5 Hand to Hand Tips from Nathan Price

While on our Lift Overseas teaching tour this summer, we taught a Lift Weekend Intensive in London and had the chance to catch up and train with London native, Nathan Price. Nathan is a National Centre for Circus Arts graduate and professional hand to hand performer with his partner Isis. We had such a good experience training with him and liked his tips and coaching so much that we wanted to help him share some insight on hand to hand training with everyone. In this this interview Aaron Lind did with Nathan you’ll hear more about Nathan’s background and some pro tips to consider in hand to hand training.
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Aaron:  Tell us a little about your background and training in circus arts.

Nathan:  I started when I was 15 in the London Youth Circus doing Tumbling, I liked tumbling but was always fascinated by the handstand part of the class. One day when the two other kids weren’t there the coach asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him handstands. So we went next door to the wooden floor and just trained handstands for an hour. It sucked. But I loved it. It takes a special kind of masochist to like handstands. In my last year of youth circus, we started having group acro classes on a Friday, and we started doing three highs and banquine and the tiniest little bit of Hand to Hand stuff. I loved that too. So I started to split my time between handstands and training with one of the girls from youth circus.

In 2008 I auditioned for the 3 year degree programme at what was then, Circus Space, but is now; The National Centre for Circus Arts and I got in! We started doing 50 hours a week of training in everything; handstands, tumbling, trampoline, dance, theatre, ballet, conditioning, yoga and then after three months you pick your discipline. I had met Isis on the course, and because I’m incredibly charming, loveable and modest she chose to work with me (I have no idea why. I’m not charming or lovable) and we specialised in Hand to Hand together.

Isis had been an international sports acrobatic champion when she was younger, and I was just some guy who did youth circus. So I had ALOT of catching up to do with her in terms of ability and skill. I like to think that around the middle of our 3rd year, so 2 and a bit years after we started working together, I had caught up with her. I’m sure if you asked her she’d tell you I’m still catching up.

We graduated circus school in 2011 and have been performing (and continuing training) ever since!

Aaron:  What does your professional career performing look like right now?
Nathan:  It changes on a day to day basis! As of right now we’re back in London and doing the cabaret circuit here, a couple months ago I was living and performing on a cruise ship, and a year before that I was living and performing in New York. There’s always a new and exciting project around the corner. One of the best things about being a performer is we mostly work and train in the late afternoon and evening, which means I get to lie in all the time.

Aaron:  Can you give us 5 tips for Hand to Hand?
Nathan: Yes
  • You’re too weak
  • You’re not strong enough
  • You need to be stronger
  • You need to work out more
  • You need to be less weak.

 

If you could do 1 thing to make your hand to hand infinitely better, it would be to get stronger. Go to a gym and lift some heavy things up and put them down over and over again. But I guess if I had to say 5 actually different things they would be:
1. Your tempo is too fast
A tempo is a rhythmical movement we use in Hand to Hand to get everyone on the same page and let us know when a trick is happening or about to happen.  It consists of a breath and a little lift up, a bend and then a push. The biggest thing that happens with peoples tempo’s is that they go too fast. Your body just has this desire to get rid of this heavy weight you’re holding and thinks that quicker = more power. It doesn’t. I’m actually about to release a video specifically talking about tempo, so keep an eye out!
2.  Your grip is probably weird
The grip is the immediate connection between the base and the flyer. If that’s wrong, it’s impossible for everything else to be right. It has such a huge effect on every part of your hand to hand that you absolutely shouldn’t ignore it. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been coaching and made a tiny (but important) adjustment to a pairs grip and have them go “Oh my god, that feels amazing/oh my god that makes it so much easier.” It’s the absolute most important thing, and there’s a reason I named the instructional video about grip “Fundamentals of Hand to Hand.”
3.  Your hips are weak and tight
This one is really complicated to explain, but essentially; in the way that the grip is fundamental to hand to hand and is the primary connection between the flyer and the base, the hips are the fundamental to any kind of athletic movement and are the primary connection between the flyer and the floor.  Everyone is both too tight and too weak through their hip, and it’s screwing up your Hand to Hand practice. And you don’t even realise. As a base, strengthening and improving your hip position should be your number 1 goal if you’re learning. It ties in with the importance of lifting weights, but if your hip mechanics are out of whack; nothing in your entire body is going to work properly when you base. Keep an eye out for a video on this in the future!
4.  You’re not good enough at the basics
Everything in Hand to Hand and even any acrobatic discipline is just a progression of something else. Like a pyramid, there’s this one point at the top, that’s resting on all these other elements below it. You can look at any piece of technique and you can boil it down to a couple of very simplistic movements. Most of the time, people are trying to do these tricks and they can’t do ANY of the regressions. It’s an incredibly useful skill to be able to look at a trick and understand it’s component parts. It’s an incredibly important part of being a successful acrobat to be able to understand that you should be doing those component parts.
5.  You don’t warm up properly (or at all)
Warming up is something everyone overlooks. It’s boring and you just want to get to the fun stuff. But, what a warmup is able to do is get you physically and psychologically ready to begin training. Aside from having your body be physically prepared, it’s also really important to get your head in the right place. Performing the same (or similar) warm up before each training session will help to put you in the same head space each training session. We’ve managed to avoid having ‘off days’, which are primarily psychological, in our training by keeping our warm up consistent. Once our warm up is finished, our bodies and minds know what it’s time for. They’re primed and ready to do some acro. Aside from all of that, it’s great at keeping you injury free as you’re body will be prepared for the demands you’re about to put on it.

Aaron:  Do you have anything coming up for us to check out?
Nathan:  If you’re in London you can catch us performing at Hotel Black Cat every Friday until the end of August, as well as a couple other cheeky little cabarets. We’re hopefully gonna be back stateside sometime soon so we’ll let you know! I’m also running a little teaching/instructional pet project called ‘Standing Acrobatics where I’m creating 5-15 minute long instructional videos for hand to hand and handstands. I also have an Instagram account where I post shorter training and instructional clips.

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For more information about Nathan and his performing partner Isis check out NathanandIsis.com and StandingAcrobatics.com

You can find Nathan’s instructional videos on partner acrobatics by following him on Facebook and Instagram
    Nathan Isis Cascade     Big Throw_1     Nathan Isis Liberty