Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Masterclass with Cypher Zero

Proud to announce that our first pole masterclass at Rondi's SELF Fitness was a success!

Sorry for not announcing it, but the whole thing was very last-minute!

As some of you may know, I have almost no formal pole training, but trained in aerial silks and other acrobatic skills at the New York Circus Arts Academy. I started there when it was called Firefly Aerial Acrobatics, stuck around for the NYCAA phase (even pulled an all-nighter to help them move from the Brooklyn school to the Manhattan space), and then dropped out when the economy tanked and I couldn't afford lessons anymore. I did continue training in private lessons elsewhere, though, and when NYCAA became Circus Warehouse and started welcoming all alumns to train there (even if they weren't currently enrolled), I started renting a silk there with my training partner once a week or so. So I'm proud to say I trained at this school under all three of its incarnations!

The founder of the school is Cypher Zero, who sold his company in NY and moved it to California. I hadn't seen Cypher in several years, and when I moved out here to Chicago we were discussing a potential visit while he was touring with his "traveling workshops." At the last minute, we decided to turn the visit into a workshop at Rondi's, where I teach and run the pole program.

It was really hard to get word out, because not only was it last minute, but the only feasible date was the day after frigging Christmas. But we decided to go for it, because even if only a handful of people could benefit, it would still be helpful to them, and Cypher was going to be here anyways, so there was no loss pending.

Cypher built most of his career teaching silks, trapeze, and the like. But he did branch out into pole, after I introduced him to the art form, as we were planning on me launching an aerial pole program there years ago. They ended up going into Chinese pole instead of Western-style pole, and remain (at Circus Warehouse) one of the few places to get Chinese pole training in the US.

So, the workshop! We had a lot of back-and-forth about what exactly to cover. We decided since it would be a small group (and involving lots of conditioning) to open it up to all levels. We weren't sure Rondi's had a good set-up for silks, so we planned on doing "pole and then we'll see."

We brought a silk down with us and Cypher actually did find a perfect place to set it up. My boss was hesitant, since we'd advertised it as a pole workshop, not as a silks workshop. So we compromised: the full 90 minute workshop would be devoted to pole and conditioning, and then Cypher would (at no extra charge) add on an optional half hour at the end for whoever wanted to get an introduction to aerial silks.

For the workshop, Cypher gave us a handout of some conditioning exercises from New York Circus Arts, and went over them with us. Then we took it to the pole, dissecting some pole moves that were challenging the students (I had asked them to submit their "wish lists" beforehand).

Cypher gave us some good advice on spotting that's going to stay with me: try to spot with your whole chest, not just with your hands. If you just spot with your hands, the aerialist will fall right through them.

The other most important piece of advice I'm going to take away from the workshop is grip. Cypher reminded us not to death grip the pole or other apparatus, but to hold it like the hand of a child: firm but gentle. I'm guilty of choking the pole during my iron X's, and I don't need to be.

After the 90 minutes drew to a close, Cypher invited everyone to try silks (after I made him plug my conditioning class). DUH, everyone wanted to do it! So we learned some very basic stuff, and Cypher was able to transfer it into a very simple but elegant routine. No drops, but some elegant poses.

I got really good feedback about the workshop, so that made me happy. Obviously, with the last-minuteness and the holidays, it wasn't going to be a big money-maker for us, so I'm glad at least we left a good impression on our guest students, and everyone walked away feeling like they'd learned something.

In the following days, Cypher and I did some independent work with local polers, swung by The Actor's Gymnasium, and also visited King Spa! It's like New York's Spa Castle, but here in Chicagoland. I'm arranging a pole outing there on the 13th, so all area polers, please join us!!

Photo of Mandy, used with permission.

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