I’ve been spreading my nonsense again, this time by cramming as much nerdly braining into 4-weeks as I possibly can and making people do homework. It’s awesome and has also been making me think. Friends, repeat after me:
“Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”
You absolutely cannot perform a clunky aerial silks drop REALLY FAST and hold onto any realistic expectation that it’s going to be in control. That sucks I know, because diving out of the air at break-neck speed isn’t only fun, it’s also awesome looking and literally everyone thinks so. What isn’t awesome looking is a floppy, messy, ragdoll-on-a-bungee-cord landing. In fact for me, the number one thing that differentiates an amateur from an expert is dem drop landings.
“But Charlie, landing drops with *perfect* stillness is basically impossible.”
I 100% get that feeling, but I promise it doesn’t have to be impossible as long as you take the right approach. Think for a moment about how you train drops. Most performers give intense attention and care to learning how to tie the wrap for a drop (very good, super important!!), but rarely give as much attention to training their body’s movement patterns during the actual drop itself. The good news is that first step toward this is really easy, because you just have to think about what your body currently does. What shape do you make with your body as you execute the drop? Does your body stay in the same shape or does it change to a different shape? If it changes, when does it change? When should it change? What are you looking at as you rotate? What do you want the drop to look like? Are these the only options? Answer those questions and you’re already well on your way to beautifully controlling your drops!
We’re talking about saltos today, which are aerial silks drops that rotate forward in the sagittal plane. There’s a very specific method for drop categorization, but for now you can think of saltos as drops that make you rotate in a generally somersaulty way. The salto I’m using for this analysis is a drop called a dive roll, which you might know as a 360, salto (yes, this name bugs me), diaper wrap, or diaper drop. It’s a standard, old-fashioned, first-drop-you-ever-learned, single rotational drop. I’ll use this exact same drop for all three of the executions so that you know that the wrap is totally independent of the execution and isn’t helping me in any way.
Aerial Silks Drop Control Method #1: Undercurve
This is the most typical execution used when performers want to slow down a salto. The first half of the drop is performed with the spine in an undercurve, which means that the spine is rounded in an exaggerated hollow body or C curve. What’s the yoga word for that? Cow, I think? Or is it boat? Either way, your spine should be flexed forward like it is when you do a crunch or a sit up. During the second half of the rotation, the spine relaxes and drapes over its support at the waist.
By the way, in this particular example, the draping in the landing knot is very, very minimal and I’ve brought my legs tightly together to increase the friction between the tail and my thighs. This increased friction prevents my body from rotating to a full horizontal grid facing, keeping me angled slightly with my head closer to the floor than my feet. In this training session, I was using this old, faithful dive roll to train the body position for a different drop that involves a change in rotational planes that requires this landing position.
Aerial Silks Drop Control Method #2: Overcurve
In this execution, the performer keeps their spine in an overcurve throughout the entire rotation, and uses forward flexion at the hip rather than an undercurve of the spine to control the speed through the first half of the drop. The second half of the rotation is controlled in a similar way as the overcurved execution, and the performer drapes over the support at their waist. (This is the degree of draping that’s typically used in the undercurved execution.)
Aerial Silks Drop Control Method #3: Pike Stall
The third execution is uncommon, but will be somewhat recognizable if you’re familiar with a two panel drop called an angel layout/infinity rolls, which is similar to a fallen angel/waterfall/scary dragon. (Side bar, aerial silks drop naming is horrifically confusing and there’s a lot of ranting about it in my book, as well as a solution. Name confusion is no one’s fault, but there’s an easier way.) The first three quarters of the drop rotate quickly and are executed with an almost entirely straight spine. After the performer passes the half way point, they pike hard at the hip, and end the drop in a seated straddle.
If you’re already familiar with me, you know that I absolutely LOVE nerding out about drops, drop physics, knots, and all manner of circus performance. If you are not familiar with me, please know that this post is just the tiniest bubble of seafoam before you even reach the tip of the nerdy, knowledge iceberg! If that sounds awesome to you and you need desperately to know more about this knowledge-berg, I offer a suite of 4-week intensive, aerial silks courses that cover different areas of vertical apparatus drop theory, which you can find by excitedly clicking the button below. My methods are different to be sure, but they get fast results and I can confidently say that your training will be forever changed for the better!