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I'm Finally Writing About Acrobatics

Roughly one year ago I shattered my foot. It has been the worst injury I’ve ever sustained in my 26 years of acrobatics with a fallout that was, possibly, more disastrous than the actual fall.

Rather than dive into gruesome details about external fixators sticking out of my foot for months or the deep depression that comes when the only place you’ve ever known in this world is one you can no longer inhabit, I’m going to talk about inlocates.

Inlocate, bucket, cut, or whatever you would like to call the skill that starts with two humans standing facing the same direction with connected hands and continues onward to “yeet” the person in front up though the arms and into one of many possible end positions from a two high to hand to hand to crazy throws, etc.

Aside: “Yeet” is a word my Gravity and Other Myths co-workers love to use when talking about throwing someone or something. See below as Ally is "yeeted" across the stage in the show Backbone. It can be used as a noun or a verb.

I reckon we need a bit more yeet to get Ally across the stage.

Nough, that bit is after we yeet Ally across the stage, mate.

^this is an accurate representation of Aussie accents.

There is a common misconception that since Axel and I both came from Sports Acro we must have been acro partners. This is false. Axel has been in a men’s pair and two separate mixed pairs all while I was long retired from competition, pursuing a career in coaching and judging. The flyer he earned his World silver medal with was the lovely Tiffany Williams. The two of them were magical to watch and I was one of many enamored fans who stood on the sidelines being dazzled by the two of them.

In 2015, years (over 10 years actually! The photo on the right was taken in 2003) after I retired from competing, I was in a very low place. Ungrounded, lost, and depressed, I returned to the only place I could remember having a strong sense of self. This was on my hands, and more specifically, on other people’s hands holding my hands. I began acrobatics at three years old and when I think of my being, it is hard to separate the “Megan” from the movement. I ask myself often "if I had to give up this or that would I still be me?" However, when talking about acrobatics that question is so tied into my understanding of who I am that I believe if I were forced to leave acro altogether, a very large part of myself would also be laid to rest. I would survive, move onward, and find happiness I am sure, but a piece of myself, inherent to my being, lives upside down and always will.

So it was in 2015 that I returned to acro and met the Axel behind the famous "Axel and Tiffany". Strangely enough, Axel and I were both, in part, coached by the same coach. This led us to believe that we would have similar technique and approach skills in the same manner. Of course we were wrong. Axel was a shorter base with a long, competent, beautiful flyer and I was this tiny stocky athlete who could be tossed around pretty easily. Was being key here as I am now quite tall for my job (though I’m not sure if anyone could ever stop calling me stocky). It turns out we use very different methods for some things and the beginning years of our partnership were peppered with inconsistent skills and struggle. Neither of us were too concerned because we chose to work together, not out of physical advantage, but rather, a mutual understanding that it is more important to have a good working relationship than perfect acrobatic synchronicity. Basically, I love Axel like my brother and that’s much better than being able to easily get new skills.

Inlocates were one of the skills we struggled with inconsistencies on. While they would always go up, they never felt effortless or floaty. That is until one day while teaching, I overheard Axel explaining what he thinks about in the skill and it revolutionized my world.

There was a time in our careers where Axel and I had a 20 pound weight difference and we don't have too much height difference. Whenever I want advice on technique I will ask the smallest base doing the cleanest skills. This is a person who has a good concept of how to make his or her biomechanics work to their fullest advantage. Watch any women’s pair base closely and you will find perfect technique. Listening to Axel talk about the way he bases when we coach together makes me a better flyer and the way he described his inlocate technique hit home. I changed how I did them and the difference was massive. I went from having to consistently press the last bit into extension to flying up to extended 2:1 (tied or knot), one arms, and pirouettes.

Back to the shattered foot…

Axl and I have been through a lot together and we have always stood by each other’s side. When I shattered my foot in January of 2020 it happened the day before we were meant to leave on a performing contract. Axel, and the company, had no choice but to quickly replace me and move forward. We laid in a hospital bed together with my foot in pieces while I cried my eyes out as my best friend and partner had to quickly replace me for three months of work. I saw him one last time right after my first surgery and before he left for Australia. Little did we know that those three months would overlap with the COVID-19 pandemic and global travel bans that would leave Axel trapped down under while I was across the world in the US.

FaceTime calls were all we had to support each other through one of the hardest years of our lives. We had to disentwine our business relationship as I established my solo teaching career. I worked all alone for the first time in my life. With it came a new sense of self and reliance which I found both exhilarating and slightly less edifying. I love that I faced the unknown and met it with strength. That is a lesson I will not soon unlearn. But while I can now rest easy in knowing my own abilities, I can also appreciate that a living earned alone lacks depth for me. I am not a soloist in my heart and I am ok with that.

One day while answering a base’s question about inlocates, I realized what he needed was to hear from another base, and who else would I choose than my own phenomenal porter, Axel. The time difference between Australia and the US is a weird one (well known to all my handstand students who see my dark little zoom box before the sun has risen here) so I decided that I would call Axel myself and record an interview with him on the topic of inlocates and send that to my student.

The resulting video is, in my opinion both informative and hilarious.

A quick summary: the scene opens with a freshly risen Axel, he’s has a recent haircut, his shirt is fresh as, and he has a piping mug of morning coffee in his hand. Opposite him in the zoom box just to the right is a disturbingly disheveled Megan, clothed in a long sleeved shirt with a flannel over the top even though the flannel’s sleeves are rolled up. Her hair is wet, unbrushed, and her eyes confirm the amount of anesthesia and pain killers left in her body from the foot surgery the day or two before. Megan stumbles through words while Axel eloquently describes detailed insight into the skill.

Now that I’ve set the scene and given you (way too much) back story, let me invite you to watch our first installment of, Megan and Axel Chat with Acrobats:

I hope we will be able to talk to more professionals in the future about their experiences with skills to offer a little insight and humor into the world of acrobatics.

As of now, Axel has joined me on to offer a variety of virtual lessons and coaching for all your acrobatic needs.

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