Cool Jobs with Barbara Brutt
Continuing our series of Cool Jobs, today, Barbara Brutt, the author of Teal Paisley Tights and Take a Right at the Mistletoe, a Very Vienna Christmas, shares her love of Circus Arts and how she got into instructing!
Tell us exactly what Circus Acts are.
Circus Arts is a term that refers to almost any type of performance that has connection to ideas of the circus from trapeze to juggling to contortion.
My main area of training, performance, and instruction is more specifically Aerial Arts, and from there, I train on aerial apparatus such as aerial silks, aerial straps, trapeze, hoop, rope, and hammock. My main apparatus tends to be aerial silks with straps as a close second.
How long have you been performing tricks?
My first aerial silks class was in September 2016, and I was immediately in love with this interesting combination of strength and grace. I performed for the first time in a student showcase about a year later to the song “It’s Oh so Quiet” by Bjork.
When did you become an instructor?
I started training as an aerial instructor in 2019, and I taught my first class in 2020 (once the world opened up a little bit). Nothing makes me happier than the opportunity to share my love of aerial silks with others!
How high in the air do you actually go when performing, especially for things like the aerial silks?
Honestly, it depends on the venue, but my preference is to have at least a 25-ft ceiling. This means that I can do drops that include multiple rotations. But it’s possible to do beautiful choreography with only about 16 feet.
Did you have to take any special classes to be able to teach, or was it all from your experience?
At the studio I attend, we shadow other instructors for a certain amount of time before then starting to demo. From there, we’re permitted to take a portion of the class to instruct, and eventually we get to teach classes with a more senior instructor sitting nearby. For me, this training system worked really nicely since I was able to learn at my own pace.
Have you or your students ever performed in shows?
Iron City Circus Arts, the studio I attend and teach at, offers student showcases at least once a year for students to showcase their skills. Teachers are also encouraged to perform as well.
Meanwhile, I’m also a part of Iron City Aerialists, a group of professional aerialists who are hired for gigs throughout Pittsburgh and beyond. We do ambient performances for events, champagne pouring (from an apparatus) for weddings, and choreographed acts as well.
Is this something you can see yourself doing for a long time?
I absolutely love the combination of grace and strength used in the aerial arts, and I would love to continue doing it for many, many years. I know aerialists who are decades older than I am so my hope is to continue for many more years!
And finally, if someone is interested in getting involved in aerial silks and the like, are there any prerequisites or physical requirements they should know about first?
Most circus arts studios help individuals train for this activity, so just go to their level 1 or intro class. Our classes are set up in such a way that you start from the ground and build up to higher heights and harder tricks! It’s easily accessible for all strength levels, but obviously, it’s great if you already have some upper body strength!