Outside Interest: acrobatics training

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 24 Sep 2014

Michael Henderson
AECOM associate director of sustainability Michael Henderson talks about his enthusiasm for acrobatics.

How did you get into training to be acrobat?

The National Centre for Circus Art offers training, workshops and classes for all levels of circus acrobatics and for my 29th birthday I was bought an introductory session – the centre is the only college qualified to give degrees in circus arts, but also offers basic training that attracts all kinds of people, from City bankers wanting to tone up to dancers keen to improve their skills and land the next big role.

What does it involve?

They have a variety of classes throughout the week and you can sign up to different levels. Yes, you can learn to form people pyramids and swing from the trapeze, but I chose more down-to-earth pursuits of tumbling, back-flips, backward somersaults and the art off springing off trampets.

Why do you do it?

I don't like gyms and doing acrobatics is a more interesting, engaging and sociable way of keeping in trim – I have made many good friends through my training.

What’s the toughest thing about it?

Trying to become supple in body and flexible in movement can be a tall order – doing a back-flip without a crash-mat takes pluck as well as physical fitness, especially when you're rapidly heading for middle age. I'm also quite tall, which can throw up centre-of-gravity issues when doing acrobatics.

What’s the most rewarding thing about it?

Perfecting a move after long practice is exhilarating– I recall launching into my first good front somersault without a mat. The world spun, my feet hit the ground, the adrenaline surged. Amazing

Are there any similarities between your day job and your role in acrobatics?

Good question: both disciplines require lots of training to reach professional status – I am no circus pro but it takes dedication to achieve that status. Acrobatic performances, however basic, require strength, balance, flexibility and artistry, and all of those qualities strike a strong professional chord because they are relevant in my day job albeit in quite a different form and very different context.

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