• Courtney

Becoming an Aerialist

Becoming an #aerialist:

My freshman year in high school for our computer class, the teacher wanted us all to do a power point presentation on our dream job. At that time, I was 14 years old. Soon to turn 15. I had absolutely no idea what job I wanted when I grew up. It seemed like each year I got older my ideas changed about what I was interested in. I wanted to be a veterinarian, a singer, an actress, a nurse and stay at home wife all before I was ten years old. I remember wanting to be a forensic pathologist for the longest time. With that I thought how fun it would be to be a detective or a spy. My mom always watched the investigative discovery channel so solving crimes was an everyday part of life for her and I.

Having to do this presentation and not having any idea what I really wanted to become, I chose to do something completely off the wall. Something random nobody else was going to choose. I didn’t want to be just another kid in class doing some boring presentation on a normal job. Therefore, I googled fun jobs. A very simple search and one of the first things that popped up was a lady on what looked to be a curtain. #CIRCUS. She was an acrobat. In that moment I decided I wanted to use this job for my project. Getting paid to literally hang on some fabric? Count me in. I learned what she was doing was called “Aerial Silks.” In the suggestion photos I saw #trapeze artists, hand balancers, even people just on a rope. It was super awesome gymnastics. I never did sports or anything active because I had a doctor tell me I was limited with movement due to a neck injury I had in fourth grade. Watching these videos and looking at pictures of these people bending themselves in half, feet in their face, hanging from their ankles was the absolute most amazing thing I had ever seen. All thanks to this project requirement in freshman computers. Of course, at the time I was only doing it for a grade. I thought it would be fun to present. These acrobats were magicians, but I would never be them. I lived in a small town with nothing. A big high school, a good wrestling team and even a pool but I was a country girl. I didn’t run track, I ran barefoot in fields. I didn’t stay after school to get picked up by my mom or dad, I had to ride the bus and make sure my younger brother and sister made it home safely with me while dad worked, and mom slept because her work schedule was 3rd shift almost my entire growing up life. Safe to say I lived a pretty country life as a child. We played in the mud, ran around in the woods, had a three-wheeler and go cart to go mudding with. Okay going off track here. You get the idea. Not a very sporty lifestyle.

I put together this amazing project, presented it to the class, got an A and never thought about silks again. I had moved out of Allegan in 2010. The year after I graduated high school at 17 years old. I moved to Kalamazoo to escape a lame going no where town. All my friends started having kids and my high school sweetheart decided to go down a bad path. I started college in Wyoming, Michigan but only last 6 months before I realized what a scam that was. When I moved to Kalamazoo, I became a night club dancer. I had just turned 19, got an apartment with my dads cosigning help and just purchased an oz rally racing addition yellow and black lancer. I danced for a year before I met my boyfriend of now close to 7 years. He never really did like me dancing so he would put in my ear about how I should find something else. I couldn’t be a dancer forever; blah blah blah is what I heard after a while. One night I was laying on my floor contemplating my life when I asked myself, “What AM I interested in? What will I do for the rest of my life?, I know I can’t be a dancer forever but what can I do forever?” I honestly had no idea. I didn’t have skills or talents. I was book smart but how far would that really get you. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Majority of the people I knew were at the club. That was my life. Those were my friends. Even when I wasn’t at work, I would go there to hang out. I relied on that place for my way of living and fun. I had to ask myself what I enjoyed doing. I liked to entertain. I liked to meet new people and “aww” strangers. It wasn’t just my body which made my money, it was my attitude. High energy, fun, and honest. A bubble full of happiness. My attentiveness and confidence attracted everyone. So how could I do another job where I had as much fun as this one? Performing for strangers. Suddenly in these thoughts, I remembered that presentation I gave my freshman year. The circus performers and they got paid really well. It didn’t take me two seconds to turn the computer on and google circus school. While the webpages loaded, I sketched up a plan of action in my mind. My expectations were to find a circus school probably on the other side of the country like Los Angeles, must save money for years, plan to move to LA, enroll in circus school and be a circus person. Much to my surprise, I didn’t have to save anything nor move across the world. The first circus school related suggestion on google was an aerial silks class one hour away from me in Grand Rapids, Michigan. #aerial4me For a 6-week class, it was $120. I had exactly $123 in my bank account, so I signed up, paid for the lessons, left $3 in my account, borrowed $10 for gas and started my classes three days later. It was meant to be.

I had upper body strength for having been a pole dancer for 3 years prior, so I excelled quickly on the silks. I’m sure my instructors got annoyed at first because in class I would succeed with the trick/pose but would have to wait for the other group of girls to get it. I was stronger than the beginners, so I too found frustration. This taught me to be patient. It taught me to calm down and do my tricks repeatedly, even if I perfected them. This was the first time in my life I had a purpose. A purpose to learn this for myself. Not only was it good for my body, but it was good for my brain to see others learning, being patient and really concentrating. It wasn’t enough to just “DO” the tricks. I had to feel them, get to know my body and learn antigravity. To become one with the silk, not to just climb it and wrap myself. Patients was key to this trade. This was also the first time in my life I had a coach. Someone to tell me what an excellent job I was doing. I never understood the importance of another human validating your progress, but it made me love my coach like a mom. She was the one I wanted to be like. I wanted to be Jackie when I grew up. My first ever role model for striving to reach dreams.

Within three weeks, I knew this was my next mission in life. I knew this was going to be the thing that got me away from the negative world of the party life. I got hired for my first family friendly performance the following summer, about 8 months later after starting classes. I only got paid $100 but it was the first time to ever perform outside of lights and walls. Because I didn’t want to do it alone, I taught my friend how to do the basic beginner moves so she could be my partner at the gig. We started training in April 2014 for the gig in June. My instructors saw the videos of me teaching her which got me in trouble. I was told if I continued to teach her or anyone else, I would be dismissed from class and would not be able to return. I asked why this was an issue, so they explained that aerial work is dangerous. Just because I had the strength to do it didn’t mean I knew the terminology or proper ways to teach someone else along with properly spotting them so they didn’t fall and die. Plus, it was taking information taught to me and giving it out to someone else free who was not enrolled in the aerial class. This made sense to me after they explained it. I have always been confident in decisions I make so I felt I knew what I was talking about at the time. They told me I had to become certified to be an instructor and learn how to not be sued when I hurt someone, if that ever happened. I really enjoyed showing Jessica how to climb, knot and do poses and tricks up on the silks but I had no idea how to get certified to teach it. I asked Jackie my aerial instructor how to go about this. She told me that The New England Center for Circus Arts had programs for teachers training. #NECCA

I made a mental note of this and went home that day to look up the information I needed, then I could show anyone and everyone without having negative consequences. I also wanted to become a teacher because the club I worked at had so many girls who were interested in what I was doing. They always asked me to show them what I was doing. At first, I had to tell them no because if my instructor found out about it, I would be released from my lessons. I was very forward with letting them know I wasn’t about to risk my future and something I loved to show them how to do it. I figured as an instructor, I could have girls sign up with me, pay me and learn correctly. Now not only did I want to be an aerial performer, I also put into plan to be an aerial instructor. Two jobs with one activity.

Currently, these were all thoughts. It was an idea. Two years prior to these thoughts, I didn’t know how to make a plan for the future. I didn’t know how to be someone with goals. The only two things I ever saved my money for were the big couch I bought for $1800 in 2010 and that nine day stretch where Angelica and I worked from open to close to make thousands of dollars for our first festival trip in 2012.

I had the idea to go to New England and get certified, but I hadn’t the money to do so.

I got a call from my instructor one day asking me if I was willing to perform in her place for a Halloween party over in the Detroit area. The gig was offering $350 for a three-hour set. The requirement was I do a five-minute set three times throughout the night. I accepted graciously. My second aerial silks performance was paying me over three hundred dollars for a 15-minute workout. How cool is that? In my first year of training and performing on aerial silks, I banked a whopping $450. I never thought I’d be doing silks let alone making money at it too. I brought my boyfriend, Travis and his brother as helping hands. Also, because I was going to an outskirt town of Detroit which I wasn’t going to do alone. Before the gig, I was asked what my stage name was. I hadn’t any idea what to call myself so as we pondered this, it was Travis who came up with it. I wanted to be rainbow something. Earlier that year, I had been exposed to the magic of psychedelics which had a lasting impression on my bubbly character and view of the world and appreciation for the color spectrum. Rainbows are beautiful and inviting so I wanted my name to be catchy with colors. I was standing in the hotel bathroom repeating “rainbow, rainbow, rainbow” just waiting for something to pop into my head when Trav says, “Rainbow Flight, like Rainbow Bright, get it?” I loved it. I didn’t really know who Rainbow Bright was, but I liked the way it flowed. To personalize it, I changed the flight to FLY with a T.E on the end. A flying rainbow. October 25, 2014 Rainbow Flyte was born. My aerial personality was created to forever stick and grow. Rainbow Flyte matched perfectly to the rainbow dreadlocks I had too.

In the club I worked, it was a big building. With two clubs connected. I started working at the other club because things started to change in my life. I was close with the manager in my original club but when he got a new girlfriend, he started treating me differently. I was there as a customer one night, I had worked that entire dayshift leading up to clocking out and having a few drinks. I ran out to the parking lot to smoke a cigarette with a friend of mine. Which ultimately ended up getting me let go because that manager needed an excuse to fire me, assumingly his girlfriend wanted me gone. None of it made sense. Luckily, I was friends with the manager at the opposite club, so I signed a contract with them. I even had the new club managers talked into buying me a 40-foot aerial silk, so I could be their aerialist instead of another dancer. I found working during the day time gave me freedom to be that aerialist and still be paid, at least until the customer base started to die down in the day time. Lonely club dayshift was red flag for me to start looking for other work and promoting my aerial silks more. I did not want to go back to night life entertaining, so this was the time I needed to kick my plans and goals into gear even harder than before.

I started working for another friend of mine who was a legal medical marijuana grower. I hopped in at $15 an hour to be assistant gardener and bud tender. This is how I started to save money for circus school. Let’s jump back and remind you that four years before this, everything was an idea to which I thought was wholly out of my league. Dreams? For the movies I always thought. Some Cinderella story which wouldn’t ever happen. As things started to fall into place for me, my money started to go from single digits to double digits to triple digits to quadruple digits. It was all becoming real. I was making it happen.

In June 2016, I finally made it to New England. I was an enrolled student at New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro, Vermont. I did it. I made my dreams come true. I thought back to when I was doing that presentation in 9th grade. How I never thought I would be that girl in the videos I shared. I never thought I would be that acrobat hanging from my ankle in front of an audience who had no idea what I was doing or how I was doing it. Not only had I succeeded in being hired for aerial silks, I was now in another state, 23 long train ride hours away from home learning how to be an aerial silks instructor. I saved my money, I hoped a train and rode it alone all the way to circus school. I will write about that experience in another post. It was beyond magical. It is my very own Cinderella story and how I found true love. Not with a person but with myself. I made this happen. I made myself speechless with my ambition. I never knew anyone who thought beyond the impossible to make it possible.

When I first started going to classes in Grand Rapids in 2013, it was the first time I had ever done anything alone. I didn’t even like to go to the gas station or grocery shopping by myself. It wasn’t until silks that I started driving an hour north to go to a one-hour class and drive back another hour home. This became a weekly thing for many years. Leading up to getting on a train and traveling alone to an even bigger silk school. They say your true love will show you things you never knew could be real. It’s said that true love will push you to your limits and show you what’s beyond them. Most people think of a person when they think of true love. I think of my journey of self-discovery and #passion. I never knew what passion was until I became one with the fabrics. I never expected my body to be healthy, or my neck to sustain such physical activity. Even today I am still caught up in not being able to fathom what happened to make all my dreams come true. I have definitely found my calling and will continue to go above and beyond expectations in hopes of accomplishing my next goals and plans related to this circus life.

Fun little things throughout my life were signs to where I would end up. For example, my longest owned material possession is a ceramic carousel. I got it before my memory was able to remember getting it. I have always had thoughts of “running away” little did I know it was to the circus. My enjoyment performing. My first tattoo at 16 years old was the biggest sign, I just recently realized, clown faces. One happy, one sad. I was drawn to them for some odd reason. My mom said as a child, I hated clowns but that doesn’t make sense to me because I have always remembered loving them. They’re so mysterious. Like me, as a Scorpio. My admiration of trains though I had never been on one until 2016 on my way to the circus people. (Back in the old days, circus would travel by train. When they showed up to unload the cars, the entire town would watch in aww. I have always felt I was one of those people hopping off the train car to get the show on the ground, tent popped up and animals ready for the show.) To top it off, my friend angelica, used to see a psychic. I never met him, but he brought my name up once and asked who I was. She told him of my importance in her life and his response was less than expected. He proceeded to tell Jelly about how it is no surprise we are friends. He said we always have been. It was amazing we found each other again because once upon a time, in another life, we were circus performers together. Mind you Jelly had never mentioned me before. He had no knowledge she was friends with an aerialist in this lifetime. He continued to tell her that one was a tight rope walker and the other was a trapeziest. Super weird huh? I thought so too. It’s truly magical to hear about yourself on such level.

In the last year I started listening to spiritual coaches, life coaches and other motivation speakers. I really enjoy Ralph Smart. He knows of his reincarnation and speaks to only share his experiences to help others along their ways. He has a video of how to know if you are a reincarnation. If you know how to look for signs and make connections along with being confident in your feelings and sensations about certain things. He said if you are an old soul living your true purpose, these signs will make themselves apparent. If I was a circus person in a past life, I am doing a wonderful job of living this life on the path I am supposed to. I see every sign. I feel I am on the right path and I know my life will be full of amazing things because I am open, accepting and understanding of it. I have a circus soul. Whether I really was an olden day performer or a raggedy roustabout, I am confident I am living the life I was born to live. No questions asked. (((((I will cover this circus reincarnation topic in another blog.))))) The photo is October 25, 2014 when Rainbow Flyte was created.


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