Circus performers are not thrill-seekers. We are performers and we make it look thrilling. Above all else, successful aerial performers are control freaks.
Aerial arts teach us how to make the seemingly impossible possible. The road to getting there is in no way linear. It is filled with sweat, tears of frustration and an internal monologue that could fill the most ambitious of swear jars.
AERIAL FAIL VIDEOS vs FALL VIDEOS
While we love to post and watch videos of gorgeous finished products, these videos rarely show the hurdles of getting there. Seeing the challenges and non-linear progress prior to the polished skills can be enlightening. The struggle is real for everyone and it can be reassuring to see how others can fail at a skill just like we do.
However, we have recently noticed an increase in the number of FALL videos that we see posted on the internet. There is a big difference between watching someone try a skill and not fully succeed or in other words fail, and watching someone try a skill and actually FALL. The difference is as significant as the difference between watching a video of a dog trying to catch a treat that hits them on the forehead, versus watching a video of a dog being abused. One is endearing, and the other is horrific. One is a fail and the other is a FALL.
A Fail video can be humanizing. A FALL video is just horrifying.
FAILS & SELF-RESCUE
Training should make us happier and healthier and perhaps likely offer a side serving of making us humble.
We fail at a skill when we are not able to maintain proper form, technique, shape or pathway. Fails can be minor, like a specific, small muscle not working hard enough. Other fails can be more obvious like not making a full rotation or having the body slide down when it should go up or not being able to hold the final shape. However, even in the worst fail, total control is never lost.
Self-Rescue is how we regain control of a failed action. This may be pulling our body up and out of the skill, returning to the starting position on the apparatus, or returning back to some other support on the apparatus where we can rest, reassess and try again.
A FALL happens when we give our bodies up to gravity. We are no longer in control and we can no longer rescue ourselves. FALLS can sometimes be minor, but in aerial any FALL is a major concern and indicates a serious problem in training. FALLS are not only dangerous for the aerialist, but they are disruptive and distracting to other teachers and students in the room.
When watching a video with a FALL our reaction shouldn’t be humor or reassurance but deep concern. Someone who has FALLEN is doing a skill they do not understand or they are not yet ready for. It’s also a window into their thought process and that they are likely more concerned about the end goal than the process.
THE GREY AREA BETWEEN…
Yes, there are a few more advanced skills that may involve training a FALL (certain release skills come to mind). In these circumstances, the FALLS are planned and fully expected. Neither the teacher nor the student is surprised by the FALL. There are foam pits or large, super deep mats underneath the aerialist. There are often prerequisite drills involved to teach proper FALLING technique and acclimate the body to sudden stops and impact.
For the vast majority of skills out there FALLING is not and should not be a part of the learning progression. That means when we train we need to never allow ourselves or our students to go down a path that could lead to a FALL.
We train our students from day one to always come back to the apparatus so that it becomes second nature to self-rescue. Our beginner students learn to always come back to the apparatus, generally wherever they started the skill, like standing in a footlock or sitting on the lyra. We chastise our beginner students (and more advanced students as well) when they dismount the apparatus heavily.
For certain skills, we can set up our apparatus height or train the skill at a lower height so that we can step out to the floor without letting go of the apparatus. A planned step out to the feet on a mat with control is not a FALL because control is never entirely lost.
SAFE TRAINING HABITS
All aerialists need to be safety first people. We all need to be ambassadors to the art form. FALLING should never be an option for an aerialist.
A FALL does not make you a bad person. It does make you an unsafe aerialist.
At Aerial Fit FALLS are unacceptable. Yes FALLS can occasionally happen but they are addressed with deep concern. Students are asked to explain why they think they fell. They are told what they should have done instead of FALLING. A FALL is treated as a teaching moment for all the students to be reminded of why FALLING is never a safe option.
At Aerial Fit FALLS are also a significant learning moment for our instructors, aerial curriculum developers, and administrators. Any minor FALL is documented in a minor incident report so trends over time can be assessed. Skills that have reoccurring FALLS over time are put under a microscope. Sometimes the skill is moved to a higher level. Sometimes the instructor is required to go through additional training. Almost always we add additional prerequisites and progressions before the skill is taught.
We love to see aerialists succeed. We also love to see aerialists share their process. When watching a fail video, it’s fun to see the clear progression being learned. A good example is watching someone attempt a skill like a mill circle on a trapeze, or a hip key roll up on silks, and not complete the skill, landing back where they started or someplace similar.
Seeing FALL videos, on the other hand, is horrifying. There is nothing being learned other than what not to do, and often no understanding shown of what went wrong. When FALL videos are posted and celebrated on the internet, it sends a completely wrong message that FALLING is a natural part of aerial training. It is not!
Note: Accidents do happen. Rigging can fail. Aerialists can make mistakes. In these circumstances, it is important to research and understand everything that led up to the fall. Every fall should be treated as an opportunity to learn why and how the fall happened and determine the steps needed to make sure that fall doesn’t happen again.
An unsafe aerialist is a bad aerialist.
Aerialists who randomly FALL out of skills are risking great injury to themselves and demeaning the art form for everyone else. We should all be mindful of the online culture we support and promote when posting, commenting, and liking videos we see online.
Thanks for reading, and we look forward to seeing you master your skills and thrive!
– Clayton, Jordan and all the staff at Aerial Fit