I met Leslie Rosen, my aerial fundamentals trainer, in the summer of 2013. From the moment I met Leslie, I found her to be kind, accepting, and patient with me and all of her other students. No matter what kind of experience, body, or skill level her students bring to class, Leslie is uniquely adept at individualizing physical training so that it can be accessible to anyone. Leslie has truly been my ambassador at SANCA, and I’ve come to depend on her guidance and wisdom.
So, when Leslie announced she’d be taking a quarter long sabbatical from teaching to study Belly Dance in India, I was first happy for her, and then I wondered, who could possibly replace Leslie Rosen, even for one quarter?
Joining the circus is so much more than learning tricks and conditioning exercises, it is embarking on a transformative path that many have walked before. Circus is a tradition, and within every skill is the history and experiences of those who developed the skills before we ever dared to try. Leslie understands this and brings that context to her training. In fact, Leslie’s entire career is steeped in performing arts that rely on the intergenerational transmission of knowledge- stilt walking, fire performing, hula hooping, belly dancing, and of course, passing that knowledge on to others as a teacher. Leslie leads two performance troupes, the belly dancing Sirens of Serpentine and Pyrosutra, her fire troupe. Additionally, she has the distinction of being the only Belly Dancer in the Cirque du Soleil database. Leslie truly exemplifies a modern artist embodying centuries of tradition in her work, and by teaching what she’s learned, she hands those traditions down to her students so the lineage can continue.
When Leslie came to SANCA nearly a decade ago, she brought with her a background in dance, but no experience with aerial acrobatics. This makes her current aerial expertise 100% learned in-house at SANCA. Leslie progressed from aerial basics, such as learning to climb the rope, to mastering aerial fundamentals and beyond. She was able to achieve this in part by having a diversity of trainers over the years, including Chuck, Alyssa, Chelsea, Jeff, Terry, Crystal and Rachel and Ben. Over time, through countless classes, workshops and trainings (and no doubt a great deal of commitment), Leslie found the techniques and skills that worked for her and continued to deepen her understanding of aerial arts. But circus is much more of a journey than a destination, and even though Leslie is a successful trainer and instructor, she continues to challenge herself by remaining a life long student of her various disciplines. I’ve seen Leslie stealing moments to study new aerial technique from videos, I’ve watched her dangle from the Lyra above me as she learned how to move her body on a new apparatus, and I’ve sweat and worked hard next to her when she’s dropped into my Strength and Flexibility class. Leslie is more than just my teacher, she’s my peer in the circus lifestyle, which is what being in a community is all about. It’s not about hierarchy, it’s about connection.
Just as Leslie has committed herself to the ongoing education of circus arts, she will be apart from us for the winter session so she can deepen her understanding of classical Indian dance. On New Year’s Day Leslie traveled to a temple school in Rajasthan to study Odissi, Vinyasa yoga and Belly Dance and fire performance with the Romani (also known as Gypsies) for three months. She will no doubt come back full of new experiences, techniques, and the multigenerational knowledge contained in this traditional art form.
Instructors like Leslie Rosen are what keep art alive in our increasingly digital, disconnected culture. We are lucky at SANCA to have a community that values tradition and inherited knowledge, that respects and acknowledges the experience of trainers like Leslie. I will miss her while she’s gone, but by learning new techniques and different ways of approaching skills with new instructors, I am following Leslie’s footsteps.