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The #1 Rigging Mistake We Will Never Make Again


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In 2015 we were invited to Paris France to compete in France’s got Talent.

We are not French, either of us, nor do we speak French (your guess is as good as ours).

The production flew us out and hosted our stay for the three day shoot.

We were excited for a free trip to France but had trepidations about being part of another reality show (we had experience, but that’s another post).

Exploring Paris before our performance

The shows producers had found us on YouTube and thought our modern, American movement style would be a good contrast to the more traditional European aerialists that had appeared in previous seasons.

We arrived at the theater for our scheduled rehearsal about three hours before going live and that is where we met the shows rigger, lets call him Claude.

Claude would be running the winch from which we would be hanging, taking us up and down at specific times throughout our duo silks act.

At our first introduction Claude appeared surly. He didn’t speak English (or at least pretended not to) and spoke directly to us through our producer Genevieve.

“Qui sont ces stupides américains?” he snarled, avoiding eye contact with us, which was translated by Genevieve as; “I am very happy to meet you!’

We both decided to ignore the bad vibes and smell of brandy on his breath and start our rehearsal.

Claude nodded in perceived understanding when we (Genevieve) explained the rigging cues and although we had to shout “NOW” and  “LOWER!” and ‘PETITE LOWER PLEASE!” multiple times throughout our rehearsal, he ignored our concerns with a dismissive wave and murmurs of “OK, Ok” before stumbling off for a smoke break 15 minutes prior to the end of our stage time.

We were so preoccupied with warming up/choreography/make up/costumes etc that we didn’t give Claude much more thought until our performance.

There was really only one major cue he had to execute correctly. About a third of the way into our act Rachel drops down to the floor and vamps around, while Brett prepares the silk for the Wheel Up. At this point Claude was supposed to lower in the point so the silk was at Rachel’s chest.

Reaching up expectantly to place the silk in her armpits Rachel soon realized there was nothing there. She waited, still nothing. She looked intensely toward the downstage left curtain where Claude was running the Winch. Had something happened? Was there a safety issue? Claude starred blankly back at her. Desperately and awkwardly, she began to jump like a baby kangaroo for the too-high silk, trying and failing to continue on with the choreography.

Eventually, after what felt like an eternity (but was probably only 10 seconds) she made contact with the silk and Brett was able to pull her up to continue the act.

After being slammed by the judges (for ego bruising reasons beyond rigging failure, but that’s also another post). We ran furiously backstage to confront the incompetent Claude. As to be expected, he was nowhere to be found.

Fuming, we stormed out into the streets of Paris to drown our sorrows in fresh cheese and baguettes by the Eiffel tower before heading back to our 5 star hotel (are you feeling sorry for us yet?)

In all seriousness though…

…What’s the #1 rigging mistake we will never make again?

Assuming that a rigger provided by a client is capable, qualified and trustworthy.

Not to be negative Nancy’s here but as aerialists, we must all take responsibility for our own safety as much as humanly possible. Although the mistakes made by our liquor-loving French rigger were in this circumstance, reasonably mild (humiliating more then life threatening) things could easily have taken a more dire turn.

We know we don’t need to remind you of the dangers of faulty rigging, nor the importance of working with a qualified, certified, knowledgeable and trustworthy rigger but to reiterate the importance of this issue, check out this post from Rigger Aaron Verdery in the Safety in Aerial Arts Facebook page:

Aaron says:

Don’t make our mistake, be sure to know and TRUST your rigger and if something, anything feels unsafe, remember; you have the power to walk away!

Have a fantastic and safe rest of your week!

Much love,
Brett and Rachel

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