Aerial Silk Advice And Other Tips For Aerialists

Laura Ernst performs professionally at festivals, fairs, corporate events and on cruise ships. Here she share advice for anyone interested in performing on aerial silk.

Other entertainers – don’t go away! Her advice to aerialists on the technical rider may inspire you to think about your performance needs!

And so, aerial artists, this kind of goes back to that last question, have an emergency plan. Now I have never had need of my emergency plan, but if something went wrong where, you know, you, you’re on a motor, and you are on a lyra and you are going up, and then it, the power goes out, how are you going to get down? You’ve got to have a plan for what happens in the worst case scenario. And you’ve got to share that plan with somebody that is in the tech crew, either your stage hand or somebody has got to know what to do in case of emergency. So that when it does happen, and I’m not saying it would happen to anybody, but if it does happen, somebody knows what to do.

There’s just a bunch of things that I could say about aerial fabrics and those kind of things. Start things on the floor. Start it with a Barbie and a rope. What I do, is I take a little bit, a couple of ribbons, like, everybody knows what a ribbon is, I take a ribbon and I attach it to a chair, and I take a Barbie doll and I’ll wrap it up into the drop that I’m thinking of doing, and then I’ll drop her through it so I know what happens. Then I’ll do it on the ground with my fabric, I’ll literally roll on the ground to get out of the fabric. And then I’ll do it at a height that I know I won’t fall on the ground, and then I’ll do it a little higher, so it’s progressive. I know by the time I take it to the fabric, I’m not going to fall on my face. Because there is just a lot of risk involved in fabric. There is a lot of risk to be paralyzed, to break a leg, to die on this. So you’ve got to be very careful about what you are doing. And especially with your rigging. Your rigging is usually the reason that you are going to fall if something is going to happen. I could go on forever about your rigging, but that’s another thing.

So for rigging, you want to have at least a five to one ratio so, you might think, oh, I’m only a hundred pounds on the fabric, but when you are adding the kinetic energy of your drops, you weigh a thousand pounds at least. From the top of your drop to the bottom of it. So the structure you have has to not just hold a thousand pounds, because if it reaches that, it’s just going to fail. But you want to have a couple steps away from the edge of that. So five to one ratio is great for that, which means you need something around five thousand pounds to be able to hold you. So, the weakest part of your rigging, is what the whole thing is rated for. So the weakest link of your rigging is obviously what you need to worry about the most. So like, my span set, I know that that is rated for like five thousand pounds so that is probably one of the weakest parts.

And you want to rig ideally to an I beam. I think all aerialists know that, a beam clamp or a span set over it, it’s just really hard to go into a venue and say, okay, I’ve got a rig.

This is very important too. In your tech rider, make sure that, you know, you’ve got your escape plan and that somebody is going to be there to talk about that escape plan with you. Make sure that you’ve got a safe access to your rigging point. Make sure you’ve talked about your rigging point. If they need to, they can have a structural engineer come in and say yes, you can hang
from that and yes you can hang from that with that and that is not going to fail on you.

Make sure you’ve got safe access to the beginning of your routine. You don’t want to, if you start up in the rafters and you come down, you want to make sure you’re not going to be hanging upside down from your fabric for forty-five minutes waiting for your routine, because that is just not going to happen. Or if it does happen, you’ll be really, really exhausted and the chances of danger are just really, you just don’t want to go there.

Unless I go into real specifics about rigging, which I, I feel like if you have those kind of questions about rigging, go to somebody that is a professional. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most people are going to help you out in answering your questions, for free, for no charge, especially when it comes to your safety.

Safety comes first when dealing with aerial silk/fabric. Please do not attempt any aerial fabric stunts without proper training.


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