The show must go on.
We often get asked, how do we train for a performance? The answer is, the same way we train every day but with more focus on the end result. Training for the spotlight means having a razor-sharp eye to detail in movement, expression, timing, and emotion. The process of coming up with choreography will be the subject for a whole other blog post, but once that choreography is created our training routine goes something like this.
OK, one more time…
We run through our choreography a zillion times. We don’t put skills into our choreography that we can’t hit 99.999% of the time. When it comes to putting on a professional act we don’t want to be asking ourselves “Can we do this?” We’d rather focus on questions and thoughts like these: How does it feel? What are the moments that jump out? How do I move from moment to moment? Is there too much in there? Too little? Do the transitions make sense? Am I connecting with the audience?
We will start taking video of ourselves once we have the basic choreography put together. While we always try to make the choreography something we like (because we’re going to be spending a lot of time with it) our main focus is the audience experience. Constant video review lets us watch with an outsider’s eye. While watching the run through we ask ourselves: Does it make sense? How does it look? Does it read like I wanted it to? What does it express? Does it work with the music? What does the audience feel? Where are the awkward moments that need my attention? Does it have a clear beginning, middle, and end? What story does it convey?
We love getting feedback from others in the process, both experienced aerialists and those who’ve never done it. We never take feedback completely literally, but instead note what worked and what didn’t, and set to figuring out why the pieces that didn’t work did not convey like we expected.
Through this process of internal review (how does it feel?) and external review (how does it look?) we revamp transitions, poses, switch sides and sometimes even swap out whole sequences. We usually find that we initially try to put too much into the choreography so we do a lot more editing out…removing what isn’t needed so the strong moments stand out.
Keeping it real.
While choreographing and training, our new skill training time takes a backseat. We would never put a skill into a performance that we hadn’t completely mastered and personalized. We spend so much time on a daily and weekly basis learning new skills and playing on our apparatus of choice, that when it comes time to choreograph it is often already a process of weeding out the moves we don’t need for that act. If we’re frantically searching for new material then we will either change apparatus, take a break, or spend a long improv session with our music just playing with basics. Our process moves inward before it moves outward again for performance day.
Wow that spotlight is bright!
When it’s time for performance day, we know our routine so well that we are able to enjoy the performance, have fun, and adapt to the unexpected. It is really important to not be thrown off by the crazy things that can happen at a gig. We’ve had the strangest things happen while performing, things out of our control. An event planner installed a curtain (after our rigging went up) that blew into our air space unexpectedly and we had to change a big duo spinning move. We’ve been so crowded by enthusiastic audience members that we had to tamp down some of our bigger moves. We’ve had to adjust our choreography to work with inaccurate ceiling height measurements.
We’re not done yet
When our performance is finished, we set to training that routine on our other side, so that we don’t develop any imbalances from doing the same thing so many times. And that leaves us with longevity for the next performance! We’ve heard that Cirque du Soleil has moved toward older performers over the years, because they know how to train in a balanced way that prevents injuries. We only consider our act a success if we are able to perform it again and again over the years, with increasingly better audience reaction each time.
Aerial Fit offers choreography classes to students who have enough experience to work on connecting multiple poses on their own. Choreography students break down their acts into three sections: music, character and choreography. Each act is developed over four months with the final month repeating and reviewing the act focusing on the audience experience.