need some outside eyes and they respect you. If they ask you for a skill that is beyond your level think “IS THERE ANYTHING I KNOW THAT CAN HELP them with this skill?” You may have some excellent conditioning or pre-requisites that can get them ready.
Do as much as you can as long as you can and then RECOGNIZE WHEN TO LET GO. The best way to do this is to send them to someone else you know. They might not even live where you live, but give options. This is the role of a real teacher, to have grace and acceptance of ourselves for who we are, where we are, and when we are; and to help the future flourish.
Dedicated to: Althea Young (17) and Ellie Rossi (13), Students of Paper Doll Militia who we've had the pleasure of watching grow from aerial fledglings. They now soar to impressive new heights and continue to take the aerial world by storm.
by Julianna Hane
The art of cueing can be a tricky subject. At times it’s over-rated, and at other times overlooked. Cueing well requires multiple layers of understanding of not just the skills themselves, but also in noticing how students respond and adjusting your strategy as needed.
I’ve broken the verbal cueing process into 6 stages. (Physical cueing is also incredibly useful, and will be featured in another post). As you practice teach, notice which stage of the process gives you the most trouble. Each section below contains a description and suggestions for improvement. The stages of effective cueing are as follows:
Stage 1: Understand the goal.
Fully understand the body position or movement you are going for and why. What is the ultimate goal? This means knowing proper alignment and appropriate range of motion of each joint as it applies to aerial arts technique. Rather than memorizing arbitrary arm and leg positions, what actions or muscle activations in the body make each skill possible?
Stage 2: See what the student is actually doing.
Cues should always be given in a context rather than arbitrarily memorized. Use both your knowledge of the body and your observation skills to really see your student. To see accurately, do you understand basic alignment principles of the body? Do you know what muscle activations support various movements? Do you understand the difference between anatomical terms like hip flexion vs. hip extension and how they keep you connected to the apparatus?
Stage 3: Compare the goal to the current reality.
How does the student’s current expression of the skill differ from the goal? Analyze and draw conclusions. This will form a blueprint of your long-term goals for that student (which could be a few weeks, months, or years).
Stage 4: Choose what to focus on first.
Students who have restrictions and weaknesses (pretty much all human beings) will be able to make drastic changes in their bodies over time, but not in one class. Choose the most important goal or concept in order for that student to: 1) be safe, 2) experience a new sensation (i.e. muscle engagement) within the skill, and 3) get a little closer to the goal.
Stage 5: Try out different cues.
Select words, an image, a phrase, or a physical cue that might connect with that student. Start collecting cues by observing other teachers, taking classes, practice teaching, and developing a personal practice to help you describe what is happening in your own body. Notice how movement patterns reflect nature or other common things in our world (i.e. the spine articulating like a string of pearls).
Stage 6: Note which cue worked and which ones didn’t.
Observe the student’s response to your cue. Did the student get closer to the goal? Did they do the opposite of what you wanted? Students pour out a plethora of information if you simply observe how they react! Then, consider how to proceed. Try out other cues and see what happens. When in doubt, try a different route. When a cue wins, use it again!
Do you have other ways of breaking down the cueing process? Do you have specific requests to help you further develop your cueing? Leave us a message below!
By Julianna Hane
I made the big move to Colorado to help Rebekah Leach start her new studio, AerialWorks, and to further develop the Born to Fly™ Aerial Teacher Training Program. It has certainly been a busy year! Both of us have had studios in the past, but starting anew eight years has brought back some important lessons. Here are the highlights:
By Elizabeth Stich
My aerial dance partner, Becky, and I are getting ready to take our act on the road to AerialWorks Castle Rock next weekend. We are excited to perform and teach doubles workshops on our unique over-under trapeze. Having just finished our first big performance after a yearlong partnership, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the gifts this collaboration has offered:
I’m in the homestretch now of eight weeks out of the air due to a silly finger injury, a metacarpophalangeal joint collateral ligament sprain, to be precise. I’m usually pretty private about injury, but nearly two months of buddy taping my middle and index fingers together kind of let the cat out of the bag.
Throughout a lifetime of dance and aerial, I’ve never taken time off for injury. Not that I haven’t been injured—I’ve had bulging discs in my cervical spine, tendonitis in my elbows, and most recently, a torn labrum in my hip—just that I’ve always kept dancing right on through it (admittedly, not always the smartest choice...).
So it’s almost funny that something as seemingly small as a finger has taken me down. While I’m not trying to paint a picture of my recovery time as all sunshine and rainbows, I have been trying to focus on the positive opportunities that have come from it:
About the Author: Elizabeth Stich is an RTAP reviewer and contributor to Born to Fly™. She holds an MFA in Modern Dance, a Certificate in Movement Analysis, and has performed as an aerialist in various parks including Sea World. She currently teaches at Salt Lake Community College and Aerial Arts of Utah.
Our authors include our Master Teacher Trainers as well as Born to Fly™ Certified Teachers.