Monday, July 18, 2011

A Yogically Inclined Blog in Current-Events Variation of Aerial Pose

Those of you living in the NYC area have probably heard by now of the death-defying escapades of one Seanna Sharpe: climbing up the Williamsburg Bridge, rigging a silk-cloud, and performing for fifteen minutes. If you aren't already familiar, here is a video of said performance, and here is an article concerning it. Seanna being my first aerial instructor, I was in the loop that this was going to happen, and managed to locate my husband and myself on the bridge at the appropriate time to witness the performance first-hand. It was pretty intense, exciting, beautiful, terrifying, exhilarating, inspiring! In spite of my husband stating several times, needlessly I might add, that I was never, ever, ever to do such a thing.

Although the adventure was not my own, I found there was a certain small portion of bragging rights afforded to direct witnesses and associates of the performer, and I did relish the telling and retelling of the tale of Seanna's brave feat.

Imagine my surprise when, later in the week, I found myself privy to an opinion quite different from my own. I over-heard a professional aerialist explaining to a fellow student that, overall, she felt Seanna's actions were more foolish than noble: her antics were bad publicity for her fellow aerialists, suggesting they were all likely to do something insanely risky. She pointed out the potential backlash of raised insurance rates, and increased restrictions on performers and instructors. She was particularly dismayed because Seanna is an instructor, and she felt her performance set a bad example of fool-hardy risk-taking to the next generation of aerialists under her wing. While she did specifically state that Seanna deserved props for her nerve, and for doing what she felt she needed to do, overall she was unimpressed with the stunt, and left pondering why exactly she had done it. It hadn't been in support of any larger, established cause.

Seanna had stated that the purpose for her performance was to face her own fears, and encourage others to do the same. She added:

“When we say face your fear, we are not telling you to do anything and everything that scares you. That’s just stupidity. We are challenging you to examine your mind, consider the source of your fear, and take responsibility for how you choose to live.”

That's an incredibly noble cause to support if you ask me, and very much living Omily. My perspective though, is that of a student, and a student and friend of hers no less. My view certainly isn't objective.

I was really intrigued by the alternative view, particularly because it hadn't occurred to me at all, and although I'm not a professional or an instructor, I do consider myself an aerialist. I have to concede the point about insurance rates and restrictions. Assuming this stunt does attract enough attention to cause changes on either of those two fronts, they will undoubtedly make it more difficult to earn a living out of this profession, not less so. But to be fair Seanna has made public the fact that her stunt was carefully planned with safety in mind. Specifically, she tells us,

"We took great measures to minimize risk, using staggered placement, carefully calculated timing, and safety rigging above a lower beam with no pedestrian or vehicular traffic below. We are happy to confirm that there were no accidents among any civilians, bicyclists, drivers, police officers, or ourselves."

She also points out that she has performed at over three-hundred venues over the course of the last seven years, and she has never once fallen. That is an impressive record of precision, skill, and knowing her limits.

To speak to the concern specifically of Seanna's influence with aerial students, I don't think any of Seanna's students, or any students in general, watched that performance and concluded that this was something they should attempt when they've advanced their skills sufficiently. If this is the kind of thing you're going to do, someone setting a precedent of having done it already is more likely to be a deterrent, since it makes it less impressive, than an encouragement. Seanna specifically does not encourage her students to attempt similar feats, saying,

“We do not advocate reckless behavior, nor do we encourage that anybody imitate our actions. Rather, we hope that individuals are inspired to create their own art, to tap into the power of their creative imagination, and to live fuller and freer lives."

In fact, if a student mentioned to Seanna a wish to undertake such a performance, she would be in a better position than most to point out the myriad of concerns, fears, difficulties and obstacles such an act would involve, and while, if that person was determined to see it through, I believe Seanna is the last person who would stand in his or her way, she would also strongly discourage anyone from attempting any kind of aerial performance she or he was unprepared to undertake safely.

So what's the conclusion? Watch the video and decide for yourself! I'm biased in favor of ballsy moves involving ridiculous quantities of adrenaline and nerves of steel. To quote Seanna again,

“When I was first asked "why did you do it", the answer I couldn't help but think was: Why Not?...It felt more like flying than anything I've ever experienced, and it was significantly less dangerous than riding a motorcycle.”

Statistically true, but what do you think?

Live Omily; face your fears!

P.S. The only other negative comments I heard were posted by individuals on the Gothamist article about the incident. I will defend an informed and intelligent opinion to the grave, regardless of how different it may be from my own. Those posters' comments don't appear to me to be defensible.


  1. I heard the link to the video didn't work; it should now. Fingers crossed!

  2. Nice post on this! So well written and definitely YOUR voice :)

    Despite sharing Skip's feelings of, "never, ever, ever do this!", I can't say I'm not impressed. Damn, I don't think I'd ever have the nerve or ability to do something like that! (that's why I draw cartoons about poop instead)

    I will say this, though (just to play devil's advocate), if Sienna did this for her own fear-conquering, wouldn't the practice runs at night be enough? Why did she need an audience? I think she enjoyed the spectacle and being arrested! Of course, if I was her, I would too! haha... she's still an awesome badass in my view!

  3. PS... thanks for the MYTHFITS link ( ^_^ ) xoxoxoxoxoxo