Tell us a little bit about yourself :)
I am 22 years old, and currently living in "Sin City", just a few hours north of where I grew up in Mesa, Arizona. Here, I work as an instructor and admin at Trapeze Las Vegas, as well as at Aerial Essentials where I ship aerial equipment. Performing, however, is my true passion, and I do gig work as a freelance artist around the country, as well as internationally.
I am the 2016 US Aerial Champion in Men's Silk after winning the competition in New York City in May, and will soon be judging the very first Argentine National Silks Competition in Córdoba! Outside of my many jobs, I love to sing, play piano, read, eat lots of food, and sleep!
How did you get introduced to Aerial?
I grew up doing gymnastics with Christopher Sommer of Gymnasticbodies. But when I got into high school, I decided to "retire" from the sport, and transitioned into Musical Theater, which I would later go to Brigham Young University in Utah to study. After getting cast as an acrobat in a production of a musical called Side Show, the owner of the theater saw my talent, and decided to introduce me to Darla Davis, the woman who would become my aerial coach. Shortly after I went and took my very first silks class...
When did Aerial get really serious for you?
By the end of my first silks class, I knew that Aerial was what I wanted to spend my life doing, rather than musical theater. Within just a few weeks, I decided to leave university perminantly, and move to Salt Lake so I could train with Darla full time. I literally "ran away with the circus", and I've never looked back! For the next 2 1/2 years I spent as much time in the studio as I could afford, and by the end, I felt proficient enough to move to Las Vegas and pursue aerial acrobatics as my full-time profession!
Can you share your biggest challenges?
In 2014, I was contracted to do a silk solo as a vampire in a Halloween dance production called "Thriller" that takes place every year for the month of October in Salt Lake City. It was the most intense run of a show that I had done up to that point, with a show each week-night, and two shows on Saturdays. During the second week of the run, I came down from my rollups (the finale and crown-jewel of my solo) and immediately felt intense pain in the right side of my chest.
I immediately called my coach to get some advice, and as soon as the show was finished, I drove to see her husband (who is a Chiropractor). He found that I had strained my pec major, and immediate went to work to try to activate the muscles. Throughout the night, I used ice to help facilitate bloodflow, and stretched as much as I felt comfortable. At the theater the next day, I went in multiple times to see our on-site massage therapist, and for the two shows that day, I had to rechoreograph my beloved rollups out of my routine.
Finally, after a day of rest on Sunday, I got back on stage with 100% function of my muscles, and have had no further issues with the injury since. I would not have been able to overcome the issue on my own, though! It took a team of very talented people to nurture me back to health, and I am forever greatful for, and indebted to gifted body-workers!
How do you handle pressure?
Back when I was a gymnast and a teenager, I felt enormous amounts of anxiety before competitions. I'd lose sleep, have nightmares, not be able to eat, and just in general feel lousy. And this usually caused me to underperform at my meets. As I've gotten older, I've realized that a lot of that anxiety stemmed from external pressure; my parents, my coach, the judge who was picking apart my movement, my teammates and the boys I was competing against... I was allowing the pressure from everyone else to get the best of me.
One of the biggest turning points for me in overcoming this pressure was transitioning from a competitive athlete into a performer. Things really changed for me once the spectators turned into an audience, my routines turned into solos, and my perception of the performance mattered more to me than anyone else's opinion. When I started performing simply because it's what I loved to do, my anxiety disappeared, and my only pressures became having a wonderful time, and trying to give those watching the same experience!
Can you share your thoughts on self consciousness?
I do still get butterflies before I perform, for sure. But these days, they are more from excitement than stress or self-consciousness. I think a bit of nervousness is good while performing; it keeps you living in the moment, which can keep you safe while doing a dangerous activity like aerial. But feelings of self-consciousness and doubt aren't very helpful in my experience. If you are coming to your sport in a place of fear (fear of your safety, fear of what others think of you) it will be far more difficult to do your best. Trust yourself, your abilities, and your potential to move those in your audience in a way that only you can!
What was your most embarrassing moment (in regards to Aerial of course ;)
When I was competing in the first US Aerial championship in 2015, my silk fabric split into two directions in the middle of my favorite drop, resulting in an extreme entanglement once it was finished. What followed was about 10 seconds of sheer panic as I quickly deciphered how I was wrapped and attempted to free myself, all in front of a packed audience, and thousands more viewers over the live-stream.
Luckily I was able to get untangled relatively quickly and get back in time with my song, but the misfortune ended up costing me the crown when the final results were handed down from the judges. While the experience was embarrassing and seemed catastrophic at the time, it taught me a lot, and helped me to come back even stronger the next year, helping me to emerge victorious the second time around!
How did Aerial influence your life in other ways?
Being an aerialist has impacted every other area of my life, and it is as much of my identity as it is my profession. I am very lucky to have found my boyfriend TJ through the circus community, who is now my aerial partner as well as life partner. Being a freelance artist also means I get to travel to some beautiful places, and meet all kinds of people. It has influenced how I take car of my body, including what I eat and how much I sleep. It is a big factor in my decision to stay away from the traditional "Vegas lifestyle" of drinking, partying, gambling, and staying out all night. Overall, I feel that the things I've had to give up are well worth the ability to live my dream, and do what I love!
What does your daily routine look like?
As I said, aerial acrobatics is my identity, and so much of my activity revolves around my training schedule. On a typical day, I wake up in the morning around 9, make myself some tea, warm up, and then train on my aerial apparatus (we have a rig in my living room, so I get to train at home!) This is when I film my Instagram video for the day as well, as I try to post every day. Then depending on the day, I go to work at Aerial Essentials, or to the gym to lift weights with my boyfriend.
In the afternoons, I'm often teaching classes or privates at Trapeze Las Vegas. And then in the evenings I like to relax at home, sometimes doing yoga, and usually spending some time in our hot tub to decompress from the day.
What about your flexibility training? Where does that fit in?
In terms of flexibility training, I always begin with a full body warm-up, full of dynamic stretching, range of motion exercises, and using my assorted collection of massage rollers (this usually takes about 45 minutes), then I go a bit deeper into stretching my area of choice for the day, before moving onto my apparatus work. I rotate through shoulders, back, and legs throughout the week to push some part of my body more while giving the others a bit of rest.
After finishing on my apparatus, I do a cool down with more held static stretching, and other specific movements. Self care is also incredibly important, and I relax my muscles with daily hot tub use, regular massage sessions, and ice therapy as needed.
What keeps you motivated?
This may be silly, but it is my Instagram that helps keep me motivated. About 2 years ago, I decided to start posting once per day, and ONLY aerial on my page. Since then, my follower count has grown to more than 40,000 people, with more coming each day. Unexpectedly, commiting to Instagram has been amazing for my personal training; posting once per day keeps me working hard and learning new things, I can look back over my posts like a diary and see how far I've progressed, and each day I get to perform to thousands of people who want to see me! Interacting with my fans and other aerialists on Instagram keeps me inspired, and motivated!
What are your future plans/goals/dreams?
I plan on continuing to do aerial and refine my craft for as long as my body will let me (ideally, forever!). In the next few years, I'd like to continue to perform as much as possible. My boyfriend and I hope to be able to land some cruise work as a duo. I will continue to grow my following and fan base on Instagram, as well as expanding to other mediums such as YouTube, and a blog. Eventually I'd like to make a name for myself both in and outside the circus community, continue coaching and helping other aerialists to be successful, and maybe one day begin my own studio, or performance troupe.
Any tips for passionate Aerialist starting out?
If you have any desire to begin doing aerial, either for fitness or fun, or with a goal to perform, I recommend looking up a studio near you, and finding an instructor you really enjoy learning from. Attend as many classes as you can, and take advantage of open gym times where you can review what you've learned on your own. Invest in some high-quality tights and leotards. Watch videos of other aerialists, and take time to visualize yourself doing aerial when outside of the gym.
Supplement your aerial with other flexibility and strength training, like Yoga, or lifting weights. Learn about your rigging, and what things you need to look out for to keep yourself safe while up in the air. And be sure to respect and care for your body, eat good foods, get lots of rest, and most of all enjoy yourself!
Anything else you'd like to share?
Be prepared: aerial is a painful sport. You have to deal with pretty consistent muscle soreness, wraps that synch tightly around your limbs, silk burns, bruises, and occasionally injuries. One of the ways that I have found to best overcome this pain is through meditation.
This doesn't have to be a spiritual practice (though it can be if you want) but learning how to slow down, breathe, and let go of your thoughts is an incredible skill to learn. It can help you push through a few more seconds in a stretch, or endure the final few minutes of your atmosphere set at a corporate event.
Anything you’d like to promote?
My website is currently in development, but should be up before the end of the year! Until then, the best place to find me is online is on my Instagram @brandonscottacrobat, or on Facebook. I teach classes at privates at Trapeze Las Vegas, and am available to travel to perform or teach workshops. Lastly, I am an affiliate with Aerial Essentials in the case that anyone out there needs equipment or hardware for flight!