Tag Archives: aerial group in aberdeen

Aerials at Crathes Enchanted Castle

26 Nov


University started back up with a bang. 3 months ago, I was in Peru with plenty of time to blog, structure Qayqa and social-medialise.  Since my return to Aberdeen, however, I’ve been living a demanding, well-structured life full of exercise and aerials. I teach 4 times a week.


Mondays, 7-9 pm:  Acrobatics at the University of Aberdeen

Tuesdays, 7-9 pm:  Flexibility class for working professionals at Studio 202

Thursdays, 6-9 pm:  Aerial Silks & Trapeze for students at Studio 202

Fridays, 7-9 pm:  Aerial Silks & Trapeze for working professionals at Studio 202


I’ve had a few people tell me they stumbled over this blog when they were looking up aerial classes in Aberdeen, and either accidentally bump into me at Studio 202 and make the connection later; or write me and join my classes. So if you’re out there, eager to start aerials or have a good stretch, this is my routine. Come to my classes!

Last week, however, all my classes went on hold because the Circus Society had been booked by Crathes Enchanted Castle to perform for 5 days – and I had been booked with them, on my aerial silks for the very first time in Scotland.

4 performances a night… for 5 days… In November.

I agreed to this in July, when I couldn’t imagine what “cold” felt like. By October, I was terrified. I woke up the morning of the performance at 6am, genuinely scared. I went to an Outdoor Adventure Clothing store and paid a ridiculously high price for thermal underwear.

I’ll philosophise about the Role of the Cold in my life in a bit, but first I would like to show you some pictures of the event. Here are a few I took, but I also strongly encourage you to visit the website of the event’s official photographer, Martin Parker, here. He has some stunning photographs of the castle and its grounds all magically lit up, like this:

Crathes Castle. Photograph by Martin Parker

Crathes Castle. Photograph by Martin Parker

Crathes Castle Grounds. Photograph by Martin Parker.

Crathes Castle Grounds. Photograph by Martin Parker.

Meanwhile, here are a few I took of our team on the first night. Missing only is a picture of Sandra, but you’ll find her in Martin Parker’s collection.

Big Man Barnaby

Big Man Barny

Hannah firebreathing while Emma hoola-hooped

Hannah firebreathing while Emma hoola-hooped

Emma's Mysterious Frolicking Creature, anything from Gollum to... a goat

Emma’s Mysterious Frolicking Creature, anything from Gollum to… a goat

the view to my office

where I danced

My area had Talking Trees, who discussed one another’s growth spurts, the fashion of the audience, and spiderwebs. This was the first time I didn’t have music for my performance, but the conversation of trees instead. It was a challenge. I spent the first 2 days fighting for music, but by the end of the 2nd day, friends assured me that not having music added a somewhat mystical value to my performance. I remembered that a lot of circus performances have begun to take place in total silence, and I accepted the challenge.

did get feedback that it would have been even more surreal had the trees stopped talking entirely while I performed. Personally, I have to agree. Total silence would have been nice. But towards the end of 5 days, I barely even heard them anymore.

I’ll let YOU decide, dear ayllu, and tell me what you think. Here is a video of my performance amongst slight raindrops, courtesy of My Special Man:

There’s a brilliant anecdote to this video.

This evening was was the very first time my man saw me perform live on the silks, so afterwards, I ran to hug him and hear all about it. I was so eager to hear his thoughts. “Did I scare you, in the end?” I asked excitedly, “When I dropped suddenly, did I scare you?”

“Oh, I knew you were always in control,” he bluffed.

“Seriously?” I was so annoyed with myself. “I didn’t scare you?”

“Well, the truth is…” he slowly began to admit, “I kinda missed the drop…”

“What? Why? What were you doing?”

You see, in the seconds before my final drop, my proud boyfriend had turned his back in order to take a selfie with his aerial girlfriend. . .

. . .When suddenly, the crowd shouted in surprise, and he turned, wondering: What? What did I miss??? 

The Selfie

The Selfie

This performance was not only my very first aerial performance in Scotland… It is also my goodbye to my red silks. Over the last 5 years, we’ve worked so well together: in short films, hanging from a 10 meter crane, teaching my very first students in Aberdeen how to fly… They are well over their retirement age and have certainly lost a lot of elasticity. Silks are usually used for 2-3 years; mine are over 5 years old. It is time to say goodbye to my darlings.

I think this was a more than worthy farewell.

During the performance, knowing that this will be the last time we work together, I became aware of how much I trust them. How I reach for them without looking, because I know they are where my hands expect them to be. Before every performance, I touch them gently, look up at their securing point and whisper Please take care of me. We’ll do this together. And they’ve never let me fall.

This is the most beautiful, heart-stopping view to me.

Photo 20-11-2014 00 44 06

Here are a few more images from the nights at Crathes Enchanted Castle:

Photo 21-11-2014 23 15 56

my favourite by Elsie Liontou


And favourites by Martin Parker:

copyright Martin Parker

copyright Martin Parker Photography

copyright Martin Parker

copyright Martin Parker Photography

copyright Martin Parker

copyright Martin Parker Photography

Now I wasn’t too delighted at performing in the cold. If anything, most aspects of my life in Scotland revolve around The Art Of Not Feeling Cold. I arrived in Scotland complete with a UV light therapy gadget. My man has nicknamed me “the Firefighter” because of my winter fashion.

Other girls and me

The cold usually makes me very bad-tempered, unhappy and generally super bitchy.

Photo 21-11-2014 13 31 13

And if you’re wondering where I’m getting all these pictures from, check out this great page: 27 Things Girls Who Are Always Cold Know To Be True. Story of my life.

So I find it interesting that the one time I perform on the aerial silks in Scotland, it’s in the dead of winter. Barefoot. Or that the one time I decide to go to university, it’s in the north of Scotland. Etc etc ad infinitum.

You have to admit that Life really is throwing almost a lot of the things at me which I happen to despise the most. And yet, I’m enjoying my time in Scotland so much.

Life, in its Infinite Wisdom, is throwing the things at me that will challenge me the most. And thanks to that, I am learning.

Learning how to stay warm for 5 days and not get sick afterwards.

Finally buying thermal underwear so I don’t freeze.

Finding the strength within me to suck it up and perform barefoot.

Maybe living in a country that has four seasons (my main complaint) isn’t so bad for the value of the lessons I’m learning. Because after the 3rd night of performing, when it was windy and freezing, I heard myself say on the 4th night: “8 degrees? Wow, it’s warm!”

This is how we change.

Or maybe Life just has a sadistic sense of humour and loves picking on me. I prefer to believe the former!

Yes We Can!

We Can Do It!

Dear ayllu, in 2 weeks, we university students have our winter exams. After this, we’re away on our Christmas break and I will be able to blog more and tell you all about Qayqa. I skyped with Mark today, who is in Cologne, also performing, and we quickly discussed the last bits and pieces. I’ll keep you informed on the process.

Finally, I would like to leave you with a short clip I shot just for you, for this blog. I’ll explain: for 5 long nights, opera music was put in an endless 5-hour-long loop to accompany the hoola hoop fire performances. Pleasant as it was, it didn’t take very long to exhaust everyone’s eardrums. I once did the entire walk through the Enchanted Forest, looking at the lit-up trees, hearing the bizarre and spooky sound effects, and I commented to the sound technician: “If you took LSD then walked through that forest, it would the trip of your life!”

He joked back: “Then maybe on the last night we should have a rave!”

On the last night, after the audience had left, the gates had closed and everyone was taking down their stuff, he put on delicious trance beats that fit remarkably well to the projections on the castle. I just had to film it.

So here it is, from me to you, sending you love from Scotland.


When Progress Happens Quietly, It Must Be Wearing Socks

13 Feb

Exams are over and life at Aberdeen University is returning to normal. If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that the island of Great Britain is being battered on all sides by strong winds and floods. Up here in Scotland, it’s not necessarily cold. It’s just very wet.

photo 5

Wet students are a miserable sight. But to be honest, I am very happy exams are over. Those two revision weeks bored me to tears. Finally we can all get back to living our lives again! I was going mad in my room.

At the moment, I am fighting on two battlefields: one is the Battle of the Illustrations; the second is the Battle of the Silks.

The Battle of the Silks

This battle began in November 2013, between the Juggling Society and the University of Aberdeen. I teach acrobatics within the Juggling Society (because it’s the closest to a circus society, and because these people are fine people and are my friends), and we have been hunting for a way to hang up my silks. The president of the society has been an amazing help. We tackled the administrative offices of the uni, all of whom say NAY! to our quest to hang up my silks; and then we rang the doorbells of about 6 different schools (and a kindergarten) around the city of Aberdeen, asking what the politics are to rent their gym halls.

Last Friday, I got Sick Of It All. It was a surprisingly sunny day, slightly warm, so with the help of my amazing friends, I hung up my silks at Seaton Park and had my first silk session in 5 months. 

2014-02-07 15.14.20

2014-02-07 15.10.29

by Lucho

finally I wasn’t hiding my face

Now it seems as though I may finally have found a hall to hang them up in! The trouble is that most gym halls in Aberdeen aren’t built “the usual” way, with beams hanging openly in the ceiling for aerialists to hang up their silks. Most halls are built for gymnastics, basketball or badminton. Silks are a rather unique thing with such strict requirements, so I’m not surprised it’s been hard to find a suitable place. But that it’s been so hard…

Now, with a hall in sight, I have to do all the necessary paperwork and navigate around British bureaucracy. These are new waters for me, so please keep your fingers crossed for us. If this works out, we will found Aberdeen’s first aerial group, and I will be able to transform my acrobatics group into an aerial and acrobatics society!


The Battle of the Illustrations

The past three weeks have found me whispering into my computer’s microphone while my flatmates sleep, discussing illustrations with Mark over Skype.

photo 2

Over the last few months, Mark has had a bit of an artist’s block when it came to certain illustrations that correspond to Damian’s time in the desert. He’s been working madly on all the other ones, and has sent me many 90% completed illustrations, which are looking STUNNING.

He also held up a couple of new illustrations over Skype, and we were able to discuss in realtime what kind of frame it needs, how to continue certain parts, what the novel says about this particular section. Here’s a picture of Mark showing me a new illustration of Damian:

photo 3

Damian is looking quite different here. I’m quite glad that it’s a bit blurry, because this is one of the last illustrations of the book, and it shows his physical and emotional transformation towards the “end” of his journey.

I was in despair about how slowly the illustrations were coming along over the past months. I receive many emails asking me when Qayqa will come out, and along with your feedback to the excerpt recently, I know it’s her time. Mark and I had many conversations about why he’s stuck, how I could help him, how he could help himself. Part of the reason why he is stuck has to do with the very vague and slippery notion of the desert Damian falls into. How do you depict emptiness? How do you illustrate a divine deity, an earth goddess? – without being all hippie ethereal.

I know how hard it is for me to get over writer’s block. How do you help an artist get over illustrating block?

Mark has many illustrations of Damian and Pacha Mama, and we were both unsatisfied with them. When we were in Peru in 2009, touring with our film Children of Roots, Mark created several fascinating illustrations that so wonderfully tapped into Peruvian art and culture. I was amazed that a man who never studied Peruvian art could mimic it so well. We agreed that one of them would make it into Qayqa. This one: 

pre-production illustration by Mark Klawikowski

pre-production illustration by Mark Klawikowski

He tapped into the Peruvian mythical world so well here, but with Qayqa, there are stricter guidelines, not to mention that Pacha Mama is such an enigma to paint.

For a few months, I have been toying with an idea, and one night when I couldn’t sleep, I sent off the message I had been writing in my head for months. I wrote an artist friend.

He is someone I volunteered with at Helping Hands in Cusco two years ago. Let’s just call him “Ryan”. I called him to discuss the possibility of him illustrating the desert scenes in Qayqa. Ryan’s work is … surreal – but I’m not entirely sure what other genres or categories to use to describe his work. You decide:

"Foxes" by Ryan and Amy, painted at Helping Hands Cusco

“Foxes” by Ryan and Amy, painted at Helping Hands Cusco

"Love from Peru" screen print by Ryan

“Love from Peru” screen print by Ryan

When I spoke to Ryan on the phone and explained briefly what Qayqa – particularly the desert scenes – is about, he became very excited. Having spent several months traveling Latin America with his girlfriend, he understands not only the concept, but also the love and lifestyle behind “Pacha Mama”.

My main worry is that having two artists illustrate one book might not have a homogenous outcome. But I promised to be honest to you, and I want you to participate in this journey of my self-publication – with all possible pitfalls. So you know now that this is something we are considering.

I just sent a long email to Ryan with a short description of Qayqa for him to hold on to, and several of Mark’s completed illustrations, so that he can see the direction Mark has taken so far. I also sent Ryan excerpts from Qayqa, from the chapters of Damian in the desert so that he can send me 3 sketches as suggestions of how he would approach this job.

When I spoke to Mark about the possibility of Ryan boarding Qayqa, he was very optimistic – and relieved. The main argument for two artists working on one book is that the world in the desert is completely distinct to the world of the caravans, of the flying people. It is almost an alternate universe, so perhaps an alternate approach could work. It really all depends on how Ryan approaches what Mark has done so far. Either way, it will be incredibly interesting to see!

At the moment, Mark is finishing his two final illustrations. Then we’ll move on to discuss the cover of Qayqa. He is also working on little sidekick illustrations which will appear either within the text or framing it at the end of the page. Here is one I love:

x Wald

by Mark Klawikowski

I would love if we could bring Ryan onboard, but this is a question of two styles finding a common ground. It could either enrich Qayqa‘s desert world – or not. But if it doesn’t work, at least I left no stone unturned.

I suppose these are the experiments we have to dare to take. We have to find solutions for artists’ blocks – and who knows if a collaboration is a good solution?

I’ll let you know what happens.

This is the quiet progress Qayqa is making. A lot of whispering over Skype.

my celebratory countdown to my 30th birthday in June

my celebratory countdown to my 30th birthday in June

Thank you to everyone who sent me feedback to my excerpt from Qayqa! I was surprised at how diverse it was; I honestly thought it would be more unanimous. But thank you so much for speaking up, for critiquing, for being honest. I sincerely appreciate it.

The main thing you taught me is this: I have to continue listening to my gut. It helps so much to ask you, and I learnt that several gut decisions I made in the past were good – because you said so in your feedback. You also helped me make some valuable decisions concerning the future of the excerpt, and when you read the book, you will see some differences and you will know it is thanks to you. I will post another excerpt soon. I wanted to tonight, but I think this post is long enough as is.

I am very happy to working so closely with you on this. How many artists can say that? I honestly love that Qayqa is growing up so close to you, that you are influencing her. I’d like to see how far I can take this. Until then, thank you for being out there.

I wish you all a beautiful & happy Valentines’ Day on Friday. A grateful hug to you from Scotland. 

Love, Ritti