Old Dog, New Tricks

Tonight I hung from the sky.

Backstory: A few years ago, my daughter told me she wanted to learn contortionism. She’d seen a few Cirque du Soleil shows, and was taken with an artist who drew contortionists, and she wanted to give it a try. This struck me as a slightly odd ambition for a girl who couldn’t touch her toes, but I humored her with false enthusiasm.

Wise beyond her years, she called me out for not taking her seriously, and I humbly promised that if she could locate a reputable contortion teacher, her dad and I would pay for lessons.

She searched the internet and found Liana Repass and her company, Infinity Circus. Liana performs and teaches aerial silks, trapeze, and other circus arts. My daughter and I visited her studio, located in an old factory-warehouse complex, and fell in love with the ramshackle buildings and artistic “je ne sais quoi” (that’s French for coolness). But mostly we fell in love with Liana.

Liana was willing to teach contortionism, but she invited my daughter to try a general circus class too. Before I knew it my child was climbing silk fabric and hanging upside down above my head. She went from barely touching her toes to dancing in the sky. She transformed her own body. I was fascinated, entranced, and inspired.

My daughter, showing me how it's done

My daughter, showing me how it’s done

Flash forward: More than two years after we walked into Liana’s studio, my daughter finally persuaded me to come along for a month of lessons. I knew it would be hard. I worked out for weeks to prepare. I didn’t believe I’d get one inch off the ground. I’d seen the strength and endurance it takes to climb the silks.

Which brings us to tonight, and my first circus class.

We warmed up, stretched for what seemed like hours, and moved to the silks. While the more seasoned students practiced their moves, I learned my first lesson: how to climb to the top of a seventeen-foot piece of sleek, smooth fabric.

Or not.

As I suspected, I didn’t have the arm strength to pull myself even one inch off the ground. That will come, with thousands of push-ups, chin-ups, and hours on the silks.

But I learned a little move called the “hip key”, where you wrap the silks through your legs and twist your body in such a way that you hang sideways, knees to nose, like a knot at the end of a colorful rope. I tried step one, a fairly simple version for beginners. Suddenly I realized I was airborne. I was only ten inches off the floor, but I might as well have been in the stratosphere.

I couldn’t help calling out, “Hey! I’m hanging from the sky!” My daughter just smiled. She knew I could do it.

She was right.  I’m glad I had the good sense to take her seriously.

3 thoughts on “Old Dog, New Tricks

  1. You are some kind of awesome mom and some kind of awesome woman. Wowzie–I love this. Life is so incredibly busy this week, let’s wait till next week to try again if you don’t mind. MUCH MUCH loveRosa

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