Artistic outlets help in developing newfound sense of maturity


Sasha Saias, Arts Managing Editor

Two full flips in the air, a straight posture and a twist midway through the second whirl. This double layout flip is junior Katya Karpova’s favorite move, but according to Karpova, it has also proven to be one of the hardest skills to master.

Karpova has been competing in gymnastics since she was six years old, and is now in the highest level of the Junior Olympics.

“It was just the idea of being able to do what many people are not able to do, trying to disprove the laws of gravity,” Karpova said, “doing things you never thought you could possibly do.”

Alternate Choices in Education science teacher Benjamin Little participates in acrobatics. He said the determination required of circus art performers leads not only to increased physical strength, but also to strengthening their mentality.

“My biggest takeaway is the sense of indomitable spirit,” Little said. “For every time that you do something correctly, you did it incorrectly 100 times before that. You had to not give up and realize that it takes practice and hard work, and that if you put that in, you will get out a lot more.”

Little does not have a single focus, but has mostly worked on skills relating to footbag. Footbag entails keeping a small ball up in the air as long as possible using any body part except the hands.

Little said that the constant challenges that he went through when first learning the skills required of footbag forced him to develop a healthier relationship with failure.

“With footbag, a saying is “Gravity always wins.” You are going to drop the ball and you have to be okay with that,” Little said.

According to Little, when he first started playing footbag, he believed that he was one of the best players in the world. Little said he faced a difficult decision when he realized he was not nearly as good as he thought he was.

“I lived in my little bubble, and I thought I was the best in the world because I could catch it on my toe. And then there was that moment where I looked it up on the internet and discovered that I sucked,” Little said. “So there was that moment where I had to make a choice to either accept being crappy, or to learn more, to become better.”

Karpova also said that participating in gymnastics helped her not only become physically stronger, but also mentally and emotionally more mature.

“It taught me a lot about determination, to fight and to keep going when it’s hard,” Karpova said. “When something doesn’t go the way you want it, keep pushing yourself to the limit. Don’t just fall back.”

For Karpova, what started out as an endeavor to stand out, turned into a veritable passion.

“I have always been determined to follow my dreams and do what I love,” Karpova said. “It’s just what I love to do and it defines the person that I am and has taught me so many amazing things.”

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Slesarchik said that she uses flow arts to help control her stress.

According to ACE English teacher Julia Slesarchik, who also participates in circus arts, doing acrobatics helps her emotional state by not only providing a sense of determination, but also a vent for negativity.  

She said that it allowed her to develop a more positive outlook on life, teaching her to channel her emotions into a productive outlet.

“Flow state is when you’re completely in the present, your body is engaged, your mind is engaged, you are only focusing on doing what you are doing,” Slesarchik said. “Being in that flow state, it can be in sports, it can be reading, it can be anything where your whole self is just focused on doing one thing. It helps you feel like being alive is good. I feel that really strongly when I am doing flow art. When I am stressed, it helps me channel it into flow arts.”

According to Slesarchik, the ability to destress and attain that meditative state has in large part been due to the strong connections she made with other circus performance art performers.

“There is a lot community around it,” Slesarchik said. “ When you are just alone with your flow toy, you sometimes hit a wall where you don’t know what to learn next. That’s when it’s helpful to hang out with some people who are working on the same move and who can give you new ideas. It’s helpful to get another eye on your flow.”

Little also emphasized the power of the community.

“It’s not like basketball where “I play basketball, you play basketball, now we’re best friends. I’m going to stay at your house when I visit you in your city!” But with footbag it is,” Little said.

Physics teacher Stacy Kissel said that by integrating this community aspect into the circus arts, the practice becomes a form of exercise that is truly enjoyable.

“I think it’s really important to exercise, but you have to find something that you’re interested in,” Kissel said. “Just exercising because it makes you healthier isn’t enough because after a while you get bored and you don’t want to do it anymore. So it’s really important to find something that you enjoy doing, especially if you can do it with friends. Finding what you enjoy will cause you to exercise more, and will make you healthier.”

Slesarchik’s final message emphasized that circus arts help her connect with their body in such a way that improves confidence, physical shape, and overall wellbeing.  

“It teaches you how to be in that present moment, connected and loving of your body— any body type, any level of experience, and level of in shape or not in shape,” Slesarchik said. “It just makes you feel good about yourself because you look cool doing it. The feeling of learning, like when you break through those walls and suddenly you can do something that seemed impossible before is such a good, positive feeling.”