Women’s Circus was delighted to have Gaby Ugalde visit recently from Auckland based Aerials studio Aracnation to research Women’s Circus unique history and pedagogy.
Gaby is an aerials instructor who began her aerial journey in 2016. Initially she fell in love with aerial silks, and in the past few years that love has expanded to other apparatuses: aerial straps, static trapeze, hammock and most recently Lyra.
Gaby has a background in yoga, and a passion for body awareness and therapeutic movement which are an integral part of the way she trains and teaches aerials. She is also a certified Counsellor, somatic movement teacher, aerial yoga instructor, and yoga practitioner with strong feminist values. Originally from Mexico, she has been calling New Zealand home since 2005.
A big thank you to Gaby for visiting us and for her heartfelt reflections below.
Image: Gaby performing aerial tissu.
I first learnt about Women’s Circus, about four years ago while browsing online for a book about circus. I found The Women’s circus book Leaping Off the Edge (1997), and bought it right away. It was incredibly inspiring, and as someone who is passionate about women’s mental health and therapeutic movement, as well as circus, it really resonated with me.
In 2019 I reached out to Women’s Circus to tell them how inspired I was learning about their origin story and early years, and to ask if I could visit to expand on my research of their unique structure. I never expected to get a response, let alone an invitation to visit in 2020 to see the space, sit in on classes, and chat with current staff and trainers.
Plans were of course interrupted by Covid and border closures, and it wasn’t until June 2022 that I finally made it over!
During the wait, a couple of other aerial teachers and I took over the little studio we used to teach and train in. Inspired by Women’s Circus, I dreamed of being able to offer accessible and inclusive aerial arts classes, and building a community space for people to learn and connect.
However this is all very new to me, so getting to visit Women’s circus was a dream opportunity to learn from people who have decades of experience and who’s values align with our little studio.
Image: Gaby with Women’s Circus New Crew class.
There were many highlights from my visit, but here are a few key ones:
Getting to meet people who have been a part of Women’s Circus for over twenty years and hearing stories about their experiences, and having the opportunity to meet the current staff and students, and even train in the space.
I got to join in on a couple of classes and even learned a bit of juggling and acro. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it! I am far from good (very far), but between the skilled and patient trainers and the welcoming groups I managed to learn a couple of cool new tricks.
One particular moment I really enjoyed and will always remember was in the first class I joined. Students were encouraged to be part of an exercise where one person would fall from a higher place and the rest of us would catch them. I never thought I would feel comfortable enough to do it with people I just met, but it felt fine and am glad I did it – it was a lot of fun!
Image: Gaby with Women’s Circus General Manager Steph Cox.
It was a beautiful and inspiring time. I will never forget the generosity of every single person I met. There were plenty of smiles, chats, coffees, meetings, and classes. All of it was incredibly fun and all of them made me feel welcome and at ease from the start.
Thank you to everyone I met, particularly Steph (General Manager), Siobhan (Venue and Admin Coordinator), Betty (Marketing & Comms Manager), Franca (Lead Trainer & Head Rigger), and Sal (Trainer). You all were amazing hosts and I hope that one day I have the chance to return the favour and show you the work we are doing in our little corner. If you’re ever in Auckland, please come an hang with us, we’d love to see you here.
Find out more about Auckland based aerials studio Aracnation.