I met Ashe Giovanni when she taught me in aerial hammock and aerial silks classes at AcroSports. She is a wonderful teacher who introduced me to many useful new techniques. I was always impressed by Ashe’s strength in the air. I wanted to capture that strength in my portrait of her.
‘The Strength To Float‘: Charcoal and chalk pastel pencils on paper
Ashe was the first aerial silks teacher to introduce me to the idea that I should continue to work on making my Russian climbs more efficient. She would often give the class the task to see how few climbs we could use to reach the top of the silks. We would then see if we could improve over time. This exercise was extremely beneficial to me, as it improved my strength and many of my basic techniques.
Ashe was also the first teacher that taught me a sequence of several moves that linked together on the silks. It was so exciting to be able to work from one pose to another. It felt like such a big step forward.
What impressed me the most about Ashe was her strength in the air. She has considerable upper body strength. Ashe is able to use it to great advantage to make her tricks look effortless. This is a skill that I aspire to, but have a long way to go.
Side by side comparison of the reference image and ‘The Strength To Float‘
Q&A with Ashe
What made you decide to try aerial?
The burlesque troupe I was with had a few members who were in a circus company & they asked me to come to a practice because they thought I would make a great addition to the troupe. I had never seen aerial or taken a class, but I instantly fell in love with all things circus; Aerial, Partner Acrobatics, Fire, etc.
What is your favourite apparatus and why?
Single Point Sling/Hammock. It has the capacity to be used for Tissue tricks when rigged long, & provides an endless journey of exploration through different pathways and twists! You never get stuck because you’ll always end up in another position you’re familiar with or discover new transitions easily.
What type of venues or events do you most enjoy performing at?
Naturally I enjoy performing at venues with high ceilings so I can rig at the height I want and use the extra fabric for larger drops! I love performing for events that draw an artistic crowd that understands and appreciates the beauty in my artistry, & character choices, rather than your typical bar or club crowd that is only wowed by the splits or a drop of any kind.
What is your favourite type of performance?
Satirical performance has become my favourite. I’m a natural improver, & clown, so when I get to take on a silly persona I truly blossom as a performer. While I deeply love a creative and elegant performance, I find that my comical performances are my niche!
What do you hope to convey when you perform?
I always hope to convey my physical strength. While I’m not as flexible as other performers, I try to use my strength to showcase difficult positions instead.
Has what you like about aerial changed from the time you started until now?
Yes, very much so! When I started, I just thought it was really cool and unique, but didn’t understand the artistic direction it required to create and perform a professional quality piece! It can be difficult to get out of the “trick-pose, trick-pose” mentality. Aerial performance requires so much strength, but a GREAT aerial performance requires not only that, but a demanding stage presence, meaning eye contact/audience engagement, character work, and mastering the artistry of movement while in the air.
How did you get into teaching aerial?
I Co-Founded a circus company, and as an extra revenue stream and community engagement we decided to start offering aerial and partner acrobatic classes in the facility we trained in. Teaching classes opened my eyes to many more aspects of aerial arts, & started me down the road to my true calling as a circus arts & fitness instructor and educator.
What are your favourite aspects of teaching aerial?
My favourite aspect of teaching aerial is the conditioning aspect! Because it requires so much arm and core strength, I spend a lot of time talking to my clients about body awareness, specific muscles they need to utilise, and the process of training in order for them to accomplish whatever skill they’re working on. I also love seeing clients embrace the artistic side of aerial, and have fun with showing off little routines with sass and flair!
What do you hope your students take away from your classes?
I hope my students fall in love with aerial for either the physical challenges & benefits it provides, or the beautiful artistry of it that you can attain with practice. I want my students to have a goal when they leave my class, whether that’s to master an inversion, or a specific trick.
Ashe sent me several beautiful images to use for her portrait. I thought that this one perfectly captured the strength that I wanted to portray. In the image, Ashe seems to float in mid air. She uses tremendous strength to hold herself there. I like how the photograph shows the definition of the muscles in her arms and legs as they are tensed to hold her in position.
Progress photos of ‘The Strength To Float‘
To capture the strength of the pose in the reference image, I wanted to keep the composition simple. In addition, I wanted to keep the colours and techniques minimal. This was so that the illusion of Ashe floating in mid air would be created in the artwork. I used mid-tone buttery coloured pastel paper. Charcoal and white chalk pastel pencils were used for the drawing to emphasise the shadows and highlights on the figure.
‘The Strength To Float‘ hanging on a wood panel wall
‘The Strength To Float‘ hanging above ‘Golden Hoop‘
Framed print of ‘The Strength To Float‘
If you are a performer, yogi, fan of figurative art and would like to commission a piece, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org