Grounded with Christina Zauner
I’m Christina, a 26 year old Aerialist, Circus Performer, Dancer from Austria, based and living wherever work and Circus takes me.
My pathway into the aerial world was a combination of being in the right place at the right time, taking risks, socialising, a lot of training, acceptance, pain, determination and having a lot of fun, by myself and with the people I met on the way. I would like to share this journey with you.
The first time I touched aerial equipment, was the day after I decided to say yes to a job, without really knowing what I got myself into.
I was in the last year of my dance education in Vienna, and I started doing little gigs, performing at small events. Someone asked my friend Maria and I if we could sit on a hoop and move around for a bit.
I can’t remember what the event was, but since I always liked to challenge myself and it was not the first time I’d chucked myself in at the deep end, I said yes. I just thought, I can figure out how to do this, until the day of the job. In the end the gig didn’t even happen.
I think I would have also found my passion for Aerial Arts along another path, maybe a bit later, but I think it would have happened anyway. Although I am happy it turned out the way it did.
When I started, I was surprised how painful this round piece of steel felt, but it was something I wanted to invest more time in. Oh and there was the fact that I was afraid of heights, which made everything a bit tricky at the start, but I thought it will hopefully help me to get over my fear, so I continued to practice by myself. I was just finishing my education as a dancer, so there was not much time for it.
On the last day in dance school, I decided to perform a short little act. I know it was not really appreciated, but I did it anyway.
I started to dance when I was 4 years old and found my passion for performance and being on stage very early. As much as I love dancing, I was always curious for something more. Something a bit more exciting. Unfortunately there is not much going on in Austrian Circus, so I didn’t’t even know about this option. I grew up on the countryside, and went to a small ballet school. When I was 12 I decided to go to Vienna to do a professional dance education. Living in a Boarding School with kids from all around the world, taught me so much. It was very tuff to leave my family, I was home sick for months, but I would do it all again, because of how much I gained.
After my performance at the open stage in my dance university, one of my teachers mentioned a company called Fidget Feet He said I should look them up, because he imagined that I’d like it. Little did I know that in the near future, the interest in this company would introduce me to so many new possibilities in the aerial world.
Straight after I finished dance school I was lucky to work at the Vienna State Opera, which brought me to one of my favourite jobs so far. I played the Aerial Stunt Double in the opera ‘The Tempest’. It was so exciting to perform on this huge chandelier, above all these people. I absolutely loved it. Even though I still didn’t know a lot about the aerial and circus world, this job showed me how much I enjoy performing in the air. I knew I needed to learn more about this so Fidget Feet popped into my head again.
I did some research, and tried to audition for this company. They told me to come to the Irish Aerial Dance Festival.
The first time I went there, I was overwhelmed by all the new impressions and so many wonderful people. I had never seen anything like it before.
I left this festival with so much motivation to get better.
I started to predominantly train aerial hoop, but in my jobs I was mainly dancing and not doing any aerial, until I got the role of the white cat in the Musical ‘Cats’ with my first solo on a hoop.
After this contract I started focusing on working with Julia Katharina as a Duo called the ‘Dazzling Daisies’. We created a Duo Aerial Hoop Act together and performed it around 130 times at the Krystallpalast in Leipzig.
During the audition process for Krystallpalast, Julia and I watched a show at the Chameleon Theater in Berlin. While watching the performance the aerial straps caught my interest. To me it looked like something, that requires a lot of strength and it was absolutely true.
When I started training straps, it was mostly painful, but I really enjoyed the challenge. I started following a lot of amazing artists on instagram and got inspired by all these new possibilities. So the plan now was to become an Aerial Straps Artist. Unfortunately in Vienna I didn’t have a coach, which is why I had to kick my own ass.
I tried things I saw online and basically got strong by doing it wrong.
I am a very determined person, and I would do 1 thing over and over again, until I got it. The first time I took a straps class was at the IADF with Aaron Koz. I finally had someone to show me the right technique and help me to understand the things that I couldn’t figure out myself. Within 2 weeks I created and performed my first straps act the end of the festival.
After our contract in Leipzig, it actually happened. I started to work with Fidget Feet, 5 years after I first heard their name.
This company is very special to me, the people are incredible, so much support and great energy. I also learned one very important thing. Being an aerialist is not just performing on your apparatus, safety and rigging are as important.
Being responsible, aware and always to double check the equipment that you are hanging off. This is something I would tell everyone who wants to start aerial. Safety first.
After our first run of shows, I really struggled finding work. I went to Montreal to learn from one of the best straps coaches, Victor Fomine.
These classes helped me exceed what I thought was my limit and gave me a new awareness of how I train. I worked so hard, found my own way of moving on straps and got better and better. But there was still no opportunity for me to perform.
I tried to apply for jobs, but no one got back to me but I never lost my motivation for training and creating new things. But it is tough to feel like nobody is interested in what you do, even if that’s not the case.
When I was a child my dad made up a word, that I should think of whenever I struggle. “NIPSILD – Nicht in Problemen sondern in Lösungen denken” a german sentence which means “Don’t think in problems, think in solutions”.
This has always helped me a lot and also in this situation. I finally felt like an aerialist and right this moment, there is still no work for me.
So I decided to get stronger and stronger, because at some point an opportunity will come up and then I will be more then ready.
Even though 2020 was a crazy year, my motivation helped me so much to get through it. I kind of enjoyed having all this time and almost felt bad about it sometimes. So many people were struggling so much and I had the feeling that I wasn’t supposed to share that I am doing just fine.
I was used to being by myself and to not rely on other people, I knew how to kick my own ass and work hard which was very helpful during this time. Getting work was further away than before, but it showed me even more how much I want this.
Today I know I am on the right path and that getting to where I want to be is closer than ever.
My advice to everyone who wants to start the journey to become an aerialist is to be open minded, meet and support people, watch shows and get inspired and be interested in trying new things. A lot of training and the drive to get better is definitely needed, but it is not just that.
If you want to become a professional aerialist, you need to learn how to get a job and how to present yourself. A good way to do that is to talk to people who already know how it works.
I also think it is important to be aware, that this job and the training to get there can be very tough.
It’s ok to not always achieve something, we all have bad days, but you have to put in the effort and work hard, and if things don’t go as you wish straight away, don’t give up, it would be boring if we would achieve things too quickly.
Very often it is just about being in the right place at the right time.
Be clear where you want to go and value your own worth.
Do your research to gain an understanding of the market.
And the most important thing: be safe.
This all might sound daunting but the reward you get when it works is too good to not try.
To find out more about Christina follow these links:
Facebook: Christina Zauner