The VA Course Progression

New for 2016:  the VA staff has come to realize that, while our curriculum divides skills into 4 levels, there are more than 4 stages in the development of an aerialist, and each of those stages benefits from a different training focus. We have therefore broken out 7 separate stages and are offering classes that correspond to them, as described below.

Note that by “proficient,” we mean “able to perform a skill safely, cleanly, with good form, and with no physical or verbal assistance.”  This is indicated by the rating “p” in the VA Skills Tracker.


The core mixed-apparatus course progression can be summarized as follows.  Single-apparatus classes will also fit into this system, as noted in the course descriptions.

# Stage Class
0 Basics ABC
1A Beginner Skills Aerial 1A
1B Beginner Sequences Aerial 1B
2A Intermediate Foundation Aerial 2A
2B Intermediate Development Aerial 2B
3 Experienced Intermediate various
4 Advanced various

Stage 0:  Basics

This is the absolute beginner stage, with no prerequisite skills or experience.  Students at this stage are working on basic skills while also learning how to engage their shoulders and core muscles in order to train safely and with proper technique.  This stage can take as long (or short) as a student needs to complete the ABC courses.

Graduation requirements:

  • Competence in basic skills
    • Rope/Tissu:  wrap climb, inchworm descent, footlock, inversion from the ground
    • Trapeze: hip hang/front balance, trapeze mount

Classes at this stage include:  ABC drop-ins, Aerial Pilates for Beginners

Stage 1A:  Beginner Skills

At this stage, students are introduced to most of the skills needed for our level 1 sequences on rope/tissu and trapeze.  One session at this stage is typically sufficient.

Graduation requirements:

  • Familiarity with level 1 sequence skills.
    • Rope/Tissu includes: catchers, peter pan, double footlock, flying Dutchman, double crochet
    • Trapeze includes: catchers, gazelle, mermaid, standing sequence, bird’s next, angel, candlestick

Class at this stage include:  Aerial 1A

Stage 1B:  Beginner Sequences

This stage focuses on the level 1 sequences: the footlock sequence, the wrap sequence, and the trapeze sequences (1A and 1B).  Students solidify understanding of the skills, build endurance, and learn transitions between skills.  This stage will likely last 1-2 sessions.

Graduation requirements:

  • Ability to perform all level 1 sequences.
    • See 1A skill lists above
    • Rope/tissu adds figure-8 wrap, salto
    • Trapeze adds skills including 1-legged pop-on, seated rollover, coffin, dragonfly
  • Strength/Technique: invert off the ground (i.e., from a climb); hold a finished straddle-up, 3-5 second lock-off, and tuck knees above navel from a long-hang.

Class at this stage include:  Aerial 1B

Stage 2A: Intermediate Foundation

This stage introduces the key level 2 vertical skills, including straddle climb, windmill, scissor hiplock, and aerial dance footlock.  Trapeze skills are developed via a new sequence that fills in level 1 skills and introduces some level 2 skills.  One session at this stage should usually be sufficient.

Graduation requirements:

  • Familiarity with high-priority level 2 skills
    • Rope/tissu: familiarity with straddle climb, windmill, scissor hiplock, aerial dance footlock
    • Trapeze: familiarity with single knee hangs, body beats, ankle hang

Class at this stage include:  Aerial 2A, Rope and Tissu 2A, Trapeze 2

Stage 2B:  Intermediate Development

At this stage, students focus on building proficiency with the important level 2 skills that were introduced in stage 2A while learning new sequences that build on those skills.  This stage is likely to last at least 2 sessions.

Graduation requirements:

  • Proficiency in priority 1 level 2 skills and sequences.
  • Must demonstrate an understanding of what is keeping them in the air in a given skill/position and an ability to make adjustments as needed to keep themselves safe.
  • Trapeze: proficient at pullovers, comfort in trapeze ropes, and competent transitions from front balance.
  • Rope/tissu: proficient at straddle climb, windmill, scissor hiplock, aerial dance footlock
  • Endurance: ability to stay in the air for at least 2 minutes
  • Strength/Technique: bent arm/straight leg straddle up and a controlled straight arm/bent leg lower down, 1 pretty pull up, your tiniest ball knee tuck from long hang, and a 10second hollow body hold.

Class at this stage include:  Aerial 2B, Rope/Tissu 2B, Rope/Tissu 2C, Trapeze 2

Stage 3:  Experienced Intermediate

This stage covers the broadest range of development, in which students expand their repertoire of skills into level 3 while also learning choreography, improvisation, and artistic expression.  Conditioning and technique work focus on preparing the student to move on to advanced work.

Graduation requirements:

  • Apparatus-specific – see prereqs for specific advanced classes.
  • Sequencing:  ability to create sequences with minimal assistance
  • Endurance: ability to stay in the air for at least 4 minutes

Class at this stage include:  Aerial 3, Rope/Tissu 3, Trapeze 3, Dynamic Fundamentals

Stage 4:  Advanced

Aerialists at this stage of practice work are capable of working on just about any skill in the curriculum, can choreograph their own polished performances, and participate in master classes with guest artists.