Train the person spotting the same way you would progressively train a flyer or a base through whatever you’re trying to execute. …I advocate for this to be our culture. There are high risks in some of the things we do, and nothing we do has no risk. These are people’s lives. Please progress with respect of those lives. Safety must guide the practice. – Lux
You battle with the fear of falling or dropping a flyer in acro. You feel unstable or not confident in what you are doing. Your worst fear is injury.
I want you to know you’re not alone. The good news is the role of spotter, with practice, can help the base and flyer get over those fears and practice safely. I know, I know…spotting may not be as glamorous (though you may think different after reading this).
Fortunately, there are acro leaders who want to help teach others this essential skill. Just imagine practicing in a way that’s stable, confident and trust exists. That’s what Lux is doing for the community.
I first met Lux when I hosted him and the rest of the teaching crew for AcroGasm Chicago. I was blown away by the progressive approach he had to making acro smarter, safer and a whole lot sexier. Combining intellect and experience as an innovative mover he teaches spotting in what I like to call a “spotassist”.
Recently I caught up with Lux to share some of the lessons he’s learned along the way and what he’s doing to progress the practice as we know it. And how it will help you right now have more awareness, get better and have more fun as a spotter. And be less scared as a base or flyer when it comes to continuing on to advanced poses, transitions or washing machines.
Kendra: When and how did your interest in Acro begin?
Lux: I watched the New York Work Circus and saw an adagio paste partner balancing duo. And thought I could do that.
I searched for a few years before I found somebody that was willing to try with me. We started practicing pretty frequently.
A couple years later a circus school moved into Seattle. Chuck Johnson who runs it took a look at our practice and told us we were pretty good for not knowing what we’re doing. He then taught us grace and the fundamentals. And we took off from there.
Kendra: What would you say is the most important lesson that you learned earlier on?
Lux: That there is never one way to do anything. I was fortunate to have a partner that was really intelligent. And I also had a keen understanding for the practice early on.
For example, I learned communication initially through struggle. My partner and I spent about a year not talking because of our communication frustrations and challenges. When coming back to working with each other again we sat down before physically reconnecting and established communication rules. Which is now the foundation of my practice and teaching today.
I use guiding principles such as giving things a few tries and the first two never count. And to make sure we have a pattern before diagnosing. And finally, never giving direction any more to the other person. So rather than trying to provide the solution to our partner we would ask a question like, is there something that I could do different. We would go through the process of answering it and trying it. And then the question would be reciprocated.
Then we would try all of the solutions. Inevitably, almost every time both of us had different solutions that brought us in different directions that only enhanced everything we did.
Kendra: Let’s fast forward to the present moment. I’d love to talk to you about your 12 city spotting and Acro tour that you just finished. Can you tell us more about that?
Lux: It was fantastic! Smaller communities have thirty to forty people showing up. Bigger communities like Philly and D.C. have 50. While in Tampa and Austin the numbers were huge. There’s lots of people that are practicing spotting which, is really encouraging.
Teachers are contacting me afterwards looking for ways to help incorporate this into their early teaching with students. I’m loving that! I want this propagated and I want people to share it.
Kendra: Wonderful! I’m fascinated to know your take on ways acro practitioners can incorporate spotting into their practice early on. Can you share a few please?
Lux: There’s to two things that am really honing in on.
First, is quality of touch. Meaning to be firm if you’re going to put hands on someone. So you are communicating confidence in your ability to help somebody through something that is no longer in balance.
Second, is proximity to your partners. Spotting is something that should be done close enough to your partners that the humorous is still able to touch the torso. That means you’re close enough. The further away you get the less help you are.
Kendra: I was watching a video of you doing a spotting demo with your classic ninja moves. And you said things like when the base bends you bend when the flyer extends you extend. Can you talk about that more?
Lux: From the spotters position we can learn the base and flyers position at the same time. By synchronizing our movements with the base and flyer. For example, the base is bending the spotter is bending. As the flyer is rotating the spotters rotating.
So there is this mirrored movement I synchronized with them so I can stay in that proximity without interfering in what they’re actually doing. That’s where the chore of spotting can become an art form, feel like a dance and you’re incorporated into what they’re doing.
And when they need a little help, it take a few pounds of pressure to bring them back into their own center. So as a spotter you can let them have their practice back. And they can continue doing whatever they’re doing.
Or if there is going to be a catastrophic fall you’re close enough to be able to bring them back to the ground safely. Head over shoulders over hips on top of feet ideally.
Video of Lux doing a spotting demo
Kendra: Sometimes when I see people spotting they try to catch people. What are your thoughts on that?
Lux: I am very opposed to catching a flyer. As a spotter I’m generally trying to bring people to the ground with the movement that they’ve already started and initiated.
I bring them into my center so through my torso and legs I bring them to the ground. Not by using my arms. I’m trying to not take weight into my shoulders or arms. So, that I as a spotter do not get hurt.
For example, I am moving away from holding the flyers hips. From a safety perspective it works well. But, from an educational perspective holding their hips is robbing them of their abdominal education. And as soon as we take that away they no longer have the ability to learn what they’re abdominals and the core of their body need to do to hold their hips over their shoulders.
Instead, it is more useful to have the hands closer to the shoulders, the lats or the shoulder blades. Utilizing pressure to reinforce the structure of the base through the flyers body closest to their connection point. Such as the flyers shoulders and bases foot in reverse star and even in mono reverse star.
Kendra: Early on in my practice I got a concussion and it was hard for me to trust bases and spotters again. How do you suggest rebuilding that trust?
Lux: I go back to the principle that this is a practice of communication that has physical elements to it. Some of that communication is verbal and some is nonverbal.
At a certain point the verbal communication is important to speak about things that make you uncomfortable. And having environments that don’t create defensiveness is a crucial element in someone’s healing process to help develop the confidence for that voice.
We have Safety In Acro as a Facebook group that can be a sounding board for a lot of these discussions. There’s also Concussion Talk for Acro Folks Facebook page. It’s great we have resources like this where people can connect with others that are dealing with similar traumas.
Overall, there’s not one thing that would serve everyone. It can be difficult to understand their story and look through their perspective. Communication may not necessarily be the solution but it’s the vehicle I use to work with people toward their solution.
Kendra: Can you give the More Than Dreaming community one way that they can take action to realize their own acro dreams or goals?
Lux: First, don’t chase tricks. Grow a practice from its foundation and continuously seek greater foundation. Repetitive movements are going to be the things to serve you for the long term. One off things will serve you for that moment. Get really good at all of the things that you think you’re already good at.
And study anatomy.
Kendra: Thanks so much for sharing your expertise with the More Than Dreaming Acro Community. What is the best way to find and practice with you?
Lux: Come to Seattle and do a week series with me at SeattleAcro. I love being a local teacher and watching my community hone their practice.
Also, Acroversity is an 8 day training in September with Jason Nemer, Jason and Chelsey Magness and myself. We have all of our perspectives that are different to complement each other. You’ll discover how these perspectives will best serve your practice.
And exciting news, Acrogasm is coming back in 2018!
To train with me find me on Facebook at Lux SeattleAcro.