When my brother was ill he showed me a video of Karo Swen being amazing and said, you should do that. It’s like, gymnastic. I’m not the most coordinated of people and at the time, really not strong at all. But she was beautiful to watch because of the freedom and ease of movement.
Somewhere down the line I got the courage to go to a class at Tempest in Durham – and was terrible – but hooked. I loved the puzzles and the feeling of achieving something you never thought you could do. Eventually, I started to wonder whether the other love in my life, of telling stories, could combine. I entered a little competition and did okay. I thought that was enough. It wasn’t. I travelled everywhere to learn and I think it provided me with strength and forward movement in a very static and dark time. But it was also the place where I felt most like myself. No judgements, no wrong answer, no stress.
Those months my brother was ill were painful and poignant. My heart opened up to so many people, and to life, the kindness of strangers, the importance of community and friendship, I felt the desire to learn and explore burn in me. And I needed to do it now because we know how crucial life is. Because what if there is no tomorrow? My brother was always the explorer and I very much a little sister nodding. So maybe I felt like I was now in charge of the finding out of things. My appetite for that is big.
I suppose there was then a tipping point. I was frustrated with not having the time and space to explore ideas and I started looking at longer courses. I loved the look of the one at My Aerial Home because of the teachers – I like dynamic things – and started to talk to my Head of School about whether I could take a break. I’m really grateful he made that happen. At the time, I was just blindly following a passion, without thinking it could be something else.
Photo Pluck Photography
The course was really challenging but in many ways I feel like such a different person and more technically aware. All the things I want to reach for feel within reach because of the skills I’ve learned and can draw from. I struggled – as usual – with terrible coordination and shyness. I might have spent most of my life trying to be beige and unnoticed. Plus, I don’t have fantastic awareness of my body. One arm could be on Mars and I wouldn’t know. During the act creation part of the course we could take videos, so I took a million, and edited and edited until the visual matched what was in my head. In much the same way as I write, really… I also have a tendency to blank when I’m nervous. Again when Steven was ill I felt like in order to juggle the new job and to try and give my family hope at a hopeless time (his diagnosis was terminal), I had to do everything right. And I did. We all did. So now I still really back away from stressful situations and my brain, which was always really quick, always the thing I depended on, was suddenly not so elastic. I could blink and 2 hours had gone by (my brother would say this was to do with aliens). It’s not quite like this anymore but I do still struggle.
Anyway. In that little window of time before our end of course show, I thought of him and how he started this for me. How it wouldn’t matter if things went wrong because I intended to keep doing this – the love for it had grown not waned – and because he wouldn’t care any way. I wanted to tell that story – I suppose about finding a voice and a joy after what we’d experienced, not something I ever imagined – and he’d be daftly proud. I felt him with me when I was waiting for the music to start. When it did, I felt calm and free.
When I got home I talked to Emma, my old aerial teacher from Dynamix, and we found we had so many similar hopes and thoughts about aerial. We set up our company, Uncaged, and are working towards some future performances, as well as some workshops. I got a job teaching at my old studio (Tempest’s new studio in Washington) and it makes me so happy to see people’s faces when they achieve a move / a trick that they’ve found frustrating. Because I know how that feels 🙂
Like with writing, there’s so much to work on and do, it will, happily, never end. Is it really cliché to ask what the moral of this story is? For me it’s to never underestimate yourself. We all get put into roles when we’re very young and as my brother would say, Rules are made to be broken. But then he was always getting fired so I might not follow that one too closely.
What’s the moral of my witterings for you? I might leave that as an open ending…
Here’s a very little clip from our show should anyone like to see.
Photo Pluck Photography