I started practicing aerials in 2012. Like most new aerialists, I was totally obsessed and I am quite sure I annoyed all my family and friends with non-stop chatter about aerial this and aerial that. At about six months in, I decided I wanted to try my hand at performing.
I wasn’t in an area that had an aerial studio (and didn’t yet own an aerial rig), so I subsequently walked around with my eyes glued to the sky looking for potential venues with rigging possibilities. I found a spot at the Red Atlas in Helena, a “beverage house” attached to The Staggering Ox (my very favorite sandwich shop). The owners were game for my desired performance date during Christmas week.
I invited two Missoula aerialists to perform with me – it was pretty much just us for aerialists in the state back then. We were each going to do two songs (two solos for me, and one solo for each of them plus a duet with each other). For my songs, I chose Sail by Awolnation and I was thinking of choosing O’ Holy Night by Martina McBride but I worried I would be judged for choosing a Christmas song. I questioned if the song was “cool enough,” but I had a vision to choreograph the part where she sings “fall, on your knees” so that the movement matched the lyrics and I felt good about that, so I followed my gut.
I was beyond excited. Motivated by the idea of performing in front of an audience, I practiced and practiced…and I improved as an aerialist for it. I made fliers and invited friends and family. Everything was set to go until the day before the performance when both of the aerialists from Missoula backed out. Apparently their routines just weren’t coming together. GULP! Should I cancel the whole thing? With the encouragement of my mother (thanks, mom), I decided to rock it solo.
With just me performing, the event wasn’t the full ~20 minute show we had advertised. I did one song, took a break so my endurance could recover, then did my second. And it was amazing. It was so much more than just a performance; there were life lessons wrapped in with it. I had stepped up in a big way and was seen. I got practice rolling with the “when-things-don’t-go-as-you-envisioned” punches. I had risked being judged and survived.
I share this story now because for our new student performers. If you are interested in performing but finding yourself with a bit of self-doubt, here are some methods to help silence the inner critic:
1. Remember that student showcases are full of friends and family there to support you. They will applaud literally anything you do (thanks friends!). Heck, I even see mistakes applauded on a regular basis at student showcases! I think either the audience doesn’t know enough to know that you made a mistake or they are just proud of you for getting out there and trying. Either way…applause.
2. Give yourself plenty of time put together your routine and practice. But in addition to practicing physically, you should also mentally rehearse your routine. Close your eyes and envision the whole process: Getting to the showcase. Being introduced. Walking up. Executing the moves with success. Hearing the applause. Taking a bow.
3. Know that you are not alone in your fear. No one that I know has ever started performing without a bit of nerves coming along for the ride. Believe me when I saw that it gets easier after you have a few performances under your belt!
4. Find your courage. Don’t worry about what others might think of your choreography, song choice, costume or talent. If you have an idea, just follow your intuition and go for it!
Bottom line: You just have to step up and stop fear from stopping you! All of the instructors at Levitation Nation are here to help you find your best self, so please reach out and we will help you on your pathway. We believe in you! XOXO, Mindy
My first ever aerial performance. I have come a long ways, yea?
Berne Brown on “It’s Not the Critic Who Counts”:
Article by Mindy Cochran. Mindy is the founder of Kalispell's Levitation Nation Aerial Studio, where the catch phrase "fitness is fun" is embodied alongside a culture of movement & women empowerment. Mindy is also a columnist for "Montana Woman Magazine." Her column "The Real Levitation Experience" shares expertise for elevating health and wellness that she has acquired through her certifications as a personal trainer, nutrition coach, and life coach. For more about Mindy, please visit: https://www.levitationnation.org/mindy.