Grounded with Kalina Suter
Hi, I’m Kalina. A dance trapeze artist based in Edinburgh, Scotland (currently doing a 3-month aerial residency in Puerto Escondido, Mexico).
I think a lot about what my relationship to my apparatus is. I see my trapeze as a living breathing entity with a personality. Yes, it’s just a steel bar with two ropes, but it’s also a landscape, a landscape I know as well as my own body. I know how every corner feels, how the vibration ripples through the ropes, the breeze on my face as I spin, the pull I feel on my toes as the spin quickens.
This landscape is my home, it’s my safe place. It is also my studio, my workspace. It’s my trusted friend and space holder for my emotions. It carries my dreams and ambitions, it’s the blood, sweat, and tears of my existence. It is a part of me.
2020 started as one of the hardest years for me. Before we even thought about the pandemic I was going through a rebuilding phase in my life. When the pandemic hit it shattered what little I built up until then. For the first 3 months, I was grounded, like so many others I was disconnected from my apparatus, from my creative and emotional outlet. I tried to find other ways to be creative but nothing satisfied. When I was finally reunited in the air I was still immensely isolated, and, like all of us, carrying the stress of the world in my bones.
I felt heart breaking loneliness and sadness for the life I had lost, the world that I didn’t recognise anymore, and the disconnection that I couldn’t seem to fix. The only thing that gave me comfort was spending time with my trapeze.
Those days weren’t necessarily training days, there were many times I spent an hour lying underneath the trapeze lost in thought. Other days I moved very slowly, I’d pour my feelings into the apparatus, some days clinging tight for the hugs and touch that I craved and mourned for so intensely. Other days I’d thrash and spin all the anger bottled up in me.
At that time it was the only safe emotional space I had, the only place I could be 100% honest about how I felt, what I was experiencing without having to manage how someone else would respond or react.
Over the years I’ve struggled to find my place in the circus world, to know where I fit in. I thought and planned to quit more times than I can count. I felt that I couldn’t justify training full time if I wasn’t going to “make it”. But each time I just couldn’t quite let go of dance trapeze.
The deepening and connection I built to myself and my work in those solitary months of 2020 permitted me to simply do the thing because I loved it. Without any expectation of performances, or workshops, it became purely for me. What I discovered was that it had nothing to do with where I fit in, or if I would ever feel like I fit in. I love what I do because it’s a part of me and my creative expression. I need no other reason than that to do it.
Learning to turn towards my craft, to my apparatus during the hardest times was a gift. Building a relationship with my apparatus, with my art, was really just building my relationship with myself. But sometimes it helps to have a medium to channel it through, like a trapeze.
This led me to create a 6-week online dance trapeze creative mentorship course called Unearthed, where I help other dance trapeze artists reconnect with their work and who they are, where they find their unique creative voice and movement style on dance trapeze.
When I said I never knew where I fit in in the circus industry, I’ve found it. I found my people through Unearthed. During a time when we are still so physically isolated from each other it’s given me real connection and hope. None of this would have happened without the time I had to connect with myself and my work and without the incredible help of my trusted mentor Rachel Strickland.
What I’m saying, folks, is those moments when it feels like there is no external reason to practice your art, it’s an opportunity to find out why you love the thing and do it just for you. You never know what you might discover and where it might lead you.
You Can Follow Kalina Online In These Places:
@kalinasuter on Instagram
Photograph by Lina Hayes