8/4/15 – Aerial Trick Naming



Often when I’m teaching, I demonstrate a trick and a student asks, “What’s that called?”

If you’ve been in class with me you know I will likely give some cheeky answer like “that thing we’re doing in class today” or “hipkey, wrap the leg, wrap the belly, climb up and in front, key in, pike the leg . . .”

I’m not trying to be a jerk. I just don’t love trick names.

Now, there is value to naming tricks. Without names, it would take us forever to communicate with each other1 and it’s a way to honor the people we learn from.2 I am not in favor of abolishing names, but I am in favor of using them sparingly. I find that names severely limit our imagination and our understanding. Once you name a trick, you set it in stone. It stops being something that can evolve and starts being a series of rules. I appreciate that at certain points in your aerial education, it is important to learn established sequences as a means to familiarize yourself with the apparatus, build strength and develop confidence. It’s like a songwriter studying other people’s songs. It’s an essential part of the learning process. But if you want to keep growing as an aerialist then eventually you need to start looking at tricks as what they really are: sequences. Break them down into their building blocks. Try to identify things you recognize: front balance, back balance, hipkey, s-wrap, catchers . . .  Start thinking about where your weight is, what’s keeping you safe, where your body is in relation to the equipment and what movements are essential.

Because that’s what’s important. Knowing a million tricks is not nearly as valuable as knowing how to handle your body in relation to the equipment safely and efficiently. Once you know that, you are totally free to move however you want. You won’t be locked into a limited vocabulary. You’ll be able to make more sophisticated and creative choices. You can paint with all the colors instead of just the primary ones. Doesn’t that sound nice?


1 Lisa Natoli and I used to a have a sequence we called “November 11th” because it was long and complicated and that was the date we first performed it.

2 The Isabelle is called an Isabelle because of Isabelle Chasse. Google her.

3 This list is obviously vertical apparatus centric, but the idea applies to all apparatus.

4 Cheesy!

5 With all of that said, DON’T GET AHEAD OF YOURSELF. If you’re not in a place in your training to start thinking this way, wait. If you are in an appropriate place, be patient. This kind of understanding doesn’t come over night. And if it does, well then come and share your genius.

By Circus Susie