Constance Palmer, or Echo as she is known on stage, is constantly in the air. As founder of The Space Atlanta, she teaches and performs aerial arts. But when she is not at the studio, she’s jumping off planes as a skydiving instructor. Adrenaline junkie? Perhaps.
Constance started her journey to aerial arts as a ballerina in Germany, and her co-founder had a background in cheerleading. Both had experienced the negativity associated with the judgments of each activity, “There is a lot of judgment there, a lot. You get made to feel really badly about yourself.” For Constance, this judgment extended into the circus community. As she explains, “I found that early on in my aerial career I would train around people and they would make me feel really bad, they were just really judgy people. We decided that we never wanted this to be that kind of place, the place where there is competition. We decided that it would be a safe place for everyone to try what they wanted.”
An experienced skydiving instructor, Constance’s ability to make students feel safe in the studio is in part due to her ability to coach people falling through the sky. As an instructor, she uses psychological theories to help students remember what is most important, to make them feel more comfortable with the scary tasks they are performing, and to keep students motivated throughout the class. She’s brought the best teaching methods from skydiving and applied them at The Space. “I feel like if I can teach someone something in the air with no words in 60 seconds, which is how long a free fall is, I should be able to teach aerial.” I can vouch for that. After taking Constance’s intermediate class, I came away with new insights into old skills and accomplishing something I thought I didn’t have the strength for yet.
She is able to see the potential that her aerial students before they see it themselves. And her advice for us, get out of our heads! “Go watch a 6 year old,” she says, “when you teach adults, they just won’t go for it. And it’s not that they don’t have the strength. If you tell a 6 year old to do a tuck under the trapeze, they just do it. People just aren’t willing to try things in the beginning. Get out of your head and just play! Remember that you are doing it for fun. Especially when things get really hard and brainy, just remember why you are doing this.”
While many instructors veer away from advising students on rigging, Constance takes a different approach. “We wanted to be more proactive about safety and offer safety instruction to other people because the reality is, your students are going to go home and rig. They are going to rig in their house or their yard. They are going to hang from something. So it’s better that you tell them how you can do it safety. I even talk about rigging in my beginner class. I say, by the way, this equipment is rated for however many pounds, so they know they can’t just rig off of something that is rated for 500 lbs because they are smaller than that. We try and instill that really early.” For these reasons, The Space has already hosted three rigging workshops in the year it has been open.
As a traveling aerialist, barging into random studios around the country, sometimes I just feel like an outsider. But each time I’ve been to the Space, I’ve been welcomed with open arms to train at the beautiful studio. Constance has built an attitude of openness, an aerial studio with yoga vibes. And with lots of equipment and 25-foot ceilings, The Space community has space for you and your double star drop!