Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sweet Spanish Doll . . .

Nope, this is not me. These are performers from Lookingglass Theatre

I've spoken on this blog before about my experiences at the Actor's Gymnasium; last term I took my first Aerial Arts class, and this term I've been in a Circus Arts class, which combines aerial with gymnastics(yikes) and things like unicycle and tightrope.

I am, admittedly, always the worst member of the class in terms of skill level and strength. While most of us are beginners at these techniques (how many people do you know who have experience on a trapeze?) I am so weak in terms of upper body and core strength that I cannot do many of the things that are asked of us. There are times when this has been terribly humiliating; to get up in front of a group time and again and be unable to do a simple hip-pullover or climb a rope when others can do these things with relative ease . . . that has been tough. But, I have learned to laugh at myself and turn my incompetence into a source of humor, my classes have become a source of real joy and stress relief. I always try everything, even when I know I will not succeed, and I usually volunteer to go first.

I have gained in strength since beginning classes back in September; working with weights three times a week and resistance-band training has helped with that. Still, I have come to expect failure on most of the aerial apparatus. So, when I learned we were to tackle Spanish Web again yesterday, I cringed.

Of all the aerial appartatus, Spanish Web is possibly the hardest for me, because there's very little way to fake it. With Trapeze or Silk Knot, if you can have assistance getting into the hip-pullover, which consists in pulling your legs over your head and balancing on your abdomen, then you can do much of what comes after. But, if you haven't got the strength to climb the Spanish Web to reach the loop near the top, then you can't really do much else. I have never been able to climb; I understand the mechanics involved in climbing the web, have tried to do it many times, but I can only get a few inches up before I slide down again, my arms straining, my hands sliding down the web. Sylvia, my teacher, knows this, and she has tried to help me before with little success. But, yesterday I felt like I was leading a charmed life: I had executed nearly perfect somersaults for the first time ever, and I had not completely killed myself on the unicycle (thanks Nate!). So, I strode up to the Spanish Web, took a deep breath, wrapped my right leg around, and pulled.

After a few seconds, I realized I was actually starting to ascend. Yes, it was hard, probably the hardest I have worked in that class, and I've work pretty hard every week. About halfway, I could feel my arms starting to give way, and Sylvia jumped in and put her hands on the web under my feet as a stop-gap against my sliding down, so I could keep going. With my class shouting encouragement, I made it up to the loop, got my hand inside, and somehow managed to slide the safety down to my wrist. I was there. I was really there. My arms exhausted, my wrist straining with my weight, I felt on top of the world for the first time in so long. Up there I felt like suddenly anything was possible again; I was not the same as I had always been. I had changed.

Coming down, I made the terrible rookie mistake: I was tired and so surprised to have made it up for the first time that I wanted to come down as quickly as possible. I know how I'm supposed to descend, so I can't blame ignorance . . . I slid all the way down the web. Without gloves on. Yeah; smart move. I burned my left hand much worse than my right; it felt as though I had thrust it into a fire, and had to ice the fingers and take painkillers when I got home. But this morning I'm left with a lot more than redness and blisters. I feel so proud of myself; I know it probably doesn't seem like much to those of you reading this, but for me, this was huge.

I wasn't just conquering the Spanish Web. I was climbing to the top of a hill I've been trying to ascend for a long time, and I feel like I just got a little closer to the top last night, my hand in that loop, my eyes looking towards the sky.

What about you, dear readers? What's the biggest thing you've managed to accomplish that you never thought you could?


christa elyce said...

i love your story of your experience! you have such guts to do something like that. I would be too frightened.

i just noticed you have an etsy shop! would you be will to do a give away on my blog?...or i'm getting married soon would you make something for me to wear with my dress for great photos and advertising on my wedding photography site? let me know!

Costume Queen said...

I agree with Christa Elyce - I'm reading in awe that you had the courage to take an aerial arts class. I myself would be too nervous and self-doubting to even try to register for that class. Congrats on your progress! =)

ThePeSla said...


I find this a most amazing and interesting story and piece of writing.

Kimba said...

I'm very proud of you! Keep reaching & climbing to achieve everything you want, my friend! Sometimes the blisters & burns are just reminders that we're alive!