Tag Archives: aerial silks

LIFE OF THE BODY, LIFE OF THE MIND

It’s presumptuous I know to “apologize” to a blog and its readers for not posting in a while, as if trajectories of whole lives were thwarted in your absence, as if the earth tilted slightly off its axis, as if something felt generally amiss in the world until somebody looked up and said, “come to think of it, Tolly hasn’t posted in a while!”

Reader, I know this isn’t the case. And still: I’m sorry.

Allow me to explain. See, the creative sands have shifted underneath me, and while I use to be strivey and mentally obsessive in one direction – writing – it’s like all of those energies have moved to my arms and legs and I don’t know how to explain it, exactly. It just is.

What I’m talking about of course is dancing, something I feel sheepish even mentioning because the very term has been co-opted by inspirational posters at the dentist’s office. “Dance as if nobody’s watching!” is terrible advice, I think, if you’re dance training. Another term I feel weird about using, ‘training,’ because that implies a level of rigor I’m not sure I possess. But I want to.

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Photo by the very dear Earl McGehee.

It started in 2011, as readers of this blog will know, when I literally stumbled into aerial silks. Fast-forward to now, had a baby, got back (slowly) on the cloth, and while the cloth is my first love, I’m trying to branch out. Try other apparatuses, like harness and pole, and also fill in the wide gaps of my dance knowledge with the basics, like ballet (intimidating!) and modern (fun! Also intimidating!). I danced a couple years in high school on the dance team, and very sporadically otherwise, but ballet is still basically a foreign language that I’ve got a three year-old’s proficiency in.

I have this theory that any accomplishments I’ve had in life can be chalked up to the fact that I’m a nice person, rather than having native talent or skills. And finally, I’m bumping up against the limits of niceness with dance! Turns out, you can’t be a good dancer simply by being easy to get along with. It’s frustrating and exhilarating and totally engrossing.

So if you wondered at all where I was (“is it just me, or does planet Earth feel OFF?”), I was stretching, port-a-bras-ing, and pole spinning, plus cursing, head-scratching, and (still) stumbling as these arms and legs are coaxed into something like an aesthetic. I still write. I love our podcast to absolute confetti bits. But I’m sharing this with you as a declarative statement of some sort, though it feels more like a confession. I didn’t run off and join the circus. This has been happening in stealth mode. And maybe it still will? I guess my hope is that I can integrate life of the body and life of the mind, by sharing bits and pieces here of what’s happening in the movement department. By the way, THIS is happening.

Isn’t it scary when you admit something out loud, Reader? Something pretty personal? When you go ahead and make yourself emotionally naked on the Internet, of all places? (Cue new SEO compatibility on my blog, linking search terms “naked” and “Internet.”)

Oversharing is a thing, and we should all watch out for it. But I believe emotional nakedness is healthy sometimes. That’s my inspirational poster.

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UP IN THE AIR

I often feel as though I have a secret life, a life I don’t share that much online.

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Maybe because it’s hard to put this practice into words, or maybe it’s hard to verbalize in an authentic way how much important things mean to you.

What I’m talking about is aerial dance, an adventure that started for me as part of a 2011 New Year’s resolution to try new things. And, lacking the capacity for moderation – this is the same person who pursued a whole Master’s degree in Victorian Literature, after all – I went all in.

After about a year or so of training, my friend Susan and I started performing on silks around town, doing bar gigs with short ceilings and tipsy revelers. More recently, we started booking corporate shows (higher ceilings, equally tipsy people), and the last one happened September, 2013 at a yacht club out in Lakeway. Unbeknownst to me, while I was swinging around in the air for a bunch of oil and gas types, Nico was a little gestating bundle of cells.

Cut to me, several months later, full belly, stretching holes in the leotards I stubbornly refused to take off. I didn’t really know what to expect from pregnancy, and you know what? It might be better to go in blind. Armed with enough information, reasonable women can go totally insane while pregnant, and I know this because I went occasionally insane. My thing was constantly needing reassurance, from Ross, friends – even complete strangers – that I wasn’t killing my baby (me to Juiceland employee: is your juice pasteurized? Can I drink unpasteurized? DO YOU KNOW, EXTREMELY TAN 20 YEAR-OLD? DO YOU KNOW?!?).

But aerial silks and pregnancy? Ok, I knew (aka: my OB-GYN lectured me until I knew) that had to be a tiny bit dangerous. I tried for as long as I could, but at six months in, my belly made it very clear that it was time to slide off. I still wore the leotards.

Now, if you met me in real life, you’d think to yourself: “that’s a reasonable person, right there!” But the truth is, I am actually given to obsessive tendencies that are kept extremely well-hidden. I say this to help paint an accurate picture of my journey back on the silk, which did indeed involve lots of obsession. As well as lots of cursing.

All told, I took about a half-year break from the cloth. And when I first got back on, I could climb, kind of!, but that was about it. Most importantly, I couldn’t go upside-down, at ALL, which is somewhat crucial.

However! I had a support system: my new aerial dance company.

It’s name is Rapt Aerial Dance, and it was started by my girl Susan, along with a couple other silks friends. We get together and practice at Vamps Dance on the east side, and along with some truly wonderful private classes at Four Elements, it was by being around these people – these incredibly strong, intimidatingly talented, frequent-upside-down-going people – that pushed me to recover.

(I hesitate to even use that word: “recover.” It makes it sound like baby-having is a form of trauma, doesn’t it? How about we say…”heal.” That’s better, isn’t it? Less images-of-blood-and-afterbirth-inducing?)

Anyway. On Nico’s three month birthday exactly, I could go upside-down again, and on her five month birthday, I could pretty much do all the stuff pre-pregnant Tolly could do. In fact, motivation for any aerialists out there who get knocked up: my body forgot a lot of its preprogrammed bad habits! My wonky toes? Pointed. This spin-around-horizontally-on-top-of-a-silk-knot thing that I could never, EVER do in the past? It is happening! I try to play it cool on Sunday nights when the company gets together and practices, but inside, there’s a huge party going on every time I accomplish a simple breakthrough. And these people – my achingly beautiful, fellow company members who can do anything, ANYTHING! – held the space while I clumsily stumbled my way back to silks competence.

I’m willing to bet that if you aren’t into this weird hobby yourself, you know someone who is, or, you know someone who’s generally into physical movement. Like I said earlier, it’s tough to verbalize how thoroughly silks changed my life. You know that “tech loop” Portlandia skit? That was me! Me before silks! I could DIVE INTO the Internet and never come out. But silks got me back into my body, and it was waiting for me after Nico exited my body. My silks family was waiting for me, too.

On Thursday, we launched a big fundraiser campaign for Rapt. Eeek! Scary! Scary as in exciting. Here’s a little video we made for the fundraiser, which explains the things we need money for, and also gives you an inside peek into the company and where we rehearse:

We are small, we are very dedicated, and we are extremely passionate. We’re having a huge fundraising party in January at Brazos Hall!

But for now, we are pouring our hearts and souls into this fundraiser campaign. Click here to contribute, and to support the arts in Austin. I am hugging you as you do so.

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