I’ve begun the first stages of my aerial hoop lessons, and met with my mentor Kimmie for the first time on January 19th. Prior to meeting with my mentor, I was quite nervous since I didn’t really know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised with how well it went! We met at the circus school where my mentor teaches, and started by introducing ourselves and going over paperwork. Then, Kimmie led me through a basic warm-up where she taught me some exercises that stretched out the muscles I would use the most on the aerial hoop and help me warm up and ease into the lesson. Then, we moved onto the hoop and my mentor demonstrated two different ways to get up onto the hoop (through pike and through straddle). After I learned how to mount the hoop, we went over two basic poses: Mermaid and Man-on-the-Moon. Both of these poses were ones I’d learned on the trapeze, but I quickly discovered were vastly different on aerial hoop – the hoop was much harder to hang onto, and easier to slip off of!
Once I felt decently confident with my first two poses, we moved onto other poses such as Push-Out Split (holding onto the top of the hoop with both hands, then using one foot to push the hoop until you’re leaning into it with straight legs and lifting the other leg into a split), and Tree Branch into Cradle (leaning into one side of the hoop and letting one arm and your legs dangle). Kimmie also taught me exercises on the hoop to strengthen my lower back muscles for a pose called Front Balance, which is when you balance on the bottom of the hoop using your stomach without support from your arms or legs.
We finished off our first meeting by conditioning and stretching, and I went home. It didn’t take long for me to discover all the bruises I’d sustained from aerial hoop, not to mention the fact that my hands were torn and blistering since I’d lost all of my callouses from previous circus lessons! My hands stung so much that I could hardly use them for the rest of the day, but luckily they got better a few days after the first lesson 🙂
Kimmie and I met for the second time on January 26th, and we followed the same schedule as our first meeting: warm-up, working on hoop poses, then conditioning and stretching. I found that everything was much easier for my second lesson – the blisters and sores from my first meeting had strengthened my hands so I had more endurance when I was on the hoop. Another thing that we did during our second lesson was film a progress video – I used five of the poses that I’d learned, and we choreographed a mini routine! I’ve included it below and my form (and hair) is quite messy, but I know that it was only my first time filming a progress video and I’ll improve more throughout our lessons. The poses in the routine in order are Mermaid, Push-Out Split, Tree Branch into Cradle, and Amazon.
(PS: There was a flying trapeze class in the background, so there’s probably a lot of shouting from that. Sorry!)
1) How did your mentor gain their experience/ expertise?
After graduating from UBC with a degree in engineering, Kimmie started her journey with circus at the age of 23, with aerial hoop being her first discipline. Interestingly enough, Kimmie trained at Vancouver Circus School, which is where I also started taking circus lessons. At Vancouver Circus School, Kimmie was a part of the Ring Masters program – a professional program that prepares passionate students for a career in circus arts. Kimmie is currently a certified artistic gymnastics instructor, and specializes in aerial hoop, aerial silks, and contortion.
2) What were those experiences like for your mentor?
Ever since meeting her for the first time, it was clear that Kimmie has a deep passion for circus arts. Kimmie believes that circus is a great way to get exercise and improve strength, balance, flexibility, and coordination in a non-competitive environment that encourages your skill development. Kimmie also said that circus helped her overcome her fears and become more confident in her abilities.
3) What wisdom have you gained from your mentor so far?
- Always condition and stretch after a training session. During our first meeting, Kimmie showed me how to stretch and “warm down” so that I wouldn’t injure my muscles. I can honestly say that this has greatly helped me – previous classes would never leave time to stretch, so I always felt quite stiff and sore afterwards, but Kimmie has shown me how to reduce DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and relax my body after a lesson. Kimmie has also taught me that it’s okay to take breaks and return to a resting position on the hoop in between poses so I don’t exert myself when I’m learning something new.
- 2. The second thing that Kimmie taught me during our first meeting was that everything – your endurance, strength and flexibility – usually gets better the second time around. Kimmie was right too – during our second meeting I found that mounting the hoop and executing poses that I’d learned from the first lesson had become much easier than before! “Sometimes,” Kimmie said, “letting things percolate a bit really helps.”
4) What have you learned so far, in terms of facilitation strategies, that might contribute to your own development as a mentor?
The facilitation strategy that I noticed most from Kimmie was her patience. No matter how long it took me to execute a pose or to understand how to properly slide into a position, Kimmie was always patient and encouraging, never losing her temper. If she ever had a suggestion for me, she was always gentle about it and never put me down for not completely getting a certain trick right away. This is definitely something that I want to apply to myself if I ever have the opportunity to mentor someone. Another thing Kimmie did to help me feel comfortable was to remain positive and friendly – her upbeat, kind energy helped me become less shy around her and feel less afraid to make mistakes (which, as a perfectionist, is quite a hard thing for me).