Caitlin Roman has been very busy over the past two years completing her MBA at Harvard University. However, she has another career that involves a passion for flying and this form of flying does not involve airplanes or other forms of transportation. She discovered this during a team-building event and it has been with her ever since. Who of you has not had that dream or feeling of wanting to fly through the air? But how many of you have actually followed through on this desire? You must have the physical and intellectual core to be able to do so and Caitlin has both. Caitlin has worked with different types of aerial disciplines including both the flying trapeze and silks. I had the good fortune to work with Caitlin during her journey with silks.
Let’s hear from Caitlin Roman who has a passion for flying and moving through the air with the greatest of ease.
How did you first get into doing silks?
I started my “circus career” on flying trapeze in 2011, when the company I was working for took us to Trapeze School New York for a team-building class. I started going to flying trapeze regularly, and I fell in love with the physical and intellectual challenge of flying through the air. From there, I started experimenting with other related aerial disciplines, and I started doing silks more seriously when I moved to Boston. Trapeze was less accessible, and I found an amazing silks studio near my school: AirCraft Aerial Arts in Somerville.
What does it mean to do silks?
Aerial silks involve climbing up silk fabrics and doing various inversions and poses, to music. It requires both strength and flexibility – for example, through my silks training I can now do both pull-ups and also a full split. It’s an incredibly demanding discipline – as the saying goes, when you’re at your most beautiful, you’re at you’re most painful!
Do you have to go to a special facility to train for this? Are there many such places?
There are increasingly more trapeze and aerials-focused studios. You definitely need specialized rigging that is properly set up and qualified instructors. In Boston, TSNY offers flying trapeze and aerials classes, and there are two aerials (non-flying) studios: AirCraft Aerial Arts and Esh Circus Arts.
I know that you have done trapeze before, did that help you in transitioning to silks?
Yes, definitely! In all circus disciplines, you need to have body control and aerial awareness – in other words, core strength that enables you to “stay tight” in the air. So I definitely progressed faster in silks after having spent two years flying.
Do most people who do silks have a background in gymnastics or dance?
Many people do – and it is easier to start aerials if you have one of those backgrounds – but it is not at all necessary – I never did either gymnastics or dance! I played soccer for 15 years, which requires totally different abilities, so it’s cool to see how my body has totally changed as a result of trapeze and silks.
Your silks performance is amazing! How long did you train for this?
I started working on my choreography about five months before the show – trying out different moves, picking a song, stringing moves together. It took a while to build up the strength to do four full minutes in the air – it requires a lot of endurance to move through a sequence of moves like that. Even once you have the sequence down and have built the endurance, there are a lot of performative elements layered on top – your “character,” the gestures you make, etc. I was working on the routine right up to the week before the performance.
It obviously takes a lot of strength, balance, and coordination. Did you do strength training? And other training?
Yes, I lift weights at the gym 2-3 times a week. I also incorporate a lot of core work and stretching into my gym routine. I love yoga but haven’t found a place I like in Boston, so while I incorporate lots of yogic elements into my normal workout, I haven’t been regularly practicing yoga this year.
Did you ever fall or slide down the silks when you were practicing? It looks like it would be so easy to do that.
Because there is no harness or safety net, it’s very important to take lessons at a school – the instructor will show you each move and you’ll practice it down low before you take it up higher. As you progress, you’ll develop more comfort with the different types of wraps, but the goal is never to “fall’ unintentionally! That would result in serious injury.
What did you like most about performing and the performance?
I loved getting to know the other performers (also students at AirCraft) as we prepared our routines. It’s an incredibly welcoming and supportive community, and I made great friends who pushed me and supported me during the many, many hours of practice.
Now, you were undergoing some rehabilitation during this past year as well. How did this impact your work with the silks?
I have had problems with my shoulders related to flying trapeze and silks, which put a lot of pressure on shoulder joints. To avoid serious injury while training intensely on silks, I needed to make sure I strengthened the surrounding muscles and warmed up properly before each session. I did a lot of work during the fall and winter with Dr. Wilmarth to stabilize and strengthen my back and neck muscles – she gave me some good exercises and we did regular therapeutic massage sessions.
OTHER ADVICE FROM CAITLIN
What other advice would you give to people who are considering doing silks? For example, how would you suggest people start their training?
Take a class at a nearby studio and see what you think! It can be intimidating at first, but all of my fellow performers stumbled into it in one way or another and fell in love with the challenge and beauty of aerials – you may be one of them!
Caitlin is One Who’s Won.
Thanks for our One on Won – Dr. Mary Ann