New Advanced Youth Circus Class!

Flying Trapeze

By Jon Worden from Learning to Fly by Sam Keen

Starting this September we’ll be running a brand new advanced class for students who are looking for more opportunities to develop themselves as young circus performers.

In this new class students will focus on their favourite circus skills, developing and refining technique. They’ll learn how to train effectively and independently and have the opportunity to create and perform solo and/or group routines.

Let’s get serious about circus!

The class is suitable for 11-18 year olds who want to get serious about circus, and are committed to developing their circus and performance skills.

Students should:

  • Be committed to learning and developing their circus skills
  • Be eager to learn to train professionally and independently
  • Show high levels of maturity towards their training
  • Have a desire to create or perform their own circus acts/routines

Some background or experience in circus, gymnastics or dance is helpful but not necessary and we recommend that you attend at least one other circus class during the week.

Places in this class will be limited. Book your place now.

If you have questions about suitability for this class please contact us.

Turbo-Charge Your Learning: Make more mistakes

Success

Circus Skills are Hard

Circus skills are hard – and they should be. We wouldn’t call them circus skills if they weren’t a skill, and we wouldn’t call things tricks if they weren’t tricky. Circus skills take time to learn and a lifetime to master.

But students get frustrated if they don’t feel like they are progressing. Whatever you learn, there comes a point when you will probably plateau for a while. You’ll make mistakes, and you’ll probably make the same mistake frequently. This is common in learning physical skills – sports, music, martial arts and definitely in circus – where motor control is key.

As you practice you’ll notice you make mistakes and after a while you’ll probably start to start to notice that you keep making the same mistake. When students see that they are making the same mistake over and over (sometimes they don’t see that it’s the same mistake but see that they are making a mistake over and over), frustration and annoyance kicks in.

It’s very common when first learning to juggle, for instance, that after two or three throws your body suddenly freezes and you don’t make your third or fourth throw. It feels like the ball is stuck in your hand. If students get stuck at this point for too long they get frustrated and sooner or later will probably give up.

Practice Makes Perfect… Or Not.

When you repeatedly perform an action, you teach your body and your brain to perform that action, and the action (or movement) becomes easier. Each time you perform the action, the neural pathway for that action becomes stronger and the action itself becomes easier.

Looking at our juggling example, the neural pathway for juggling is new and that the brain can’t coordinate throwing the “stuck” ball – the synapse hasn’t been used before. Not throwing and feeling like the ball is stuck in your hand is the result of the neurological pathway being unused.

When I’m teaching I tell people that they have to throw the ball even if it’s a terrible throw. Once they force the ball out of their hand once or twice, the neural pathway starts to get worn in, the synapses in the brain become easier for the electrical impulses to cross, and throwing the ball starts to becomes easier and more natural.

Whatever movement you make, if you repeatedly perform that movement, the neural pathway activates more fluidly and the movement becomes easier. Of course, the movement may be correct or incorrect – but neurologically speaking the result is the same: more fluid neural pathways.

When you make a mistake over and over again you’re teaching your brain and your body to perform that mistake more easily. You’re actually practicing the mistake and the mistake starts to become automatic. You are getting better but not in the way you want. You’re getting better at making the mistake. This is what we call a bad habit.

We all know that “practice makes perfect” but by practicing incorrectly, it also makes bad habits.

To ensure that we’re on the path to perfect (rather than forming bad habits) we have to perform a new movement or action. It doesn’t have to be correct, it just has to be different.

Performing a different movement or action is difficult. It doesn’t feel natural or comfortable. You’re brain is “walking an untrodden path.” It’s using neural pathways that haven’t been used before and it takes a concerted mental effort to do something differently.

Until the neural pathway for that movement is “well-trodden” it will take focus, attention and mental effort.

Don’t do it right, do it different.

If making the same mistake over and over isn’t going to achieve what we want, we have to something different. I don’t care what our students do differently and often tell them to “make a new mistake.”

I want my students to keep making different mistakes. If they keep making new mistakes eventually they’ll get it right and then we can try to replicate the correct movement. This is especially important if they’ve already formed a bad habit. They must unlearn what they have learned.

Making mistakes is never a problem. I want my students to make mistakes – lots of them! Because only when they make mistakes will they get better.

Make mistakes. Make lots of mistakes.

Good News – Just 10 Days To Go…

Aerial Circus

Aerial Silks – Photo courtesy of Jo Foley

In just 10 days, on Thursday, 3rd September, our Autumn term will start with our adult & youth classes in Mill Hill. We’ve got a new(ish) regular teacher, Liz, who taught a few sessions before the summer and is taking over from Rosie.

Less than one week later, on Monday 7th September, our East Finchley classes will start too.

We’ve had a lot of bookings during the summer holidays so if you want to secure your place in class you should get in quick and book your place.

We’re super excited to be starting classes again and are looking forward to seeing you there!

Book a Class in Mill Hill Now
Book a Class in East Finchley Now

Classes Start Next Week!

Aerial

It is now only one week until our circus classes in East Finchley and Mill Hill are up and running again, so don’t forget to book your place!

Summer Term Starts Monday 13th April

Youth Circus Classes

Get class details or book your place for East Finchley classes now.

Get class details or book your place for Mill Hill classes now.

Adult Aerial Classes

Get class details or book your place for adult classes in Mill Hill now.

See you in a week!

Circus Goes National

National Centre For Circus Arts

Circus gets a National Centre for Circus Arts

In case you haven’t seen the news, British circus is going national today with Circus Space being elevated to “national” status and relaunched as the National Centre for Circus Arts 25 years after they first opened their doors.

Over the past 25 years, Circus Space has become one of the leading centres for teaching these nouveau cirque skills. Many have felt circus has been the poor cousin of theatre and dance and all but a few of the country’s traditional touring family circuses have disappeared. In their place a new breed of circus entertainment has emerged that balances artistry and acrobatics.

The Guardian

The announcement brings circus in line with theatre, dance and music, raising the credibility of circus as an art form and demonstrating that, after years (centuries?) of sweat, blood and tears (often literally), circus is finally being taken seriously.

We have a lot to thank National Centre for. Adam, as well as many of the other teachers here at Airborne Circus, have trained and taught at the National Centre and they have been a continued support to us since before we opened our doors, offering advice and counsel in all aspects of what it takes to run a circus school.

As the National Centre for Circus Arts we are taking a leading role in supporting the wider circus sector in the UK, creating opportunities for circus to be seen and for people to participate in training at all levels.

– The National Centre for Circus Arts

Looking forward, who knows what having a national centre will do for the circus industry? We hope that it will bring good things – increased opportunities, recognition and participation – and look forward to seeing the future unfold.

Congratulations for a job well done, Circus Space. And welcome to the world, National Centre for Circus Arts. We’ll definitely see you around.

What do you think having the National Centre for Circus Arts means for us? Will it change the industry? Let us know in the comments below.

Easter Holiday Circus Workshops

Easter is just around the corner!

Now that the storms seem to be over, and the sun is making some appearances again, it’s starting to feel like spring might be here (soon). We’re looking forward to spring quite a lot. Not just because better weather means we can start doing some circus outdoors but because we’re running two Easter holiday circus workshops!

The first workshop is for 7-12 year olds and the other is for 11-18 year olds. Both workshops will give new students the chance to learn the basics, while more experienced students can push themselves further and concentrate on learning some new skills!

It’s been a while since we’ve run our own holiday programme but this Easter we want to give all of our students the opportunity to continue learning circus through the holidays as well as let some new folk come try it out.

If you’d like to participate in our Easter holiday circus workshops, or if you know someone who would, the workshops are open for registration now and can be booked via our holiday circus workshops page.

Check out our holiday circus workshops page for more information.

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What Can Young Kids Do?

What do you do with a 5 year old?

This is a question we get asked all the time. But I often think the answer is inadequate for people. ‘We teach the young kids the same stuff as the older kids – acrobatics, trapeze, juggling,etc.’

For some reason people seem to expect young kids to be less able than older kids. And that’s really not the case. In my opinion, it’s not that young kids are less able, it’s that they’ve had less exposure. Said another way, it’s not that they’ve been around on the planet for less time but that they’ve been around circus for less time that makes them less able.

We probably all know this but the main way that very young children learn is by copying. So if they’re brought up around circus they’ll copy circus. The earlier the exposure and the more time devoted to copying and learning circus the better they’ll be by the time they’re five.

My friend Lesley (incidentally it’s her birthday as I’m writing this – happy birthday Lesley!) runs the Wookey Hole Circus, a very successful youth circus in Somerset. Her daughter was watching all the people around her teaching, learning and performing circus from the moment she was born. Here she is at 18 months practicing her hula hoop and taking a call at the end. (In case you don’t realise, this is impressive for 18 months!)

I can’t wait to see what she’ll be like by the time she’s five.

Our classes for young kids have exactly the same content as our classes for older children. So what’s the difference? Well, there really isn’t any difference in the content – all of our classes include juggling, trapeze, tightwire, acrobatics and more – but the delivery style changes with the different age groups. Our 5-7 students have slightly more structure than the 8-12s who have slightly more than the teens. As students get older, they naturally gravitate towards certain skills and away from others, possibly disregarding some skills entirely. One of our teens told me last week that she’s not interested in acrobatics at all and doesn’t want to do it. She’s got her heart set on the unicycle and is always ready and eager to get back on it and practice each week. And that’s more than ok by me. Not everyone is built for, or interested in, every circus skill, and that’s one of the beauties of circus: there’s something for everyone.

Although at the moment we only offer classes for young people who are 5+ I’m committed that as Airborne Circus grows we start to offer classes for pre-schoolers and toddlers too. The early we get them the better they’ll become!

In the meantime here are a couple of videos of young children who started circus early on. They obviously didn’t learn this overnight but it should give you a sense of what young kids are capable of if they’re exposed to circus early and given the chance to learn.

Get more information about our youth circus classes

What Young Kids Can Really Do