Grounded with Rebecca Rennison
Who are you /how do you identify?
I’m a woman. I’m an aerial dancer, based in London and originally from a very exciting (!) small town near Nottingham. It has taken me a bit of time to write this blog as like with many others I’ve read, I felt a sense of imposter syndrome about having anything to add to this wealth of experience in the blogs here.
It turns out quite a few felt the same – so I will share…..here goes!
Where are you now and what do you do?
I am currently between Falmouth and London working for Yskynna vertical dance company and I feel very lucky to be doing a short contract. I have a thing where I want to do too many aerial apparatus – Hoop, Silks, Rope and Straps … and now I’m currently working on an aerial Spiral – which is new for me!
I tend to feel like I can’t concentrate on one discipline as another calls for a job or because I will get more obsessed with it at a certain point in time. Sometimes this has good points. I can chameleon myself into a job, roles’ demands… other times, (or at least I used to) get frustrated with my lack of progressions in level of ‘technique’ in each discipline. Jack of all trades and master of none springs to mind 😉
I also teach aerial – and have done even more due to the endless lockdowns. I taught either online or 1-1’s in my garden and also when things have been open – in the usual way. I enjoy teaching and I’ve always thought once you can teach a specific skill it really helps you to understand it as well.
What was your pathway into the professional field of aerial?
I started with dance, studying at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. I came across some trapeze classes when I first moved to London and quickly realised that it was going to be very expensive to try and do this all the time….. I’d fallen in love though and I really had to find a way to learn!
I saw an advert for a dance role at Circus Krone . It was/is a traditional touring circus in Germany – animals and all. I learnt so much there but also had to do a bit of a ‘180’ in terms of my views on animals in circuses… (as a kid, myself and a friend tried to set free a zebra from a local circus).
Some of the animals there were being housed as zoos could no longer afford them whereas Circus Krone could feed and house them. Some trainers had literally grown up as small children with their big cats. There was a mutual respect and something very special.
Some elements I didn’t agree with of course but my plans to free animals from circuses didn’t seem like that was going to be better option for them. … I’m digressing ……
Anyway, the trapeze troupe gave me a hoop to practice on everyday of the contract but no mat… and I tried to get as good as I could without knowing any ‘proper’ moves and just figuring it out.
Having access to the equipment though made a huge difference and when I finally came back to London I was able to get a job as a dancer/aerialist. This really helped me to transition from a dancer who could do a bit of aerial to more of an aerialist.
I’ve always loved training and I kept trying to find ways to train in London, there was so much to learn and building the upper body strength was hard for me. I did classes at so many places, at MAH and a 3-month course at Gravity
In the last few years I have taken private lessons when I can. There are so many different approaches to the body. I just want to absorb it all!
To your younger self or to artists emerging now I’d say:
- Don’t stress about it – you are good enough! I’ve been stressing about that for my entire working career and yet I’m still working now, (10yrs after graduating in Dance) so… (hands up emoji)!!!
- Work hard
- It appears that no one really knows what they are doing either and we’re all just trying to make things happen. I’ve only just realised this……so it’s ok if you don’t know either. Just do you best.
- Learn about rigging- so you can spot if something might go wrong, because it can. Don’t always think that the people employing you or the venue knows everything about aerial rigging, they may not and so the more informed you are, the more likely you can spot an issue.
- Stretching and strength do go together 😉
- Be ready for the work and the work will come. I always forget about that one.
- People you meet will come back into your life and ask you to do wonderful projects or jobs.
I also think of circus as a healer. Circus helped me work my way out of eating disorders, by giving my body a reason to be strong and healthy. Once I found the reason to care for my body – there was no turning back. I do believe Circus can transform people, and thats why I love it so much.
I realise that being creative, whether that’s making an act, a piece or even a sequence is a practice for me……you have to keep doing it .. I can’t forget that. It’s keeping your soul happy, everyday.
During the lockdowns I was running a lot of HIIT workouts and other workout stuff and I didn’t leave much time for creation for myself. Now I understand that’s very important to me, I try to leave room for it.
I recently delved into making a movement film, as many companies and freelancers did. I met Joan at MAH who is an 80 yr old aerialist. I was so inspired by her and so many people in our circus community that not only lost their livelihoods, but had also overcome, or were overcoming huge injuries or events to their bodies.
The resilience of people is actually incredible. We can all get through it, trust your body, it has limitless potential. If you fancy checking it out, it’s here: Joans Dance
I hope that the Arts and Entertainment industry continue to grow back, stronger than before. I think we’ve all been through such a huge grief, our livelihoods, our culture (live show culture) and community was stripped away from us and held back for so long.
I think I’ve realised that there really is a place for us, and a need for art and escapism. Maybe in the back of my imposter mind I thought that we weren’t important enough – to use Boris’s terrible phrase ‘essential’ enough. However, anything that takes us away from the fear inducing dialogue which is constantly weighing down on us is absolutely vital… less fear means less stress – which means less of the hormone cortisol – equals better functioning immune systems and there you have it – circus arts is a community health service 😉
Anyway I’m trying to lighten up more these days, after all it can all be taken away in an instant ..….so enjoy yourself!
Thanks for reading,
To follow Becki and find out more about her work:
Facebook: Rebecca Rennison
Website: Rebecca Rennison
Photo credit: Andre – @dancers diary
Image description: Against a black background and dressed in a short, scoop necked, blue unitard, Becki hangs from a white covered rope and looks directly to camera. A black lampshade overhead casts light on her as she hangs, legs split, from one hand, with the rope passing behind her top knee and looped over her free arm.