Are you aspiring and inspiring?
Like so many of us, amateur trapeze artist Kris Nimmo is on an aspirational circus journey: always feeling she’s not yet as good as she wishes she was. And at the same time, she is inspirational.
At last, she’s rightly proud of her achievements. A huge emotional shift happened after she watched a video that she had created with Aerial Edge cinematographer Gabriel Stella, which captured the effort and energy she’s poured into her dance trapeze training over the last two years.
“I was really worried about seeing it,” says Kris, “I was shaking because I felt I had messed up a lot in the shoot, but I LOVE it! It looks fabulous. It’s really helped my confidence.
“I now believe you can do almost anything if you invest the time and energy.”
Without any sort of dance or gymnastics in her background, Kris began a pick ‘n’ mix of aerial classes around seven years ago, just for the fun of it. As you do.
Lockdown put an end to that. Yet it gave her training an unexpected turn towards sharper focus and intensity on one discipline.
Now, you guys know that we’re starting to talk about targeted training at Aerial Edge, and Kris is a shining example of what it can achieve.
She explains: “I’ve always been creative but when you’ve got a full-time job, it gets pushed to one side. I’d been going to classes in the evenings after work for a bit of fun. I didn’t know which aerial art I liked best.
“I was lucky, I had access in lockdown to a studio near home in Aberdeen so I began training with people who were in Edinburgh and Mexico, via the internet. I’d found this instructor, Kalina Suter, and loved what she did, it spoke to me, and that’s why I ended up on dance trapeze.
“For me, targeted training was kind of accidental but it changed my attitude towards trapeze. It’s like therapy, total escape. I’d been happy to dabble in various arts for escapism and fun, but I felt I wasn’t getting much better in any of them.
“Working with Kalina, I fell in love with dance trapeze. For me, it just works. I got really focused, then I got a bit obsessed. Kalina teaches you to find yourself on the apparatus, not just going through a routine, you make it more your own. You don’t have to be the most technically perfect, you can still do something, you can express yourself.’
A major factor in Kris’s progress has been improving flexibility.
She says: “I had never concentrated on flexibility because I had none! Now I can do splits and so many other things since I’ve been doing two classes a week with Solveiga Baltusyte in Mexico. We met while we were both working in the oil and gas industry in Aberdeen but she left to become a circus performer. During lockdown there weren’t many opportunities for that, so I began taking online classes with her.
“It was uncomfortable at the beginning! But when your muscles get used to it, it’s not purgatory. It’s important to do it safely, I’ve never had an injury, because we did so much warm-up before I stretched anything. Now I do a bit of flex every day, at work I go to the gym and just stretch for maybe half an hour.
“It’s made a huge difference. You don’t even realise how lack of flexibility is holding you back. I can move a lot easier on the trapeze because my legs, shoulders and hips are so much more mobile that I move more freely and naturally.”
It was when Kalina was working with Gabe on her video that Kris became interested in the idea for herself.
“I really liked Gabe’s style,” she says, “It’s not typical, not mainstream.
“I am never happy with where I am always wanted to be better. Kalina encouraged me to celebrate what I’d achieved so far, because I’d come a long way in two years.
“I’m so glad she did that because I have invested a lot, and I’ll probably never be where I want to be!”
Having been training in an empty studio with online instructors for two years, Kris was nervous about coming into Aerial Edge to shoot the film.
She says: “I didn’t realise how nervous I would be until I arrived and there were some people still in the space. I had to go back outside and give myself a minute!
“Mark Gibson came out to check on me. I was so worried that I was actually shaking! Even before lockdown I was always alone because nobody I know has ever been interested in this kind of thing, so a lot of classes were intimidating. But when we went in with Mark, I found it a very friendly place.
“I also had this fear that Gabe would be laughing at me compared to other people he’d worked with. You are making yourself vulnerable if you’re not a professional, I didn’t want him thinking I was rubbish. But he was so nice, and so calm, which was good because I was hyper.”
After Kris had warmed up and the space was all hers, the shoot was a success, although the doubt gremlins began eating into her mind after the shoot. She was nervous all over again when Gabe sent the video to her.
“It was way better than I could have imagined, it gave me such a boost. I didn’t see how far I had come,” she says. “I showed it to a photographer friend who was blown away.
“The combination of targeting my training and seeing the video has had a big impact on the rest of my life.
“Before, it was a fun escape, but when I got more focused on this thing that I love, I began to understand that for most of my life I’ve pretended to be someone else to fit in – I’ve felt I had to act a certain way, I was never really myself.
“When I was younger, I was told that things I thought or did were a bit odd, whereas now I’m finding that I can do whatever I want on trapeze, because you can kind of get away with it, and it makes me feel so much better. I can’t imagine where I’d be without it now because it really has helped in so many ways.
“It just means there’s more of my real self pouring out so I can’t put it back now! I’m sorry people, but this is who I am and you have to deal with it.
“Lockdown allowed me to see that this creative side made me happy, and I didn’t have a good work-life balance. I’d be tired after work so I wasn’t being so creative. After lockdown, I dropped to four days a week, which isn’t so nice financially but it’s nice in other ways. Monday is my creative day.
“Now I want to do something more with circus, I don’t know exactly what yet. I’m thinking I’d like to do a performance. Having got over my nerves to shoot the video, and being so pleased with the results, I do think you have to push yourself and be scared. I wouldn’t have this feeling now if I hadn’t pushed myself. You grow through that.”
Having recently discovered she has ADHD, Kris also believes that circus training helps people find themselves.
She says: “I used to find it frustrating, it would take a long time for my brain to learn the pathway to certain moves. Then I learned to try things my own way. I think anyone will find this when they do what they love.
“People write themselves off so early, I know people in their mid-20s who say they are too old for this. I also know lady in her late 70s doing it! I’m only 5ft, I would never have thought I’d be doing this.
“Don’t limit yourself. Try everything you want to try, don’t let other people stop you. The worst that can happen is that you don’t enjoy it.”