Susannah is one of our most recent additions to the Skylab Team and is currently teaching the Drop-in Fitness classes but also specialises in Beginners Hoop. She is passionate about circus and really hopes that by teaching she can share this love with more people and inspire all those newbies out there that circus is possible for you too!
More about her as circus teacher and performer…
Susannah’s love affair with aerial started in 2010, at Circus Space (now National Centre for the Circus Arts) when she had her first try on a trapeze. As an adult learner, she has trained throughout London, completing the full-time circus course at Aircraft Circus in 2014, and has recently qualified as an Aerial Hoop Instructor (with Spin City in Bristol). Susannah’s passions are to continue to develop and build her aerial skills and flexibility, and to spread the circus love by teaching and encouraging newbies who are just starting out on their aerial journey.
And here is an interview I did with Susannah where she tells us all about her aerial journey, the ups the downs, the what’s and the whys, the highlights and hopes and dreams for the future…
Have you always been into circus? For example did you do it as a kid? At what point did you decide circus was your thing? I didn’t find circus until my mid-20s, up until then I’d been a dancer and swimmer, briefly, as a child and dabbled with aerobics, pole dancing and burlesque as an adult. Once I’d built a little strength from pole I was hooked from my first circus class! I’d always enjoyed watching circus shows, but never thought I could ever be the person up in the air. After gaining confidence from the strength developed at pole dancing, I dived into circus skills and instantly fell in love with the world of aerial. Here, I could build fitness and combine this with my innate desire to be creative, through performance.
What is it about circus that you most like? There are so many things about circus that I love – the graceful shapes; the desire and addiction to keep pushing further and develop more; the like-minded people; how it feels to be upside-down in the air and how diverse circus performances, skills and learning can be. I can’t imagine life without some sort of circus in it!
What made you get into teaching?After several years training in aerial and circus skills, I decided to try out a full-time course to attempt a career in the world of circus. As brilliant and fulfilling as this was, sadly, I discovered my limitations and, after several bouts of nasty injuries, I accepted that being a world-class circus performer was not on the cards for me. I still wanted my circus journey to accumulate into something, so I recently completed a Beginners Aerial Hoop Teacher Training Course and through this I’ve discovered how awesome it is to share these skills and nurture other people’s aerial obsessions!
What’s your favourite apparatus and why?This is tricky, as my favourite apparatus has changed through different stages. At the moment I am focusing on flexibility and trying to work on handstands, but, deep down, I think my favourite will always be hoop. It’s equipment that you can always move around in and create beautiful shapes, even if you have lost strength and there are some awesome drops and spins that look incredible. There is always something new to learn and I will always end up going back to hoop.
What’s your fave move and why?My favourite move would be the hocks drop: from skinning the cat on the top bar, to drop down into single-leg hocks on the bottom. It’s a dramatic move and I always find it a challenge to come back to when I’ve taken a break from hoop.
Do you have any advice for a newbie student starting out in aerial?Stretch! Stretch! Stretch! Stretch! Stretch! There is always so much focus on strength, which is great, but the greatest struggles I have had with aerial is injury, often due to lack of balance, stretching and good body posture. Plus a lack of flexibility limiting my progress. So develop stretching as a great habit to get into right from the beginning. My other piece of advice would be to never give up! Have breaks from time to time, if you need, but always come back. Aerial is always a challenge, especially if you have to work and live a ‘normal’ life at the same time. But it’s always worth persevering with.
Any top tips for current students that you may have up your sleeve? My top tip would be to try a bit of everything. The more you do, the more strength, movement and flexibility you build and the better you are at the aerial you love! Oh, and did I mention to stretch!! Ha!
How would you describe your teaching style? One of my friends calls me her ‘personal cheerleader’. Being a natural people person I love to coach people to get more out of themselves, I think my teaching style is just that. I love it when people surprise themselves with what they can do!
Why would you recommend doing aerial?I’d recommend aerial to everyone! It’s a great way to keep active and fit, whilst not really knowing that you’re working out! There is obvious progression which increases enthusiasm. This makes you want to work harder and develop your skills, at the same as getting stronger and fitter without the monotony that some physical activities have. It’s a lot of fun, filled with the chance to be creative and explore what you can add to the set skills – how you can make it your own.
What’s been the highlight of your aerial career so far?There have been lots of highs and lows, but, I suppose, my greatest highlight was ‘graduating’ with my group from Aircraft Circus and being part of the final show. It was wonderful to see my friends’ hard work pay off and the fantastic reception that they received. Being part of a big team and going through a lot together was a fantastic experience.
Do you have any hopes and dreams for the future?My hopes and dreams for the future are to keep progressing. I’ve lost a lot of strength after having to take some time out, so I want to get that back. I’d also really like to develop within contortion, which is slooowly happening. There is always the next step; I don’t think there will ever be an end goal!
What’s on your bucket list of aerial things you would like to achieve? Bucket list top goal would be to perform at my wedding, with some of my favourite performers, but, we’ll have to see about that…
What’s been your worst circus adventure so far?There have been some low moments, which I think is to be expected when you think about how intense aerial can be. In 2014, training full-time, I suffered from multiple injuries and realised that being a full-time circus performer was not something that my body was going to let me do, and that my age and background (with no real physical training) was holding me back. I took some time away from aerial to try and figure out what I would do next and how circus could fit into my life. Then I discovered teaching – yay!
Do you have any favourite circus shows you would love to share with us or performers who you highly rate?There are so many… I like the style of Victoria Thierrée Chaplin – a captivating mix of circus with theatre; I really enjoyed Race Horse Company last year and think that the circus shows at the Roundhouse are always great.
Can you tell us something surprising about yourself?I’m very much an open book, so there aren’t many things surprising about me. I guess, a surprise that not many people know is that I used to be a tattoo apprentice!
Do you have any performers / people in your life who you highly respect and look up to who you see as major influencers in your life? All of the different teachers that I’ve had in my life have influenced me in some way, and they have all been incredible, not only with their skills, but with their willingness to share the love for aerial. However, there are a handful who have steered my life in certain directions. Jackie Le, for one, helped me to get strong and to believe that circus could be more than just a hobby. She inspired me with her phenomenal skill and flexibility and made me want to work and try harder, whilst having a giggle at the same time. My life would have been quite different without Jackie’s influence. And, of course, Astra. There was a time when I doubted whether I’d ever be good enough and questioned whether I should continue with aerial training, but Astra kicked that nonsense out of me and helped me to believe a little more in myself. There have been so many awesome people that I have trained with too – I think circus attracts the best kind of people! Another part of what makes it awesome!
We hope you enjoyed hearing all about Susannah’s aerial journey! Please like, share and comment and let us know what you think about Susannah and her classes at Skylab. Even better come and try them out!