February 11, 2020 Student Highlight: Chelsi Milsted

Could you introduce yourself?
My name is Chelsi! In my non-aerial life, I speak a bunch of languages and work full-time as a high school Spanish teacher. As an undergrad I studied Spanish, French, and Linguistics, and I began aerial right after I started graduate school to become a language teacher. I needed to look up from my books once in awhile, get back in shape, do *something* for stress relief, and get out of my head and be creative sometimes. I am currently in the process of applying to a doctoral program, so should I be accepted, I will be extra happy to have aerial in my life this time around as I reenter the world of academia.

How did you learn about aerial arts?.
A friend of mine from high school was really involved in aerial and often posting aerial things to various social media platforms, and I thought it looked like something I might enjoy!

When did you start taking classes?
I began my first official aerial series right at the new year in 2018 after taking a drop in class with a friend that December (2017).

What is your favorite aspect of aerial circus classes?
Aerial has done wonders for my self-confidence, and that is without a doubt my favorite thing about the practice. When I first started, I was 50lbs heavier and could barely walk up stairs without getting winded. I expected the physical challenge of getting back in shape, but the constant mental blocks I had to confront when I started hit me like a ton of bricks! Why didn’t I think I could hang upside down from my knees? Why was I so afraid to try a new move? Aerial pushed me to do a lot of work on myself that I didn’t realize I needed, and as I got stronger and more capable I felt like I had rediscovered a version of myself that had gotten farther away from me than I’d realized. Aerial continues to be an extremely empowering practice for me – I think that’s why it’s so easy to get hooked. Now that I’ve started I’m never going back! 🙂

Where do you see yourself going with this, do you want to do more performance someday, or is this more of a fun recreational activity?
I’m definitely inspired to continue training and advancing as much as possible within the discipline, but I am being very careful to keep my aerial life separate from my professional life. I am not interested in teaching or performing for pay, because I am worried that venturing into that area of the circus world would generate more stress than it would relieve. I’d like aerial to remain a creative outlet and magical ‘escape’ for me. I am definitely interested in using aerial as a means of artistic expression, though, and I do see myself seeking out opportunities to create pieces, perform, collaborate with other artists, take photos, etc. I am already in the process of getting my own silk and rig together so that I can begin to create that type of art on my own.

Do you have a favorite apparatus? Why or why not?
Definitely fabric! Though I could never choose between silks and sling. I’m not sure why they are my favorites, there’s just something about them. 🙂

What advice do you have for a potential student thinking about starting classes?
Start! And when you start, be nice to yourself! Progress, rather than being steady and gradual as you might expect, is often intermittent and abrupt. Sometimes you’ll go for weeks struggling with the same skill, and then one day, out of nowhere, you’ll be able to do it. Don’t measure success by its speed; enjoy where you are in your journey and embrace the process. Aerial arts can truly change your life if you let it!