Category Archives: Coaching

Helping Male Silks-Students Succeed

This month, I had the wonderful opportunity to perform in both The Hungry Hearts Cabaret in Flagstaff, and A Very Potter Circus in Boise. Interestingly, after both of these events, I was asked the same question by two different sets of aerial coaches:

“How to I help my male silk-students work through the pain of different tricks?”

This question comes up in context of silks, hammock, and rope most often, because these apparatus deal with wraps around the hips and legs that aren’t experienced on steel apparatus or straps (though the tips below can cross apply too). The reason this becomes a concern is that when encountering something that is painful, and coaches aren’t sure how to help, many male students are simply abandoning those techniques altogether. And when they happens to be a foundational elements, like hipkey, these men go forward with a major holes in their repertoire.

This isn’t what we want, and it isn’t necessary to throw up our hands in defeat on this. As an male aerialist specialising in fabric for the last 6 years, I have gone through a lot of trial and error around this subject, and will pass along what has helped me onto you, so we can help reduce pain in all our students.

**Disclaimer** yes, I said reduce, instead of eliminate pain. Aerial is painful, and while these tips can help us circumvent much unnecessary discomfort, only mastery and perfect practise can stop it entirely (which is to say, it will never be avoided altogether). So when it inevitably comes up, breathe, and I promise you’ll come out OK. Additionally, I also said all our students, as these tips can apply to female students, and those not on the binary spectrum. Now to begin:

Clothing Adjustments

Odds are that you already knew this was coming, but my first suggestion is to wear a dance-belt. This not only keeps things modest while wearing tights/leggings for training, but will also keep things compact and in place. If you’re wearing underwear, especially if it’s not quite form fitting, then there is a lot more room for error, and things are more likely to be wrapped over and squished. 

You can get a dance-belt at your local dance-wear shop, or conveniently onlineThe style is more personal preference, but I would personally recommend getting a full-back if you’re just planning to train in them. They are a lot more comfortable than a thong-back, however they give you a “unibutt”, which means that your butt just looks like one big cheek in your tights. This is only really a concern when performing/taking photos, for which I would recommend a thong-back.

I just want to end on this note: training on silks doesn’t curse you to wearing a dance-belt always and forever (though over time they honestly get more comfortable). Now that I have a lot of practise with the next two tips, I can comfortably train and teach in regular briefs. So, just know you won’t be stuck in a dance-belt every time you train for the rest of your life.

Manual Adjustments

For a short term solution for managing pain in a particular trick, break down the wrap on the floor, and map out where your stuff needs to be to avoid being underneath. Then, place it in that position before each practise of that sequence.

I’ll use hipkey as an example, because it is both simple and universal: if we take apart the anatomy of a hipkey, we realize that the pole goes under the bottom thigh, and then proceeds between the legs, over the pelvis, and onto the lower back. Breaking this down, we know that we don’t want anything falling beneath the tail coming over the top thigh. Therefore, moving everything over toward the thigh on the bottom of the hipkey (under-which the pole goes) before practicing sequencing there can manually get everything out of the way, and reduce pain.

This can be done for more complicated wraps over the hips as well. Simply dissect them on the ground, and then move things into the window of the wrap. Everything is more likely to stay put -again- if it is within a dance-belt.

Technical Adjustments  

Manual adjustments before every turn will get old fast, and also can be socially uncomfortable and unsanitary for shared apparatus. So, the long-term, though admittedly slower solution to the problem comes from adjusting technique to include movements that alleviate pain. This takes some trial and error, but after finding these pathways and integrating them for a while, they’ll become muscle memory and students won’t have to consciously think about them every time.

This is a bit of a personal journey for each individual, however here are some tips to get you started. I’ll be relating these to salto-wraps, as they seem to cause the most trouble:

  • Wrap Intentionally: A lot of pain can be prevented by placing wraps in a better place on the highs and hips. But don’t just think about the initial placement; also consider where the wrap goes as you change your orientation in the next steps. Wrapping tightly can also help the fabric to stay where you put it.
  • Play with Transitions: A lot of times, going through a transition through straddle will be more pleasant for a man than going through pike, in a way a female coach wouldn’t know to cue. This is the case much of the time when opening from a hipkey into a salto position. Take the time to explore different ways of moving from one position to another when you discover pain between shapes. Relay these discoveries to your coach!
  • Climb Above the Wrap: This is probably the most important tip I have to give in this article. The most dangerous movement (in my experience) is to get to a position through “sliding”, instead of “climbing and settling”. When getting to a salto from a single-knee-hook above you, do not climb up meekly and then slide the pole around to be behind you. This will almost always result in unpleasantness or even full-on crushing. Instead, use your big strong muscles to climb up and above the salto, and then gently settle down into position through the space you’ve created. This technique can be used for a lot of tricks, and should be utilized by female acrobats as well (as it makes you stronger to climb up higher, and sliding feels good to no one).
  • Have Confidence and Go: As a final tip, have confidence that the wrap you’ve created is correct and upon encountering pain, continue on! If you’re up in a salto, proceed through the drop. If the sequence goes on, then move to the next shape! When students feel pain, they tend to let their fear response slow them down or stop, but this only prolongs what is causing the pain. Forge on, silks student, and the pain will soon be behind you.

Whether you are a male silks student yourself, or a teacher of male students, hopefully this article has given you some ideas for making training more enjoyable. We need more men in the aerial world, and when we get them, they need our encouragement to continue on through their discomfort, and become the best acrobats they can be. So, pass along this article, implement this knowledge, message me if you have any more questions, and I’ll see you in the air!

My Thoughts on Competition

Happy New Year friends and fans! This time of year is my very favorite! I love the opportunity to sit down and reflect on how things have gone in my training and my life, and make new projects and goals to work on. However, this hasn’t always been the case…

From ages 10-15, the beginning of the year was the most stressful time for me: competition season. As a gymnast, your year is divided up into Training (May-December) and Competing (January-April), and as each day passed after the New Year, my nerves would rise.

By the time competition day arrived, I wouldn’t be able to relax enough to eat or sleep, and as a result I’m sure I never performed at my best. When I finally decided to quit gymnastics, competition was a major reason for doing so. To this day I still have bad dreams about them.

In the last few years though, I’ve had the opportunity to compete as an aerialist, and I had the most enjoyable experiences! So, what’s been the difference? Am I just older and wiser? That may be half true, but I do think I’ve figured out why competing has been so much better at this stage in my life. And just in case you’ve got a competition in your 2019 Resolutions, I want to share it with you.

To be perfectly honest, it really boils down to just one thing:

I don’t think about it as a competition, I think about it as a performance.

This may seem like a small change, and it is! But let me break it down a bit further and show you why this paradigm shift really changed my outlook.

Competition is about You, Performance is about Others

When I was competing, I was hyper-focused on myself. Was I going to do ok? Would the judges think I was good?Would I stick my landing? How was I going to place?  How many metals would I get at the end? Would I make Coach Chris and my family proud? The more I thought about myself, the more anxious I became.

When performing, on the other hand, your priority becomes the experience of your audience. How do I communicate my story to them? What movement expresses the emotion I want them to feel? Which tricks will make them the most excited? What music will help me to connect with them the most?

My Silks Coach Darla use to always tell me that my performance was a Gift, and this has always stuck with me. When you were exchanging presents during your holidays, didn’t the reactions of, and memories with your friends and family, mean more to you than the things you got?

If you go into a competition remembering that your performance is a gift, and making your audience’s experience of that gift your priority, I promise your anxiety will lift and float into the air, just as you will.

(Speaking of the audience, the one you’ll have at a competition is unique in that it will very likely include other aerialists. I love performing for other aerialists because they have a much better eye for how hard you are working, what your truly impressive tricks and techniques are, and won’t just clap for splits like when performing for muggles!)

Competition is Conflict, Performance is Collaboration

In my first experience with US Aerial in 2015, it was a competition. I retreated into my own world for the duration. I didn’t know my competitors, Trevor Kafka and Nico Maffey, and didn’t make a effort to get to know either of them, or the aerialists in other divisions either. I was was there to compete, and just like when I was a gymnast, when I messed up in the execution of my solo, I was genuinely upset (with myself and the circumstances) that I didn’t win.

This is the mindset of someone in fear, scarcity, and conflict. And it isn’t the way I’d naturally behave in a performance setting. At a gig, being better than the other artists is not the goal. Neither is impressing those specifically there to judge you. In a performance, there is camaraderie between performers (and technicians), and by connecting, working together, and encouraging each other, you cumulatively provide the best entertainment possible for those watching.

This is why the 2016 US Aerial Championship was so much better for me, performance wise and emotionally: I was friends with all the other boys in my division (shout out to Iram, Garret, Troy, Jason, and Joe!) and I genuinely wanted them to succeed and perform their best. I also wanted perform my best, but having grown as an acrobat and as a human in the year prior, that desire came from a place of passion for performing, instead of wanting to win.

Competition is an Achievement, Performance is an Opportunity

As a gymnast, competitions occured at the beginning of the year, but they represented the end of my year. A year of focus, discipline, and hard work sure, but still a culmination of that work. Gold-, Silver-, and Copper-colored metals may have come after the finishing my last event, but I was still finished. And whether that achievement was publicly recognized or not, the pressure of the finale, and starting the cycle over again, was there.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A competition is a great way to set and complete goals, and with deadline for yourself: “I’ve got to have my music chosen and sent in by Friday, Choreography needs to be finished a week after that, and for the next two weeks I’ll be doing run-throughs every other day to build up my stamina, and start practising in costume ASAP to troubleshoot issues.” The pressure can increase focus and productivity, and a time-crunch can spark creativity when nothing else will. But for me personally, I enjoy every facet of competition more when I recognize that it is a part of my journey, not the destination.

While a competition may show you’ve grown, a performance is just another way to grow. And like an audition, what the performance leads to in the future can often be just as exciting as being on stage now. Sure getting payment for a gig feels good, but far more rewarding is the spectator who gives the tale of how touched they were by your performance, along with their business-card and an offer to work their next event. If you go into a competition with this mindset, ironically you’ll probably end up placing higher than you otherwise would have.

If I could go back in time and give my younger-self advice, I’d say “Be a dancer instead”. Just kidding! I’m truly grateful for my history, and I wouldn’t change a thing. However, I would tell teen Brandon to view his meets as a performance, and not a competition. Because in reality, the metals and the plaques and the trophies wouldn’t be nearly as valuable as the opportunity to share his talents and passion with other people.

Making the Most of your Private Lesson

Privates are my very favorite method of teaching! The one-on-one time allows me to truly focus on my student and how to best help them reach their goals. If you are interested in taking a private lesson with me, here are some things you can do before and after to get the most out of our time together.

Days/Weeks Before Your Lesson:

Once you have decided to take a private lesson with me, the first step will be to send me a Direct-Message on Instagram, or if you prefer, an email. In this initial message, give me a few options of dates and times that would work for you. Upon receiving this, I will work out the best of those times with my own schedule and the hosting studio, and then get back to you asap with a confirmation.

After getting confirmed for our lesson, it is time for you to decide what you would like to work on with me! My recommendation is to choose 1 topic per half-hour we have scheduled together. To help make my lesson planning efficient, you can also send me some videos of where you are presently with those skills you want to work on, or tell me what components are currently giving you the most trouble.

You may also choose to use your lesson to work on, or pass the requirements for my @coachbrandonscott instagram page. If you’d like to read more about what it takes to become a virtual student of mine, you can read my blog post about it here.

Finally, consider inviting a friend or two to form a semi-private lesson! Some benefits of semi-privates include getting a discount on your fee, and having another person to watch and take turns with. Just make sure that you discuss and agree on what skills y’all want to work on beforehand.

Day of/Minutes Before Your Lesson:

On the day of your lesson, please prepare by bringing something with which to record what you learn. You can go old school with a pad of paper and a pencil so you can write down sequencing, tips and tricks, and epiphanies you have during our session. But also, know you are welcome to use your phone in our lesson to visually record yourself.

(Please note that every coach has different levels of comfort with phones in their classes, so while I happen to be pretty lenient, please be courteous and ask each coach you work with for their personal rules.)

Then, plan ahead, and get to our lesson early! This is especially important if you are going to a new studio for our lesson, as you’ll most likely need to fill out new waivers, sign in somewhere online, or make a payment. Once you are finished with housekeeping, it’s time to warm yourself up. I may have a few targeted warmups planned to begin our curriculum, but being already warm when we begin will save us a lot of time, perhaps enough to include an extra skill at the end!

After Your Lesson:

After we’ve parted, and you are home recovering (maybe before bed), take some time to review your notes and videos about what we worked on together. Think about the things that really worked well, as well as the things that challenged you. Try and visualize yourself performing the sequencing at your highest level. All these exercises will help you retain and make the most of what you learned.

The very next time you have the chance to train a bit on your own, go over everything you can remember from our private lesson. If you have a breakthrough or run into issues, please feel free to message me! I am happy to continue assisting you in getting over roadblocks as you get to them, and I love to see your progress!

Lastly, don’t forget to tag me in posts you make on instagram! You’re likely to find yourself in my BSA instagram story! I’ll see you in the air, hopefully in a private lesson soon!

-Coach B

Why I Wear #socksonsilks (and 5 reasons you should too!)

If you’ve ever taken a class with me, seen me perform, or if you’ve been following me on Instagram for awhile, you might have noticed something a little strange; almost without fail, I practice aerial in socks! Now, at first glance, you might think me a bit crazy for covering my feet in something slippery and climbing my fabric. But today I want to give you 5 reasons why YOU should try training with #socksonsilks.

#1 – Get Stronger!

Wearing socks is a great way to squeeze some extra conditioning out of your climbs on fabric. Because the friction between your feet is reduced, the muscles in your arms, chest, back, core, glutes, and inner thighs will have to engage more to lift you up against gravity. This results in a more full-body workout as you climb. Now, I know it will be harder at first (I’ve logged in hundreds of hours climbing in socks, I know!!) but you don’t have to keep them on for long. Start with just one #socksonsilks climb at the beginning and end of your class, or personal training session. Once you can reach the top, add a second climb to start and finish, and then continue your progress by wearing socks during your sequencing, and conditioning. I promise you will see dramatic increases in your strength after even just a few weeks (and then you will be hooked!). And as an added bonus, when you take your socks off and continue to train in bare-feet, you will feel superhuman!

#2 – Stop the Sticking!

After training with socks for a while, you will find that it doesn’t make everything harder. On the contrary, it actually helps to make some techniques and skills easier! The clearest example of this is for footlocks: the reduced friction allows your feet to glide more effortlessly up and down against the tissue as you wrap your feet, making your figure-8 and dancers more polished, and easier to make level. Additionally, there are some tricks that require that your feet are able to slide on your tissue, including one of my favorites, wrist-lock splits! This all becomes exponentially more critical as the humidity in your studio rises, and the silks get sticky. Having the capacity to train in socks as needed is an amazing tool in your belt for overcoming the effects of weather on your fabric, and is a near necessity if you live somewhere tropical or wet!

#3 – Stop the Stinking!

One more practical reason to wear socks while you train is to keep your silks cleaner. Bare feet are by far the fastest culprit of stinky fabric. So, if you can consistently cover them, you can significantly increase the trainable time between washes. While this is more difficult in a studio setting where dozens of people use the same sets of silk to train, cultivating a culture of sock-wearing (as well as other hygiene habits) can help reduce the grime and odor buildup between laundry days. But if you’re using your own personal silks, you can keep them fresh for even months at a time by training in socks!

#4 – Finish your Lovely Lines!

When wearing regular leggings, bare feet don’t often create the nicest picture. Especially if you the type to pull yours over the heel, your naked toes break the shape of your legs right before the finish-line, and this contrast can draw attention away from your flexibility to even the smallest of sickles of flexes. Wearing socks helps to enhance your toe-point, and puts the focus back to the full line, rather than the ends. Further, having the capacity to perform in socks gives you the option of wearing full ballet-style tights, should you desire that aesthetic. Not relying on your feet to climb can broaden your options further to heels, ballet slippers, or other footwear should your act/character call for them.

#5 – Be Part of my Story!

Any one of these reasons is a great one for starting, or continuing your journey of training with socks. But on a more personal level, you can take some satisfaction in knowing you are training like Brandon Scott does! Further, if you wear socks during your next private with me, it will tip me off to know that you have the strength and commitment for more advanced techniques. But I’m going to take it one step further with this cherry on top: if you video yourself, post it on Instagram, and use the hashtag #socksonsilks, you may find yourself featured in my IG story!!


Thank you so much for reading my first blog post and visiting my website! Please check back again for more updates, message me if you have requests on other topics you’d like to see me write about, and I’ll see you in the air!