My teaching specialty over the 11 or so years I’ve been involved in aerial has become teaching beginners, and I really love it. It takes a special type of skill and patience to teach an absolute beginner once you’ve been doing something for a while, and while I might not have guessed it would appeal to me so much, it does.

One of the many reasons I like teaching newbies is dispelling some of the myths about doing aerial work. They include the following:

  • You have to start when you’re a child
  • You have to be a gymnast/acrobat/dancer/tumbler first
  • You have to be ultra flexible
  • You have to be ultra strong

I started doing aerial work when I was 21 years old, with no real plan for what I might do with it and having absolutely no movement background. In fact, my adolescence was about the least healthy I’ve come across in those I’ve met and talked with over the years, and at the time I spent 90% of my life sitting in front of a TV or a computer.

In fact, trying aerial significantly improved, if not flat out saved, my life, and I became hooked. I quit smoking and created a healthier relationship with alcohol. I had finally found a form of exercise I could be creative with, after having found other forms of exercise mind numbingly boring, so I continued to get stronger and improve my stamina. And now I could express myself artistically with movement, which was a huge shift in the quality of my life.

I began performing 3 years later, and teaching shortly after that. I’ve performed for over 1000 people at a local festival, been a part of two theatrical troupes as an aerialist as well as performing many interesting and fun gigs as a duo, as well as having been asked to perform across the country. I’ve been teaching others for years, ranging from teaching beginner and level 1 aerialists to working with fellow teachers and high level students on musicality and choreographing their acts.

I have done all this without a gymnastics or dance background, and without full splits in either direction. In fact, due to the way my hip sockets developed, most people’s straddle splits are wider than mine are. And yet I have enjoyed countless and priceless benefits from doing aerial work, I enjoyed a small but successful career as a performer, and now I get to show new people that aerial can do amazing things for them, too.

I mean, what could be better than that?

Courtnee Papastathis