Nicole Burgio is an INCREDIBLE professional circus artist and teacher. She takes the concept of balance to another level. In the worlds of acrobatics, physical theater and circus, Nicole has decades of teaching and performance experience, both locally and abroad. She has worked with local companies like Almanac Dance Circus Theatre as a core ensemble member and acrobatic consultant, and she has performed as a solo artist in numerous international circus and arts festivals.
One of Nicole’s truly exciting projects is ‘Proyecto Colmena’, an intensive program which tours professional circus schools teaching amateur/semi-pro artists how to create meaningful ensemble work. This community-based ensemble building approach is dear to her heart. She loves guiding artists of all disciplines and experience levels through a process to create original or unique group movement.
As a handstand coach, Nicole has over 10 years experience teaching all levels of movers. She says that she's never worked with someone who couldn’t get upside down with her. As a participant, YOU CAN DO THIS!
In this workshop Nicole will focus on:
- Technique of handstand alignment
- Progressions towards strong and consistent handstands
-Developing strong personal practice habits. You will leave this workshop with lots of tools you can use on your own!
I talked to Nicole about her own journey with handstands and what a participant might expect from her workshop. Check out the interview with her below!
How did you get into your handstand practice?
I have been doing gymnastics and acrobatics for around 33 years now. I kind of found the circus later in life, around 24 or 25 years old. The Ringling Brothers Circus came to Philadelphia, and I used to go all the time with my mom. I took my boyfriend at the time to show him what it was all about, and I just fell in love. I started to study aerials: trapeze and silk. I then began to gravitate towards handstands because…you don’t need much - just a little bit of room and yourself. And, they’re addicting. Each time, you might be able to stay up for a little longer. You get to play the game of it a little longer. It becomes naturally addictive if you have that type of curiosity.
What are some of your personal handstand goals?
Professional Hand Balancers spend anywhere from 4-5 hours a day on their hands. I consider myself a physical theatre artist, so I like to have a bigger array of things I specialize in - I’m more of a generalist. Not to say that being a generalist is not without mastery, but it's a different type of mastery. You have a good handle on many things vs. one thing you’re very good at. For me, my handstand goals are gaining better balance on one hand. For example, I’m working on a position called Figa: it's a little bit asymmetrical, it's on one arm - it's very beautiful. It’s quite difficult. I am also diving a little more into dynamic contortion style positions that involve your feet touching your head, or lowering onto your chest while your feet are over your head. Crazy stuff like that. That all sounds so big and wild, but really what I love are the fundamentals. I think a classic handstand is beautiful - and it's actually one of the most difficult handstands out there. Just classic two hands straight up and down, boom- don’t move- that's tough! Fundamentals feel strong, and reliable. And I feel beautiful when I’m in them.
What do you think a handstand practice would bring to supplement other styles of dance?
Whether you’re on your hands or your feet, having a handstand practice WILL help with balance. It also helps your understanding proprioceptively of where you are in space. If you’re an advanced dancer or performer, you will have a much better understanding of how you are sharing the space with others - whether you’re turning, upside down, bending backwards, folding forward - all of this will feel more in control, because you’re doing the same thing just on your hands! For dancers it also brings more diversity. It teaches you how to enter weight into your hands. This opens up more vocabulary for you to traverse the floor. Dancers want to do the most they can do with their bodies to express. The more vocabulary you have, the more options you have to move your body. This gives you greater ability to tell your story how you want to tell it.
What would you say to someone who is a complete beginner looking to get into handstand practice?
Over my 33 years of experience and over the last 10 years of me coaching professionally, I have never met a client I couldn't work with, and I have never met a client who couldn’t get upside down. Even during this quarantine where I'm teaching virtually, I have always been able to work through things with my client. I know about one million and one progressions that will help people who are very nervous. I also have a masters degree in counseling and psychology. I like to use that linearly with my approach to teaching. Fear is a big factor. We need to walk with our fear; we have to carry it with us- we have to go upside down with it! There's no reason to say “Oh you won't be afraid,” or “just don’t worry about that.” I take the approach that says “Great, you’re afraid. And now we’re gonna do it.” I’ve taught all ages, all sizes, and all different types of folks. We’ve all been upside down together.
To participate in this workshop all you need is a small space in the middle of the room and a clear wall. Let's get upside down together!
Sunday, March 7th @ 2:30pm
Register through our homepage
Bonus afro cuban workshop with leilani this weekend!
Last week's workshop with Leilani was so fun! We are bringing it back this weekend for an extra round. Leilani will review and expand upon some of the concepts covered in last week's workshop. No worries if you didn't make it last week though! You are welcome to hop in this week. All levels welcome!
This workshop with Leilani will focus on the rhythm of the clave! I caught up with Leilani to find out more about this rhythm that is the foundation of Rumba and appears in a lot of popular music today. Learn a little more about La Clave from Leilani!
What is the clave?
“Clave can refer to a rhythm or it could refer to the instrument- 2 wooden sticks. There are many different types of clave. The standard is the 1-2-1-2-3, in America they refer to it as the salsa clave. We call it clave de son. You hear it in Rumba. The Rumba is folkloric social dance from Cuba and the soul of it is clave.”
Where did it come from?
“It’s commonly associated with Cuba, however there is some research that thinks it may have originated in West Africa even though the rhythm is associated with Cuba. West Africans were robbed of their homeland. Primarily, Cubans today are the descendants of West Africans mixed with Spaniards- so it is hard to know whether it started in Cuba or started in West Africa and came to Cuba through the slave trade. It is pretty commonly recognized that the wooden sticks started in Cuba because of Africans who were enslaved and became Cubans. Their descendants who were working in the shipyards in Havana developed the wooden sticks. Cuba is where the clave is thought to have originated but really it is an African feel.”
Can you talk about the development of the dance in relation to this rhythm?
“Rumba came from community street parties. The foundation of Rumba is the clave. There’s not really a lot of documentation as to how the dance started- but when you hear the music and you see the dancing it just kind of makes sense. Your body moves to the rhythm of la clave. The torso moves, the hips move, the feet move. The feet remind me a lot of the zapateo from flamenco which you see in the south of Spain which comes from the Gypsies. You also see it in the countryside above Cuba. What is so African is the hips and the torso. The torso does almost a figure 8- its one of the more difficult things to learn in the Rumba. The hips move with the feet, side to side like a pendulum. When you see the dancing you see la clave. The dance is born from that rhythm. Even though it developed in Cuba - its very African, close to the ground, your heart is to the ground, your knees are very flexed, in order to be close to the earth- that’s where you get that energy from. The dance becomes the clave.”
Nyla Murray is teaching a NEW hip hop class at #UMA!
Nyla’s Commercial Choreography class will utilize foundational hip hop moves and concepts in original choreography by Nyla. This class is geared toward intermediate to advanced level dancers looking to develop performance and character skills, apply their hip hop foundations, get in touch with their bodies and just generally vibe to great music.
Online and in-studio
You can get a taste of her choreography and see her in action in the following videos:
Choreography by Nyla^
Choreography by Justin @justmadeofficial^