"I want a silk at home!"

This is something I hear a lot in classes. While I'm SO excited to see others impassioned by circus, the amount of DIY rigging out there can be a dangerous land to navigate. So I'm expanding a post I made in the Cirque Dakota student group into a blog post to explain my thoughts on a home practice.

DISCLAIMER: This is not me calling out anyone in particular. I've had numerous people bring this up over the years, and I decided it was time for a more public statement about my feelings. My students know I preach safety every chance I get.

Real Talk, and not a fun talk time. As circus arts gains popularity in the region, you will hear of more and more people getting their own equipment and setting up their own practice space. I get it. Classes are expensive.

But PLEASE, please, please, do not risk your safety for the sake of a little extra practice time. *Disclaimer: I don't endorse it.*

That said, if you plan to set up a silk, know the load limits of what you are attaching to. That means hiring a structural engineer. The silk itself is not necessarily the dangerous part [although you should order from a supplier that knows their stuff, not just a fabric store or Amazon]...it's whatever you are hanging off or drilling into. We create more force than you realize on the fabrics. Would you hang a car from it? No? Then it's probably not strong enough for an aerial point.

Homes are not built for human loads. Unless you hire an engineer to help design a structurally sound system to support 10x your body weight, you're going to be hard pressed to find an existing residential building that can accommodate a silk. Do NOT just drill an eye-bolt into a stud.

It is often cheaper to get a portable rig in the long run rather than the renovation project that will likely be required for home rigging. (My portable rig was $2500 for reference). That's a small price for your life.

And trees are just a huge no-no. Yes, it's pretty. But it's a living thing, and unless you are an arborist and a rigger, you don't know whether that branch will drop on you. It is not worth the risk. For more on this topic, check out this awesome blog post by Laura Witwer.

Below is an excellent document called "So You Want an Aerial Point at Home." It details more of the load capacity requirements and other things like liability you'll have to consider. (FYI: Aerial points are worse than trampolines regarding home insurance and will often void the entire policy).

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Also check out the Facebook Group Safety in Aerial Arts. It's a good resource if you have questions, but be warned, it's full of safety nazis and rigging experts that will tell you "DON'T DO IT" but you'll also get some helpful advice and reasoning. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but just something to be aware of.

If you are dead set on getting a silk for at home practice, shoot me an email and I'll try to get as much helpful information as I can.

That said, I don't endorse at home training. Even for professionals, but especially for students just learning. We all know how easy it is to get stuck. And if you forget a wrap in a new drop, there aren't eyes on you to alert you to the danger.

I cannot stress this enough: NEVER train alone. Ever. No matter how advanced you are. I always have someone in the gym with me should anything happen.

I say all this not to be a mean control freak, but because I don't want to see anyone hurt. Get a pull up bar at home, and skip the liability. Get some scraps of fabric and hang it over your pull up bar or a playground to work on your grip strength. There are plenty of ways to progress in your training without bringing the house down...literally.

TL;DR: Don't rig at home, but if you do, know what you are hanging off of, do your research, and train safer/smarter.

Chicago Week 7: The Engagement Story and Physical Theater

I got engaged last weekend. Say whaaaatttt?! Much like my last post, if you’re only reading for circus shit, skip down to the Circus Talk. Otherwise, buckle up for the engagement story.


Last weekend, Paul and I met in La Crosse, Wisconsin because it's the halfway point between Chicago and Sioux Falls. It was a cold, rainy day, so we did an escape room. Alas, we did not escape, but it was still fun. Then we ate at a hibachi place (my favorite). At one point during dinner, Paul asked if I had brought an umbrella. “I thought we might like to go on a walk later.” (Subtle. Very subtle. :P)

But it was cold, and we ditched that idea so I could do my laundry at the hotel, and we watched an episode of Breaking Bad. After an episode, but before it was time to get my laundry from the dryer, we were just killing time cuddling and talking. I said something along the lines of "I want to be with you forever," at which point Paul asked, “do you mean it?” and then he pulled out the ring. He said a few mushy things (I’ll spare the details) and asked, “will you marry me?” I cried. Oh yeah, and I said yes.

We’ve had quite the year, especially the last several months. I ruptured a huge ovarian cyst the day I was supposed to move to Chicago for circus school (which I’d only had 2 weeks to prep for anyway). Paul recently started new job and locked down several freelance projects. He also inherited my cat and my roommate, Samara. And that’s just since September.

Life has been chaotic, but I couldn’t imagine a better partner through all of it. Paul has been my rock, and I know we will continue kicking ass together. Forever.

Alright. Mushy time is over. Let’s talk Circus.

On Mondays we have our Physical Theater class in the afternoon for 3 hours. Now, what exactly does that entail?

Good question. There's really no short answer. We often have an active part of class including games like foursquare. But since we are circus folk, it tends to get weird.

Our theater coach, Adrian, encourages us to take note of our reactions, both physical and verbal, in the games we play. And since we are circus people, we tend to feel more comfortable with the physical reactions.

So naturally, we spent the last 3 weeks on verbal - monologues to be exact. But not just any monologues. Each of us wrote a story from our past. They are all wildly different, ranging from a 5-year-old taking home 2 kittens to someone finding out their dad had died.

We swapped stories and have been making them our own by making choices about what we, the performers, want from the audience.

For example, the monologue I am working on is about having a crush on a dance teacher, working extra hard to impress him, then failing miserably during the performance. Each section could have a different want. During the first section as I describe the dance and the instructor, I want to be seen as shallow - maybe a little trashy. Then as the character fails, the trashiness and shallowness falls away, and I want the audience to pity me.

I could choose to be shallow the whole time, but that makes for a flat character. The more desires and choices, the more interesting the piece becomes. So those are two big wants, but it can even be done on a smaller scale. It could be the difference between two words, "SO neutral."

Why does this matter?

Transitions make or break an act. But what does that MEAN? Even the smoothest transitions and the best tricks can combine to make a boring act if there are no choices, no desires. You don't have to have a story, you don't have to be a character, but your act should make sense.

So that's what I'm working on, and my brain is reeling from so many ideas. I probably spent more time on silks this week than I have in the previous 6 weeks. It feels good to be back in the air. Here's to hoping for more inspired weeks like this one!