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A Life Saving Lesson From Simone Biles

The Knowledge You NEED to Succeed!

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Are You Really Performance Ready…? 

If you are anything like us, you were glued to the television these throughout August watching team USA’s Olympic gymnasts, and in particular Simone Biles, absolutey killing the competition! But when Biles’ coach, Aimee Boorman, shared some training videos on Twitter, it became clear exactly how far ahead Biles is from the rest of the pack. It turns out that while she’s pushing the level of difficulty in competition, she’s capable of even more—but according to her coach, she won’t be doing these dangerous and complicated gymnastics moves at the Olympics anytime soon.

Biles has a long list of impressive tricks, but her most wow-worthy move is a tumbling skill on floor exercise called the “Biles”—since she was the first female gymnast to successfully do two back flips followed by a half twist in competition, she got it named after her in the gymnastics Code of Points. She’s still the only gymnast in the world who does it. And as this video shows, not only can she do the Biles effortlessly, she can do the Biles and then go immediately into a tucked front flip.


Boorman explained to NBC that there’s too high a possibility of injury or error for Biles to actually do that tumbling combination in competition.

As aerialists we can learn a lot from Boorman’s ‘Mastery before performance’ rule of thumb. How many times have we studied a difficult drop or phrase, fallen in love with it and hurried to get it ‘performance ready’ to include in our upcoming showcase performance act or atmosphere set? It’s one thing to practice the skill in a controlled environment such as our studio with a thick crash pad and an instructor nearby, it’s another to perform it 20 feet above an unforgiving concrete floor and performance adrenaline coursing through our veins.

Early on in Rachel’s career as a duo aerial performer, she was hired to create and perform a doubles trapeze act for a wonderful circus show full of world-class performers for a season at a renowned Los Angeles venue. She and her new partner (this was pre Womack!) had six weeks to create their act and of course they both wanted it to be a technical and artistic feat of excellence! They workshoped many difficult and challenging release moves, (always with a crash pad and multiple spotters) sometimes they executed them perfectly, other times not so much. They were ambitious and highly motivated, only the best would do! When the brief creation period was over, they were extremely proud of their new acts level of technical difficulty and felt confident in all of their skills. The show moved into the theater and with the new venue came different rigging, motors, cable lengths etc. As they were performing on a single point trapeze, the longer cable and distance from the rigging point affected the sway and the orbit of the trapeze (making it more pronounced if they ascended from the stage even slightly off their ‘plum line’). Less than a week into the shows six-week run, they missed their ‘catch’ from a difficult release move (that had been solid in rehearsal) and Rachel fell around 14 feet and landed hard on her back.

She remembers hearing the sold-out audiences collective ‘gasp’ before being hurried offstage by her concerned cast mates. After spending a few days in a hospital being treated for shock and bruising she was released with only very minor injuries. Humbled and experiencing heightened levels of anxiety, Rachel returned to the show a few weeks later in order to face her fears and honor her performance commitments. The act was altered to no longer include said release move and the audience was none the wiser.

Ambition and passion, while admirable qualities can at times work to our detriment. As aerialists we must step outside of our burning desire to create life-changing and life-giving art and acknowledge that we are human beings first, capable of making mistakes. When creating your next aerial act or performing an unstructured atmosphere set, think long and hard about the tricks and phrases you want to include. Are they performance ready? Meaning, have you executed them 30 plus times without faltering? Are you able to relax and enjoy your act or are you constantly thinking about 1 minute 22 seconds in when you choreographed that crazy-hard double open star to lobster that fits perfectly with the songs drum solo but makes your heart race faster then Simone Biles running towards a Vault?

Although we are the first to encourage you to strive for aerial excellence and mastery in the studio, the world of live performance is an entirely different beast. PREPERATION and SAFETY must be your number one priority as you dip your (pointed) toes into the beautiful and rewarding world of professional aerial performance. Learn from our mistakes and those who have gone before. Ask questions, work smart, be ambitious, and stay humble.

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