Friday, June 9, 2017

Imposter Syndrome: How to Deal with Insecurity

This is going to be short and to the point.  If you haven’t heard of Imposter Syndrome it’s pretty damn apt at explaining itself.  At the Irish Aerial Creation Centre’s Creative Intensive last year, this came up on day one.  Every single participant and mentor reported a close experiential relationship with this condition, from emerging aerialists to veteran career artists who had pioneered their fields.

The great Bob Fosse is reported to have suffered crippling insecurity about his work.  Even if you don’t know Bob Fosse, you have seen his mark on the world if you are taking part in Western Culture.  Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, I could go on and on but I think three icons are enough to prove the point that if you experience feelings of being a fraud, you are in lauded company.

So what the hell to do about it.  I have two points.

One:  how do you get rid of it?  

You don’t.

Unless you can take a pill to subjugate your humanity, you’re stuck with this in my opinion.  It is a challenge that persists.

Two:  how do you keep it from sabotaging your life?  

Don’t make decisions based on those feelings.

It irritates me that a sentence which took me so much constant, brutal research to arrive at is so short.  But it really is that simple- know yourself.  Know what your feelings are.  Call them by name.  Feeling insecure?  Fine. Call it by name and move on.  Feeling f*#%ing terrified?  Fine.  Call it by name and move on.  Feeling shaken to the core and like the ground is flying out from under you?  Congratulations, you’re experiencing a moment of true focus.  Call it out, pay attention, and do the thing you want to do based on your value system, not your fears.

You don’t need to get on the panic train, just acknowledge it is there and watch it carry on.  I tell my students it is like being at a grotesque parade.  You can just stand there and watch it go by, flaunting its macabre features, you don’t have to jump on the float.

Then make a different choice.

On my way to my first aerial gig, I distinctly remember hoping I’d be hit by a car so I wouldn’t have to do it.  I won’t give my fear the reins to my life- and I came to tell the truth.

If you make decisions based on your fears, a life of cowardice will be your only reward, and the internal self-sucking pleasure that comes from hiding, crouched like some sordid, whimpering Gollum inside of your own skin.

Y’all.  That’s nasty.

God hates a coward.  Go do something else.  That is all.

Ps.  I don't know if you heard but my email list is a good way to get this kind of abuse from me on the regular, with helpful things like links and resources and applications and stuff.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Big Lie.

​Sit down, y'all.  Imma tell you a story.  Like all stories I will tell you, it is true, in spite of the title of this article.

I have a very close friend, a performance artist and visionary whom I have had the pleasure of sharing both stage and world with for many years.  Let’s call her Bast.  

My friend Bast and I were talking one day as we often did, about the trials of a life built out of art and cardboard and fishnet stockings. We talked for a while trading stories, both of us enjoying a bit of a rant on shady producers, freezing dressing rooms, and the weird shit people say to us at gigs. Ultimately, I sighed and said something trite like, well I wouldn't want to trade lives with anyone else, even for all the struggles. At least this life is mine.

And Bast was quiet a second and said, “Actually, there is one person I would trade lives with. Sabra.”  I wanted to object, but I couldn’t, and here’s why.

Sabra is a fellow performer who had achieved a dazzling success. She had been in a prestigious dance company in Chicago from a young age, leaving to move to LA at the behest of her main employer.  This employer was a very, VERY well known mega-star for whom she choreographed all of their dance numbers for major events. Bast and Sabra would be having lunch and she'd be all, “oh shit I'm late for rehearsal with HUGELY POPULAR POP ARTIST” and a black car would be waiting for her on the curb. She'd run off for months on tour, staying in fabulous hotels and barely working at all except on rehearsal days, but living that glamorous superstar by proxy lifestyle. She told hilarious stories in a rich, buoyant voice about working with over-the-top tour managers and how everyone acted like crazy people in the presence of fame.  

On anyone's terms, her success was brilliant. By a dancer/choreographer's terms? Practically a unicorn.
A few years passed. I was having lunch with Bast again, on a quiet garden patio in San Francisco. I asked about Sabra, as she hadn't mentioned her in a while and they had seemed to be close friends. Plus, I was curious as to what other cave of wonders the woman had managed to unlock on her yellow brick road.

Bast went silent.  She fixed me with her indomitable stare that meant shit was about to get real. And over the next hour and a half quietly explained how she had come to discover that Sabra's life was...

wait for it...

...a complete and utter fabrication. She had made the whole thing up.

I'll give you a second to read that again. A person in my friend's life, who for years had shared friendship, meals, travels, and shows with her, had been systematically nurturing a complicated illusory life for herself over the past five years. The sheer complexity of the untruth was mind-boggling.  The attention to detail was punishing in its ruthlessness.

It took Bast another hour to answer all my questions about how one step at a time, because of one tiny little loose thread that begged to be pulled, my friend slowly and rather chillingly uncovered the vast extent of a glittering career that never happened.

Need to make a call from a fancy hotel?  Ask to use the courtesy phone.

Need to be carried off in a big black car?  Call an uber and instruct them to wait.

Need to be out of town to validate a world wide tour you have nothing to do with?  Go see your mom back home in...wherever.

I was stunned, and deeply disturbed as one tends to be when confronted with an elaborate falsehood.  The most malicious part of it was, Sabra’s lie was so convincing that my friend got to the point of fantasizing about trading lives with her. The continued glowing successes of Sabra's apparent career had eaten away at my friend's pride in her own accomplishments, each one won with so much effort and labor only to be overshadowed again and again by Sabra’s stunning reach.  

And it was all one big, stinking, putrid, absurd lie.  Bast was the real unicorn.  But since we accept the world that’s presented to us as reality, this was usurped.

The above example is a caricature of a usually much more subversive, pervasive, and poisonous reality.  The Big Lie of Social Media Life.  I’ve written about this before in an Ode to Failure.  The reach of The Big Lie is so convincing that it can permeate even an old, comfortable relationship.  I have a friend who is a successful visual artist who I have been close with for 15 years.  I stopped contacting him because he was always traveling, going from gallery opening to gallery opening, and I didn’t want to bother him.  A year later we discussed it and he said, “It’s my job to make my life online look as exciting and elusive as possible.  It’s branding.  The truth is I go to these gallery openings and then eat noodles alone in a hotel.  I wish you had called!”  

If you think that made me feel like a dumbass, you’d be right.  I don’t know anyone who is impervious to The Big Lie...most friends of mine who it truly bothers, who don’t need social media for advertising, simply go off the grid and live perfectly splendid lives that no one knows a damn thing about.  

What I am NOT trying to tell you is that your friends and colleagues are inventing lives for themselves on social media, and that you should become a deeply suspicious person who responds to every FB post like:

What I am trying to do is advise you to do is become adept at identifying the feeling of FOMO.  You know the feeling, like being surrounded all of a sudden by a poisoned fog of emptiness, even when you were in a great mood two seconds earlier.  Get really good at knowing the signs, so it can’t sneak up on you and ruin a perfectly good moment with the certainty that EVERYONE IS DOING COOL SHIT BUT YOU!!!

I mean, they might be.  But, probably not.  If you recognize the gremlin of FOMO and see it coming, it makes it harder for it to sink its rancid claws into your psyche. 

Behold, the embodiment of FOMO.
Why this oddly psychoanalytical post?  I’ve seen enough artists both new and seasoned, sunk in a mire of despair because they were comparing themselves to the online presences of their peers.

And you guys...that shit ain’t real.  The Big Lie is not an accurate representation of's very nature is contradictory to accuracy.  As performance artists, part of the beauty of what we do is its absolute transience.  The moment it lives it dies, and is gone forever, and no amount of video or photography can capture what the true experience was; those mediums have their own beauty, but it is another beast.  

Photo by Daniel Yoo
Above:  A rad live shot of my act from Natural Wings award winning show, Elements, with my two stunning sisters-in-air, Dawn Pascoe and Ruth Battle-Wayre of Perth, Western Australia.  Truly one of the highlights of life as I know it.

NOT PICTURED:  I caught a terrible cold and had to keep tissues just off stage so I wouldn't spray snot on the audience and/or my beloved co-artsts.  Wouldn't have changed a thing.  Just saying, it's never the whole story.

Don’t get me wrong, an online presence is a useful, even imperative tool.  It's part of playing the game of self-marketing.  But believe me, it is a game.  The smoke and mirrors and fairy glamour we love about the stage can become a staged life- and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you don’t mistake one for the other; for in that way, madness lies.  

This has been a PSA from Madame Rex Studios- coming to you live from the Glass Castle, San Francisco, JUST KIDDING I’m just a woman sitting at my kitchen table typing!   I'm not even wearing pants!  See how easy it is?!

In other news:

If you were on my mailing list, you'd get all kinds of other info all in one tidy place, like an application for mentorships and heads up on other cool haps.  Not saying it could save your life but, you know.  It could save your life.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My Big Butt...and other reasons I don't work for Cirque du Soleil

My butt has been the center of much conversation in my life as a performer. I’ve had it referred to as “a nation unto itself” among other less charming titles. I have always been bottom heavy, even as a little girl, and as a dancer and artist it’s been one of my dominating characteristics. Every performer overhears things being said about them by audience members who don’t believe they can be heard (btw...we can hear you) and in my case it’s always been, “look at her BUTT!” I ain’t mad...I like my butt just fine. It suits me and i find it looks nice on a hoop. It makes me feel powerful and feminine. Whatever, this is not a post about butts, even if it did make a damn fine title.

photo by Howard Tu
There comes a moment for every freelancing aerialist that they will have to face this question: “Have you worked for Cirque?” Followed by the inevitable, “did you ever think about trying?” This question is brutally annoying, because A) Cirque is a word that means circus. It does not just refer to one company, however large. And B) it is a given that the asker is looking for one answer only...yes. And any other answer means you have failed. Other irritating versions of this question including the ever-patronizing, “did you ever think about doing this professionally, like in Cirque du Soleil?” are equally obnoxious to anyone who is already “doing this professionally”.

Do not misunderstand me. I greatly respect Cirque du Soleil, and enjoy much of their work. I honor them for their origins, and for what they have done for the artform (arguably paving the way for it to be relevant in the lives of so, so many more people than it was before). This is not a condemnation of the company whatsoever- however it is a story about how I learned the importance of defining success in my own terms. Which much to my surprise and in service to my sense of humility, I had not done as well as I believed I had.

So...have I worked for Cirque du Soleil? The answer is no. Here is the story of how that came to pass, for once and for all, so that it is here for all to see, reference, and hopefully enjoy.

The year was 2014, and after applying by way of creating my profile I was invited to the aerial circus performers audition in Las Vegas! Well shit my bricks, I was on cloud nine! I discovered my good friend Ms. Eve Diamond was also invited, so we immediately joined forces to share a room in one or another of the ridiculous casino hotels and share a rental car, blablabla. Eve is gorgeous, strong, tireless, and really really FUN, so I was looking forward to what was sure to be a great trip.

By the way, I should mention here...I had every intention of scoring that audition. Strong? Check! I could murder the list of conditioning recommended on the website. The flexibility requirements were child’s play. But most of all- i had made my best act yet that prior spring...a unique, dynamic explosion of lyra to Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower”. I was achingly proud of it.

I realized, of course, I probably wouldn’t be allowed to perform that act in a Cirque show. Someone else was in charge of most of that stuff (that stuff means, the actual creative art that goes into these enormous shows). But I was after the holy grail, the golden ticket...the ability to say “yes” to that damnedable question.

And I felt no doubt that I had earned my place amongst those mighty titans of industry. It was basically a formality to go through the audition.

What an ass I was. Just reread that last sentence and get a really good idea of what an ass I was.

The audition day came, and it was just as fun and awesome as I expected it to be. I felt no competitiveness with my fellow candidates...why would I? I was not feeling insecure. I was feeling exultant. I cheered and hollered for everyone (btw, you’re kind of a jerk if you can’t wish another candidate well. Come the fuck on.) and they cheered and hollered for me. Eve destroyed it, and so did another friend of mine who was there- yeah...our world is small, you will know people at auditions.

And I performed well, and was happy with my work. Fast spin, all tricks were bossed.

And they didn’t call my number. And they didn’t and they didn’t, and then they were thanking us for being there, and they still didn’t call my number. I wasn’t crushed...I was shocked. They invited us to stay for feedback if we wanted some, and you bet your ass I did.

I couldn’t help but notice, all of the hoop artists they asked to stay were good. But they weren’t all GREAT. Some were! Some were extraordinary. But more of them were entry level hoop artists, with great gymnastic ability. And some hadn’t demonstrated a fraction of the work I had put into my own craft.

My question was, what the hell???

I finally got my turn to ask for feedback, which of course I did politely, because while I might be an insufferable fool in my mind, I can control my demeanor. The casting director was lovely and very approachable; and in an no-nonsense manner told me I was very unique, dynamic, and highly skilled, but my body type didn’t fit what they needed. When I blinked back at her, she indulged me by explaining that it frequently does boil down to costuming.

This shouldn’t have been own first coach, the great Kerri Kresinski, had warned me of this, having been passed over at many auditions where she performed in the top percentile, yet didn’t get picked because her body type didn’t fit the costuming. And yet, I hadn’t really heard her until now.

The casting director kindly pointed out that in a different discipline, they did accept female body types that weren’t “tiny little things” but for my specialty I simply would never fit what they needed.

I thanked her sincerely and departed with my mind finally blown open to the idea that my coach had tried to suggest to me years ago. I had to take a second to remember every drop of blood and sweat and the money and the sheer bloody force of will that it had taken to make me the creature I was, was at this juncture worth less than the price of a new costume in this particular situation. That is not something to be upset by; it is not fucked up, and it is not insulting. It is a fact to acknowledge and then move on, further educated.

What happened next? My good friend Eve (who did get into the database with her killer rope act) and I retired back to our ridiculous casino hotel, put on slutty dresses and lost $5 each at the slot machines. Then we had cocktails and celebrated a day lived very well.

Ms. Diamond and Ms. Rex

So what's the point of this story?

I'm so glad you asked.

Just like being good does not get you jobs, and getting jobs doesn’t mean you are good, being good doesn’t get you cast. Being a good fit for what they are casting for at that time gets you cast. Don't get the audition? Still want the job? Wait a year then audition again. You don't know what they are looking for.

Most of the big companies that hire circus artists in the United States and beyond are running a business. They operate as a business, not a dream machine. Specific looks are very important to the finished product, and the product has already been planned; signed sealed and delivered, designed by dozens of experts who are well compensated for their time. No one is in business to make you feel validated. They are making shows.

Lots of people are making shows. YOU can be making shows. You might not have the Zarkana theater at your disposal, but at some point, neither did they.


If you can get a job with Cirque du Soleil, go boss that shit. If you can get a job with anyone, go boss that shit.

I beg you to examine your own beliefs about your work, your artistry, and what you view as success. A moment like this one will probably happen to you, if it hasn’t already, and you will see that your own definitions of success and accomplishment are imperative. Not only when confronted by the once and future king of what the world at large considers successful in the circus world, but by the mighty weight of the outside world’s opinion of this thing you are doing with your life; which is already under attack at every possible angle for the crime of being unusual.

Now go out there with your big butt, short arms, bad skin, and whatever else you’re sporting and find someone who can’t wait to put it on stage.

Or just say fuck it and put it on stage yourself.

But wait! There's more...

If this article caught your eye because you want to audition for Cirque du Soleil, please note there is no reason whatsoever to delay. The link to create your profile by way of an application is here:

You can update your profile at any time with your new work, better video, better photos, so waiting to "figure out your reel" is not an acceptable excuse. Do it today, if you want to do it.

As an addendum, please note that you will need to complete a resume to complete this application (and for pretty much any other application).

Hey 'member that time I told you how to write your resume?

Me too.

If you are on my mailing list- you also have access to a downloadable template.  What could be easier?!

I also invited my list to mail me a copy of their resume- and the first five I received got a dressing down by way of feedback.  That part is closed...but anyone joining my league of demons email list gets access to the template, forever, as my gift to you.  

So here’s to you, and here’s to me, and here’s to butts and resumes.

Rachel Strickland

Monday, September 12, 2016

How to tell if you’re overtraining

It takes a special kind train circus arts.  An emotional talent is demanded, an ability to continue on a path through which achieving mastery seems unlikely on most days and laughable on your worst days.  This talent will allow you to see such an environment, measure it’s volition, and walk steadfastly through it regardless of the certainty of emotional and physical struggle.  And yet, here we are.  Congratulations, for it seems you too must have this talent; this odd, at times Sisyphean, predilection for sustained effort in the absence of instant gratification.

With this talent for abuse hard work comes an adjoining talent for ignoring the body’s clues that you are in fact, pushing too hard, past the black of beneficial efforts and into the red of actual physical harm.  These clues include anything from sharp pain to dull pain to chronic exhaustion and bouts of dizziness, all things your coach might tell you to ignore.  You’re only too happy to oblige.

I’m not about to go up against your gung-ho spirit animal of a battleaxe here, so instead, I will give you some science,  and if you don’t like it then you can take it up with science.

How to tell if you're overtraining...the science way:

Step 1:  Establish a Baseline

Otherwise known as your Resting Heart Rate, or RHR for lazy people.

  1. Have an analog clock by your bedside or within sight of your bed, with a second hand.
  2. Upon waking, before even sitting up, before sipping water, look at this second hand and take your pulse.  Count your heartbeats that occur within 10 seconds.  Repeat if you desire for consistency.  
  3. Multiply that number by 6.  So if you counted 12 beats in that 10 seconds, you get 72.  Whatever this number is, is the closest you can get to your resting heart rate while being conscious.  
  4. Write this number down.

Step 2:  Collect more data

Do this every morning.  If you observe your resting heart rate increase by a significant amount over time (significant being an increase of around 7 or more beats per minute), you are probably overtraining.  Your body is not recovering sufficiently to keep up with the demands you are placing on it.  A variant of around 4 beats per minute is normal and nothing to be alarmed by, but tracking your RHR over a long period of time can give us a conveniently black and white barometer of our overall fitness.  If your RHR begins to lower, it indicates you are getting even fitter, and recovering adequately, since your heart doesn’t have to work so hard.

Before you freak out, consider that some experts recommend taking a baseline of 2-3 weeks of data before coming to any conclusions.

Step 3:  Don't freak out

So what to do if you are, indeed, overtraining?

This doesn’t mean “take it easier” in the gym, since I think we’ve established that aerialists and other circus performers don’t have a clue how to actually do that, it means having the courage to take a few days off.  Super off.  No, this doesn’t mean going for a light 10k jog, it means actually resting.  You can do it.  The only thing harder than training is not training.  It does indeed take a soldier’s discipline.

So here’s to you and here’s to me, and here’s to that rest day where you lay around eating pudding once a week.  Or's your barbeque.

Want to learn more cool shit and get the sneaky heads up on festies, applications, and other stuff?  Sign up for my email list yo.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Why no one cares about your resume

...but you still have to have one.

I have witnessed this moment many times.  An artist is introducing themselves to a client/studio owner/agent, and things are going great.  The chemistry is working, the client/studio owner/agent is totally vibing with them, and hands them a card.  They say, email me your promotional materials and your resume.  Followed by a split second of awkward balking as the artist realizes they have no such thing.

Think that moment of self doubt was undetectable to them?  Think again.  If you see it in yourself, they see it too.  And it is totally, 100% avoidable, because if you had done the work ahead of time, you could shake their hand with confidence, knowing that everything you need is at home waiting on you to solidify the relationship with one simple follow up email.  

I’ve seen people shy away from applying for residencies, festivals, showcases, audition for a great gig they were TOTALLY PERFECT FOR, all because they just couldn’t face building a damn resume.

Promotional materials are important, but this post is just a deconstruction of the one thing- the resume- that seems to make the bravest among us stare at their shoes.

What makes it scary is this:
“I don’t know the correct format.”
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to put on it.”
“I want to do it right and I don’t know what order to list things.”  
These sentiments all have two things in common.  One- they are commendable.  They exist because of a desire to do something properly, because your work means something to you.  Two- they are all focused on doing things “correctly.”  And while there is certainly a wrong way, there isn’t a “correct” way.  You’re a freelance artist, remember?  You can take some liberties as long as you deliver the goods.  But what are the goods?  See above, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to put on it” rears it’s ugly head.

As a result, you do nothing; as soon as you try to find the “correct format” the internet is full of the most god-awful wretched advice I’ve ever heard, for all young professionals, and especially for developing artists.

Over the past several months I’ve been interviewing agents, owners, casting directors, and artistic directors on what they actually care about seeing in a resume specifically.  And their answers might surprise you.

Because the truth is, no one gives a flying fart about your resume.  The three best known names in contemporary stage circus are Cirque du Soleil, Les 7 Doights de la Main, and Cirque Eloize.  If you have one of these on your resume, you probably don’t need a resume, and if you do, this post is not for you.  Because resumes don’t get you jobs- relationships get you jobs.

HOWEVER- not having a resume ready can wreck your plans of looking like the professional you wish to be.  You come off as just another flaky circus wannabe who couldn’t be bothered to conduct themselves like a commodity.

If you’re worried that everything you’ve done is small beans, consider this.  The point of the resume in this instance is less about its content, and more about the fact that A) you had the foresight and professionalism to build one and have it updated and ready and B) you have actually worked before.

I’ve had students who have had way, waaaay more training than I ever did, even performed in  Broadway shows, who insisted to me that they hadn’t done enough to build an impressive resume.

Ya’ll.  Don’t make me come back there.

Once again, we are called to cease the dreadful habit of making decisions to soothe our own insecurities.  Ok so we know no one cares about your resume until the moment in which you don’t have one, so you need one.

Now, how to write the damn thing?

As I’ve said, in my research for this post I came across some of the most classically terrible advice I’ve ever seen.  It’s amazing how many “articles” online prey on emerging professionals looking for real information; be they post-graduate students, artists looking for new opportunities, or high school students looking for their first job.  Listen- these articles are largely written by poorly paid writers and are sold for SEO purposes.  I know this, because I used to be one of them.  It’s how I survived while putting myself through back-door circus school.  Does that helpful article have tons of doubly-underscored links and advertisements?  Yeah, you’re in the belly of the beast.  Get out of there and go ask someone you trust for advice.

Even if you’ve barely worked, if you are ready to work and you have a product, you can show us in the resume.  It’s well known that hardly anyone reads them more than one paragraph in, so for the love of god leave the dull bits out.  Focus on the cool shit you’ve done.

In order, you need this stuff clearly headlined, ideally on one page (as I’ve said, hardly anyone will even read the entirety of it) but more on this later.

  • Contact
  • Training
  • Experience
  • Special skills


Your name, email address, telephone number, and website.  Actors and models need their stats (that means height, weight, hair color, etc.), but specialty performers don’t necessarily need to post this.  Unless an agent is specifically asking for them, leave them out and let your other supporting materials (ie:  amazing photos) show them what you look like.


Where did you train, and with whom, and for how long?  This tells a lot.  Definitely include this.  Specialty programs?  Name em.  Festivals you trained at, intensives you completed, any certification you’ve earned.


What to list:

Keep this limited to what you truly want to represent you.  A direct quote from one of my sources:
“Tell me the big stuff.  If there is no big stuff, tell me 3 or 4 of the small stuffs.  Don't fill a page with small-time gigs.”
What’s a small time gig?  Your cousin’s wedding.  That time you performed in that bar.  That day you went with your aerial buddies to make a “show” in the park.  HOWEVER, if this is all you have done, make it sound awesome.  “Aerial fabric soloist for Private Event - Hemingway, TX 2015” sounds a lot more legit than “Wedding entertainment artist”, while being just as accurate.

Oh yeah, by the way, don’t lie.  That’s bullshit.

What order to put these in?  

In high school they tell us to list from the most recent to the oldest, which is fine, but I would suggest listing in order of perceived awesomeness.  As long as it was reasonably recent (ie: not 10 years ago) put the coolest shit first; like I said, you can expect to have their attention for about half a page.  Make sure they know to take you seriously in that half a page.  Also, include the years.  Months are debatable.  But for sure, no one gives a damn about the exact date of an event or contract.  If it’s not necessary, chop it.  We are going to readability and impact, not exhaustive detail.

Boldface any awards or special recognition you’ve had.  Include locations- nothing vouches for you quite like black and white evidence that someone, somewhere, thought highly enough of your skills to pay for you to get on a plane.  Locations look fancy, especially to Americans.  Use them.

**A note on Burning Man.**  This is a judgement call.  There are performances of an exquisite caliber at Burning Man.  There are also performances of very questionable safety standards and aesthetic merit.  What I mean is, no one cares that you performed at Burning Man.  The exception to this is applying to a Burning Man show or other like minded event.  Use your best judgement.

This could apply to lots of things!  For example, if you’re applying to Disney on Ice, maybe leave that naked hoop solo you did at Hardcore BDSM Fetish Night off the resume.  You feel me?


This is where you get to mention all the random crap you can do.  If you’re a singer, include your vocal range.  List even more specific dance or movement training, ability to bake 15 minute brownies in 13 minutes, hold your breath and pass out on demand, wiggle your ears (I’m not being sarcastic… I’m not.)  Other languages you speak?  Put em here.


Should I combine my teaching experience with my performance experience?

If you are applying for a combined role- definitely.

Some positions are a hybrid of a performance combined with teaching some workshops.  In this case it could be a big red flag if you don’t have any teaching experience.  I would recommend having two versions of your resume- one performance only, and one that blends performance and teaching beautifully, showcasing both your prowess on stage and your ability to be a dependable, high quality coach IF YOU ARE APPLYING FOR COACHING POSITIONS.

I didn’t come across anyone that only wanted to see teaching on a resume.  Your notoriety as a performer lends credence to your classes.  Why would someone want to learn from someone who has barely been on stage?

Does it need to be one page?  

Well, it certainly would make it tidier not to have multiple leaves flapping about, or perhaps you could print out a double sided version when you need a hard copy.  But (unless they’ve specifically asked for it) no one is going to throw you in the shredder for not having a one page.  Probably.

That said, never take 10 words to say what could be said in 5.  Look at your resume and ask yourself if it represents you the way you want to be represented.  Ask yourself if it looks tidy and clean.  If you didn’t know you, would it tell the Story of You that is accurate, supports your claim, and flatters all your hard work?

Still feeling lost and alone?

Never fear, I have a template, easy to download and fill in, that I made for just such an occasion- however it's only available to my mailing list- but you can totally join the dark side here and get access to it and some other goodies too:

Download, copy, bastardize, and make it better than mine!  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

How to Tape an Aerial Hoop. Probably the Only Guide You'll Need.

Yep, I said it, I meant it- I’ve retaped more lyras than you can shake a stupid stick at, and I’ve tried different methods, and only one makes me happy every time.

The Internet knows Nothing, Jon Snow. 

A brief consult with Google reveals only one piece of advice repeated over and over, which is the old “Start at 5 and tape to 12 o’clock, then repeat” method. I loathe this method because it makes the tape back-curl in the ONE PLACE that you most frequently hold the damn thing, which is at 5 and 7 o'clock. So one of your hands always gets torn up, not to mention the backs of your knees.  I've even read suggestions to tape the hoop from 3 and 9 o'clock, which is truly masochistic.

So why do people do this?

The benefit is meant to be that the bottom of the hoop, where the most action occurs, will have a double layer of tape so that if one layer gets worn away, there is another layer waiting.
“that way the tape will be smooth when your hands slide down and the bottom of the hoop will have 2 wraps where most wear occurs.”
This sentence has been copy/pasted between the dozen sites that suggest this same method. By the way one of them had an incorrect rigging example right above this soooo… I really hope ya’ll are educating yourselves via many channels, because there is so much bad advice on the internet.

Why this makes no sense:

Using this method, if a layer of tape wears away, you aren’t left with a lovely usable backup layer of tape. You are left with a gaping, glue-filled maw yawning in the surface of the tape, which as soon as you hang on it will commence taking a bite right out of your palm.

But Rachel, you might say, at least you won’t have to retape your hoop!

Again, let’s take a closer look.
If you’re using athletic tape and you wear it down enough to rip off the bottom, yes you will have to retape your hoop. Also, the rest of your hoop by that time will have absorbed months of your body oils, skin cells, chalk, and rosin and sweat, and is by now discolored in places and needs to be retaped anyway. So the choice is yours- athletic tape and a lively re-taping every several months (according to use), or cloth tape and live with the same old tape until it gets too shiny and dirty with the aforementioned buggery to give you grip anymore.
If the priority is really, truly to tape your hoop as rarely as possible, throw some money at the problem and buy cotton milled handlebar tape like Newbaums or Velox, which lasts much longer.

Either way, the back-curling of tape is evil and I hate it, so on to Life According to Rachel’s version of how to tape a lyra.

This is way simple, yo. That is why it’s so easy to mess it up.

  1. Look at the lyra like a clock, tab at the top. If it’s tabless, you will need to mark this place so that you hang the lyra in the correct orientation.
  2. Start taping at 6 o’clock, overlapping the tape by about a third of its width.
  3. Tape up to 12 o’clock
  4. Repeat on the other side.

That’s it. That’s all you need. You don’t need a double layer of tape, ever, in my estimation. If you are using athletic tape, after you’re done, cover the whole thing in a thick layer of chalk to absorb the extra glue. If you don’t do this, the lyra stays sticky for longer as your body oils, etc. fill in the gluey gaps.

4 Simple Steps to turn this:

World, meet Aurora.  This is what she looks like nekkid.

Into this:

All dressed up

What kind of tape should I use?

I’ve used many different brands of athletic tape with similar results. Mueller comes in lots of colors, and in a bind good old drugstore brand adhesive cotton tape works just fine, as long as you have access to chalk as it can be quite gooey. For nerds, the goo comes from the zinc oxide adhesive. I have not to my knowledge used a non-zinc oxide based athletic tape but would be interested in the results.

The cotton milled tape I mentioned above is sold in bicycle shops intended for handlebars, or purchased online. Velox and Newbaum’s are the two brands I’m aware of, but I’m sure there are more, and they come in over 30 colors. They are far more expensive but last much longer than athletic tape.

I’ve heard of people using hockey tape, gaffer’s tape, and painting their lyras after they tape them. My advice is to experiment with whatever materials strike your fancy and find the way that works for you.

How many rolls do I need?

Using athletic tape- you will probably need less than two rolls.
Using cotton milled tape- you will need 6-10 based on the size of your hoop. My 38” hoop took 8 rolls of Newbaum’s. 

Do I need pre-wrap?

No. But if you want to use corking or pre-wrap to cushion the lyra, don’t let anyone shame you for it. Your practice, your lyra.

Do I need tape removing spray?

Nope. That’s just something else people are trying to sell you.

When retaping the lyra, do I need to clean off the old goo before putting on new tape?


Are you really, truly certain that I don’t need a double layer of tape??

Yes, I am really truly certain.

Any other advice?

Yes.  Use a color you can live with, particularly if you are using cotton milled tape.  For example I invested in several rolls of my favorite color, emerald green.  Halfway done I looked at it and said out loud, "No.  No, no, we cannot be having this.  I am not a leprechaun."  And had to start over.  See?  

This isn't doing anyone any good.

Want to see a visual aid?

Or perhaps if you're like me and find fast motion videos to be extremely satisfying to watch, I made a dumb little video right here.  Enjoy and happy taping!

psssssst! I tell my email list stuff I don't announce anywhere else.  You can be one of em by following this link ----->
I can't promise it will save your life but, you know, it could save your life.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Rachel Quits Gogo Dancing

I was 28 years old and living in West Seattle.  It was late summer, slow season, and my reserve of funds from the holiday season were dwindling.  In true battleaxe style, I set out to rectify the situation at once, intent on finding undiscovered opportunities.  I hit Craigslist, which although is now quite creepy, at one time afforded me many wonderful jobs, including my four year residency at The Pink Door.

I found an opportunity for a casino gig, not great money but not the worst either.  And it was a simple request, dancing some choreographed gogo numbers with another girl for a cover band.  Costumes were to be provided as well as a per diem and travel.  I wrote to the gatekeeper right away including all my glitzy promotional materials, to which he responded enthusiastically and sent me his own materials.  He was a middle aged bachelor and, by all means, an accomplished musician; he had a cover band that operated out of a suburb of Seattle.  He wanted to make something spectacular and had already landed a contract at one of the many casinos that littered the desert of Eastern Washington.  I privately felt that this plan carried a whiff of desperation but hey, I wasn’t there to judge.  I just wanted the job.
Time management wasn’t one of his strong suits.  As a musician, he also was not in the know about what kind of rehearsal it took to create 2 hours worth of choreographed movement (this is something that has taken me 6 months to accomplish before).  Time passed, nothing was scheduled, he was always too busy.  Then he came by to see me one night at the Pink Door.  We were scheduled to leave for the casino in one week.
After my set, we are sitting at the bar when he asks how the choreography is coming.  I responded with my characteristic grace and charm.

“So how’s the choreography coming?”
“The choreography, is it getting good and polished?  I need you to teach it to the other girl this week.”
A long silence occurs, in which I become aware of the depth of the hole I am now in.  ”You haven’t given me a set list.  I can’t choreograph a show without the score.  I’ve been asking you for it for two months.  It takes a lot longer than a week to teach two hours of choreography to someone you still haven’t introduced me to, much less create it.”
“Well I am finalizing the other dancer tomorrow.”
“ don’t have the other dancer?”
“No, but there’s plenty of time, we don’t leave for a week.  Wait, you have to have music to choreograph?”
“Of course.”
“Are you telling me that there is no choreography for our show?”
“Correct, there is no choreography for your show.  I assumed that your lack of direction meant you were ok with regular gogo dancing.”
He is not ok with regular gogo dancing.  “WHAT?!  No!  We are not just going to have gogo dancers up there, we are going to have something polished, something visual, something spectacular!  We are not just an ordinary cover band!”

Clearly, he was exactly an ordinary cover band.  I tried to explain that there was simply not enough time to accomplish his vision.  He was very upset by now and his agitated tone was creating a fog of uncomfortable tension that was spreading to the other customers.  Like a true Southern girl, I de-escalated the situation and told him I could probably accomplish some synchronized gestures to a few of the songs.  He calmed down immediately.  I was not comforted by this.
Let me underscore something here...this was entirely my fault.  Count the assumptions I made.  I didn’t educate him on my own needs, I didn’t demand his input as essential; I merely asked him for it, and then didn’t communicate that his delay made it impossible for me to do my job.  In short, I put upon this stranger who I’d just met, a blind faith that he would provide everything that I naively believed were such obvious needs, and that he would behave to the standard that I attempted to uphold.  My knowledge of human nature failed in this moment.
Although granted, he wasn’t a basket of peaches about the whole thing either.

Fast forward to the gig.  We traveled for four and a half hours into the Washington desert to a lonely little casino.  The other dancer was a lovely young woman; we had worked incessantly to choreograph, costume, and rehearse this “show” in one week’s time.  I was used to working like this; whatever it took to make it happen, get the gig, take home the reward.  Conquest.
Dancer #2 and myself sat in front of the hotel mirror putting on our makeup.  I finished and regarded the end product with satisfaction.  I then made the mistake of looking at my 19 year old counterparts’ face to make sure we matched.

Spoiler alert, we didn’t match.  In the florescent light, I looked back and forth between us.  Don’t get me wrong, I looked young at 28.  But I didn’t look 19.  That was the moment when I realized that I was about to put on glorified underwear and dance around for a bunch of old men in front of a band of old men alongside a 19 year old.  And what had completely escaped me up to that moment was, I no longer had any desire whatsoever to do that.

Sure, I was living the dream...yesterday’s dream.  My dream, minus a decade.

WTF am I doing here...

This is not a declaration of age as a marker- age is mostly a lie sent to you by society to make you feel bad about your choices.  This is about getting so caught up in the rush of your own conquest that fully nine years could pass you by without you realizing your dearest wish has quietly morphed into something else.

And trust me when when I tell you this my friends, you do not have time to do both.

Let us choose wisely- just because it pays doesn’t make it worth your time.