By Natalya Penfold
Last weekend, I made a trip up to Edinburgh to take part in the Edinburgh Aerial and Acrobatics Convention, accompanied by fellow Circus House goers, Ellie and Brendan. This is a weekend of workshops and training run by teachers and artists from all over the world. I wasn't sure I would be good enough to get much out of it, but I decided that the experience would be good for me. I'm so glad I went!
Even before the convention officially started, I made friends and chatted to people. The atmosphere was really positive, everyone was like-minded and friendly, and eagerly anticipating the weekend's activities. There was a real 'get stuck in' feel, and people were all running around carrying mats and poles and things.
Eventually everyone congregated in the large gym for the warm up. It felt a little bit like doing P.E. in school again, except I enjoyed it way more! My first class was aerial hoop, or lyra. This was only the second time I'd ever been on a hoop, but as I generally work on a trapeze, I didn't find it completely different. Second it was intermediate trapeze, and I had a great lesson - I learnt a few new sequences which looked really cool! My third lesson was beginner doubles trapeze. I've not done much doubles before, but I found this lesson really inspired me to want to do more. I learned a few moves which I could bring home and try to work on. It also teaches you not to be shy about getting intimate with people you've just met.
After a well needed lunch, it was dance acrobatics - here I found that unfortunately, I am not a dancer and I dont have the coordination for it... legs and arms flailing in the wrong directions - not a good look. Then straight after that it was Russian bar. I actually really enjoyed this, but I was so exhausted after four hours of training that I found it difficult to concentrate. I managed a jump to sit and then from sit, jump up to stand while on a lunge, and I'd like to have another try at some point - when I'm not dead on my feet!
After day one I felt like my body had broken; I had aches and bruises everywhere! I genuinely didn't know how I was going to stand another two days of this! The beginning of day two felt even worse, and I didn't have a particularly productive morning. I did try bungee trapeze, but it's surprisingly hard to bounce your way up into the air whilst pulling on a bungee cord! I managed a few rotations, but wasn't really feeling it. I'm glad I tried it though. After that was a beginner rope lesson. Sian always makes us climb the rope or silks in our trapeze classes, so I felt like I was coming to this lesson with a small amount of experience. One of the first things the teacher asked us to do was climb. We also learned a pretty move called amazon on the rope. This is really similar to an amazon on trapeze, except using no arms. We also learned how to get into a hip-lock which I have never learnt to do before!
After lunch, I had teeterboard - it was great to try this, just to find out that again, it's not my thing! As a base for teeterboard, you have to be able to co-ordinate your timing and your steps with your partner base, land on the middle of the teeter board at the same time, and then jump together on to the end of the board... yeah, I didn't quite manage that... I jumped on to the middle of the board, hesitated and then tripped and fell face first over the end of the teeterboard... I honestly wish it had been filmed as it must have looked comical. I tried again a few more times, and did get a little better, and I did manage a back somersault as a flyer, but I think I'll leave it to the professionals! I wound down day two with a bit of acrobalance. We built a two layer pyramid, and a three on one!
I thought I would feel worse after two days of this, but on day three, I woke up feeling more energised and ready for my final day of training. I think I pushed through some kind of pain barrier and my body just gave up trying to tell me to stop! Day three was exciting, as I got to try two new disciplines: straps and Chinese pole. I really enjoyed both of them! Straps was like trapeze, just with little use of the legs. I did a meathook, which is way harder on the trapeze than it is on the straps! Spinning was so much fun too... I'm tempted to buy a set of straps to play with.
After straps, I had Chinese Pole, which was my first class with Ellie! We had a great class, and were both buzzing afterwards. Can't wait to get one of these at The Circus House. After this, both Ellie and I went to intermediate trapeze, (because I enjoyed it so much on Friday!).
I finished off the convention with more acro, and a play on the cloud swing, and by the end of it, I was pretty beat. We then had to move all of the mats on to the vans and help pack up some of the equipment. So with a conga line co-ordinated by Brendan, of about 40 people, going from the large gym up the stairs, and into the smaller gym where the mat room was, we passed along about 60 mats which weighed about the same as me - a nice gentle warm down.
This trip really made me realise that I am primarily a trapeze artist. It's what I love, and it was probably the highlight of my weekend. It was great to try new things, but I feel way more of a connection to the trapeze, because I've worked on it so much more. I could see myself getting into straps, hoop and doubles trapeze though, and I aim to work on these more between now and EAAC 2015. EAAC 2014 has been an incredible experience. I gained new skills, tried new disciplines, met some wonderful people and acquired some fantastic new body art. Training with different people has been insightful and interesting. It was good to see how different teachers taught things, but also to see the continuity and consistency among the way disciplines are taught and practiced. It's inspired me to create, train and carry on getting better so I can learn even more next year!
Natalya takes acrobalance and trapeze lessons here at The Circus House, and is one of our volunteers.