5/18/15 – Guest Blogger Laura Witwer

Hello all! Laura Witwer from SassyPants Aerial Arts here

Please don’t worry – Chris is fine. I swear – I do NOT have him tied up in the basement, nope nope nope! I mean, why would I do that? That would be stalker-ish and crazy. And I am neither of those things…. nope nope nope…… not stalker-ish….. not crazy…… Nope.

But while we’re waiting for him, do you mind if we have a chat? Here – pull up a chair. Do you want coffee?

Here’s the thing. I hear your questions about wheel. OK, really, it’s one question, and it boils down to, “How do you DO that?! Aren’t you scared? It looks so dangerous!”

Yes. I’m scared. And sure, it’s circus – there’s an element of danger. But honestly, if you’ve crossed a New York City street without looking both ways for rogue bike messengers, you’ve taken an equivalent amount of risk. Maybe more.

I’m a ‘fraidy-cat, always have been. I like to call myself “strongly risk-averse”. I like order, control, and to move at my own speed. Imagine my shock when I discovered that wheel doesn’t work like that! See, wheel pushes every one of my fear buttons. It has it’s own timing that has very little to do with my preferences. It is big and metal and bonk-y. It’s unpredictable – what works one day may not work the next day because the floor is different or the humidity is higher or Mercury is in retrograde. Or I ate too much lunch. Wheel should NOT be my cup of tea! But it is, friends; it really is.

When I first began wheel, I was terrified ALL the time. Chris would spot me, but I’ll be honest – I didn’t “believe” the spot. The idea of entrusting my safety to another person made me want to pee a little (but I didn’t, I swear). One day, after battling with one trick over and over and over and over, Chris asked, “When are you going to trust me to spot this so you can move on?” Now, I still firmly believe that we are responsible for our own safety, but at that moment, a light went on. Chris is a phenomenal teacher. He has an incredible understanding of wheel. He has proven a bazillion times that he is capable of keeping me safe (I’ve even seen him pluck students from mid-air when they missed a catch when he wasn’t even looking!!!!). When was I going to trust him to spot me? What would make it OK for me to trust him?


That day was a game changer. It is a miserable thing to be ruled by fear, and it was starting to take it’s toll. I don’t, for a single second, believe every teacher knows jack about spotting. I don’t believe every teacher can help keep you safe. But here are a few conclusions I’ve drawn:

  1. A teacher must earn your trust. Blind faith that, because someone has hung out their shingle as a circus teacher, it means they know how to spot, teach reasonable progressions, etc. is silly.
  2. You are, no matter what, responsible for your own safety.
  3. Sometimes, being responsible for your own safety means trusting a teacher who has earned that trust.

Since that day, we’ve come a long way, Chris and I. I no longer have paralyzing fear because a) we discovered I need smaller progressions from trick to trick, and b) because I trust him. If something is dangerous, he tells me. If I just need to focus on feeling the movement, he tells me. If he’s “got me”, he tells me. And I believe him; and that has made all the difference.


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