Three years after first touching a trapeze
There’s always something you can do even when you are recovering and options are limited.
Three days ago I had several minor surgeries kinda resulting in one biggish one. Being mixed race, my skin is prone to Dysplastic nevi, Pigmented nevi, Congenital nevi, Blue nevus and Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra, to which I had all. Had all that is, until three days ago, when some were surgically removed. This has obviously effected and limited my physical activity, due to the sensitivity of stitches.
As some of you may be aware I am a full-time student at Circomedia, Bristol UK, studying ‘Performance within Circus Arts’. I was granted rest over the period of recovery, but, with this glorious weather we’re having here, I would have pulled a stitch hanging out laundry, or attempting to vacuum the house, so school really was a safer option. I resumed to my chair, and adapted accordingly.
My main discipline is aerial, and recently I have found myself really enjoying manipulation and equilibrium. This term we are focusing on Street theatre with our first public engagement coming up this Friday in Bath. Clearly I won’t be fit enough to last on my crutches and legs for any period of time. Whilst some would accept that supporting the class from the sidelines (for moral, sometime needed) or staying home a good option, not me (or most of my friends)……. A clear prerequisite for joining the circus is being a little nuts.
So what do you do when you can’t exert your legs, due to perform with your classmates publicly in a few days, and can’t even hang off a trapeze?
I adapted! My classmates adapted! We just figured out what we could do with our limitations…… Limitations? What limitations? We created new strengths. We bravely experimented with what we already had learnt, and took it one step, ( or should I say seat) further. I based in Acro, and I have to say it was so much fun. We laughed, and even added the freedom of wheels into our routine. If you want to see what we actually came up with come along to Bath on Friday evening. (Details Below).
So you see, even when you feel you can’t do what you originally planned, there is always something else you can do.Never waste a day. Try and learn from where you are. It may not be how you’d planned, it might actually be better. You can make a contribution, you can share. you can explore, and what may be a first for you, may also be a first for someone else. After all, how many acrobats have performed in or on a wheelchair? And to those of you who have……You’re having a great time ;D
Flyer : Zandra Garcia
Another yes, another first, do something new.
Source: Another ‘YES’ another first
Another yes, another first, do something new.
Source: Another ‘YES’ another first
Another yes, another first. I went for something that was not about silk or trapeze. I left my comfort zone of what I know, and went for something that I wanted to know more about.
Last weekend I auditioned with a large group of performers from Circomedia, at Circomedia, for a role within a piece being directed by Citrus Arts for the Green Man Festival in Wales.
Can you imagine my joy when I received an email today saying I’d been selected 😀
I have no idea what the next step entails, but I do know, that it’s going to be organic and innovative. Maybe I’ll fly, maybe I won’t. Who knows? One thing is for sure though, my Circomedia family is truley magical, and whatever we devise over the coming months with Citrus Arts will be phenomenial.
So look out for updates on what happens when I actually run away with the circus.
Photo: Nicholas Young @CircomediaNic 07/05/16
“ To create an aerial dance studio and performance company specifically for dancers with physical disabilities, so they can be productive and inspiring members of the national community through performance and conversations.”
HISTORY from founder Mel Stevens
From the age of 3 I always knew I was a dancer. Even before I could dance, I knew it was what I was going to do. I grew up in greater London within a single parent family, most of the time. I spent most of my free time with my grandmother, who used to share her fantasy of being a dancer and encouraged me to participate in ballet and gymnastics. At age 9 I won my first ever entry to a London dance competition. This was the only show my mother attended, and by the age of 12 I was working in my local market to fund my classes. Being permitted to participate was how my family supported me; I didn’t see it as a loss, I was always just so excited to participate.
At the age of 14 I became a fly girl for a local radio station. My job was to hand out flyers for radio road shows to people within the community, and then backing dance for a number of acts. This single experience opened up a whole new world of performing. Unfortunately, my mother didn’t agree with the unsociable hours of performing and one-day aged 15, I arrived home one Saturday night to a locked front door.
This made me more determined than ever. Pride and shame led me to keep my homelessness secret for a few days. By Friday I was due a visit to my Grand mother. Suddenly I felt free, we talked of dancing first, and then my homeless situation. Luckily, my grandmother had overfilled me with faith, and compared my situation to many in her days as a teenager. She reminded me that I could still have it all. I could stay at school, achieve good grades, work, and do whatever I wanted to do. I stayed at school and achieved very reasonable GCSE grades.
By the age of 18 I was working professionally as a dancer. I performed opening up major department stores in Oxford Street, on TV commercials and on Breakfast TV, danced in music videos and toured with top bands worldwide. By the age of 20 I was living in Germany, working for a major record company, supporting big acts and living my dream. I really believed this life would last forever, providing I just got up and did my job.
Fast forward a few years, a wonderful marriage and children and my career continued full tilt still touring the world and dancing professionally on top international gigs. Then in 2003, I shockingly broke my back, whilst giving birth to my 3rd child. My whole life turned upside down.
I had to relearn practically everything — from the waist down, raising my children, keeping my soul. I struggled with depression, weight gain, lack of direction in my life, the loss of my vitality, the loss of who I was. For a long time it felt as if I’d take 1 step forwards and 2 back. Everything emotionally and environmentally affected my fragile health. I was forced to mourn my able-bodied life, bow to my declining health, which seemed to injure so easily, and collect new diagnoses on top of the old ones. Paralysis disables the body, makes it vulnerable to additional illnesses, the pain medication deadens the senses and life forces ebb with these terrible weights to bear.
In 2008 I was offered a place in a disabled day centre, which was attached to Newbury College. Me remembering who I had been me, and attempting to find a life after injury, challenged their offer and decided that I was going to the college instead. I studied sports, coaching and working with children. More than anything, I wanted to understand my own body and find a life to live again.
By chance one June summers day, I received an invitation to a West End show that my old agent had just produced. He invited everyone from the old Bi-virtue team and amongst us was my modelling booker. She was working with a disabled theatre company who were producing a show, and seeing me in my physical state, suddenly realised I would be ideal for the project, and urged me to contact the show producer that evening and to say she had sent me.
I was invited to join the project, and I first performed with Graeae in an aerial show called Prometheus Awakes for the Greenwich and Docklands Festival in June 2012. This was the world premier of mass flying disabled artists.
The project was inspired by both the run up to the Paralympic ceremonies, where I first performed with Graeae in an aerial show called Prometheus Awakes for the Greenwich and Docklands Festival June 2012. This was the world premier of mass flying disabled artists. The ceremonies themselves, and then there was the magic of the Paralympic aerial legacy intensive, which wasn’t only an opportunity to fly, but also an opportunity to personalise our experiences and play and experiment on every piece of equipment.
The experience was magical. The for the first time in many years I was alive again, performing again, and dancing again. The aerial harnesses and trapezes allowed me to move in a way that I no longer could on the ground, gave me wings with my powerful upper body that my legs no longer could support. And I wasn’t the only one elated by this window into a world where I could celebrate my physical being, rather than be trapped and depressed by it.
But at the end of the training and performing, the project was over. We went our separate ways, many of us looking for some way to continue the work that was shared with us, but circus schools and dance companies turned us away, unable to integrate us into their programs.
Thankfully a year later, in 2013, one of the aerial teachers from the Paralympic project (Lindsey Butcher of Gravity & Levity) ran a week long Paralympics Aerial Legacy Intensive workshop continuing the aerial dance training we had experienced. It was there I met Serenity Smith Forchion who is a master teacher of aerial and circus skills and creative director of circus tours. She trained us that week and as she saw our bodies strengthen and spirits sour, we both understood that this work was too important to let become dormant again.
My dream now is to create a facility that may help others who are in crisis today as I was yesterday. It is my dream to perform and feed my spirit, and in return, use the profits of such ventures with a team of volunteer instructors/performers and donate free or low cost circus activities, support and training to find the joys and abilities amongst the depressions and disabilities. I wish to go out into the community and share fun, joy and colour. I wish to reconnect with all the barriers that I have overcome. I wish to help both young and old, mixed ability, and allow us to all share the knowledge that no one of us are born with wings, but we can all Aim to Fly.
Serenity Smith Forchion is co-founder of the New England Center for Circus Arts (www.necenterforcircusarts.org) as well as the performance company Nimble Arts. (www.nimblearts.org) Together with her twin sister, Elsie, she performed for Cirque du Soleil’s Saltimbanco and her resume includes Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey, the New Pickle Circus, Cirque Productions, Cirque Le Masque, Sandglass Theater and TV and corporate appearances. In 2007 the twins aerial performances were doubly honored with a Special Prize at the Wuqiao International Circus Festival in China, and a Bronze Medal at the 1st International Festival of Circus in Albacete, Spain. Serenity has taught and choreographed for many companies including Pilobolus, Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Imagination and Circus Smirkus. Serenity helped found San Francisco‘s Circus Center and was Pilates captain for Satlimbanco where she worked with physical therapists to promote injury prevention. Serenity maintains teaching, coaching and performing careers and currently is director, performer and producer of her own cirque touring show called RUCKUS (www.ruckuscircus.com). Serenity performs many aerial arts as well as partner acrobatics with her husband, Bill Forchion and works with disabled dancers in the AIM to FLY project. She resides in Vermont, USA where she is a human jungle gym for her 3 children.
This is a very first for me. I never thought I’d write a blog, yet here I am, willing to share my gains and fails with you all.
The reason I want to share my journey, is because, I have realised how quickly things happen when you stop talking about what you’d like to do with your life, and just DO what you want with your life.
Some years ago I suffered a spinal cord injury whilst giving birth to my youngest son, which resulted in me suffering partial paralysis. For years I struggled to fit into society and return to employment, which for me was a dancer and model.
I reinvented myself as a Health and Social Care trainer, but wasn’t happy. I was suffering muscular dystrophy, gaining weight, and fatigue was dominating my life. when I introduced myself I often ended with “…..I used to be a dancer”
This was my life for almost a decade. There was so much ‘I wished I could do’
Then one day, I stopped explaining why I couldn’t do things, and I just started saying YES.
I didn’t always understand what I was saying yes to, but I knew I was going to have a darn sight more fun than I was having saying no.
The First ‘Yes’ came in June 2012, when I was asked to perform in an aerial event for a company called ‘Graeae‘. I assumed it was something to do with radio control drones of sorts…… I was wrong, and how wonderful it felt to go into the unknown.
It turns out I was going to suspended from a crane, 30ft above the Queen Elizabeth House in London as part of the Paralympic games promotional works, along with 41 other people, most with physical impairments, every one of us unique.
That was almost 4 years ago.
Since then, I have become a qualified aerial instructor and rigger, performed internationally as a soloist, worked alongside some of the greatest performers and pioneers within the circus world today, as well as build my own company ‘Aim To Fly UK’. In a few weeks I graduate from Circus school – Circomedia with tons more performance knowledge.
So you see, lot’s happened in a few years of saying ‘Yes’ so I thought it would be nice to share, where I go from here, and how I get there.
And please, if I touch on a subject that you’d like me to expand on please, just let me know 🙂