DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?
My name is Carmen Curtis. I’m the founder of AIReal Yoga, the only brand of aerial yoga accredited by the Yoga Alliance. I’m also the owner of The Aerial Studio. It’s a production company and aerial theatre company. We have a studio in Ventura, CA where we offer classes in the aerial arts, cirque performing, acrobatics, parkour and yoga. It’s a fun form of fitness, a community space, a recreational training space and also a professional training space for those that are interested in professionally performing for cirque or in the aerial arts. I’m also a mom, I have two amazing children. My husband is Gregg Curtis. (DCF: You are a women after my own heart aka a wearer of many hats!!)
I was a gymnast growing up and got a full ride scholarship to UCLA as a gymnast. From there I went to New York City and started performing in this amazing flying harness show called “De La Gorda.” Traveled and toured with that show. I got hired by the director of Cirque at the time, Franco Dragone, and now has his own company, Dragone. I got hired by him to help create La Reve at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas as a harness specialist. (DCF: This is why I love doing this, because someone just learned reading this that harness specialist is a real job!!). I helped create the aerial acts and performed for many years in it.
I now teach AIReal Yoga teacher trainings and aerial cirque teacher trainings. I teach classes and workshops and I’m on tour with the Wanderlust Yoga Festival teaching AIReal Yoga. (DCF: Which is how we met, at last years festival in DC, her session was the BOMB!!). I also create aerial acts and do aerial choreography. Recently, I choreographed Beyoncé’s world tour, I did her aerial choreography and taught harness and taught her dancers aerial and harness. I also taught them all AIReal Yoga to take care of their bodies for the tour and for the aerial acts that we created. (DCF: Yasssss queen, that is so awesome!! #LoveTheQueen). I also trained Miley Cyrus’s dancers and recently trained Ruby Rose in aerial.
DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?
CC: “Funemloyment.” It’s doing what you love. My work is my passion, I’d do it whether I got paid for it or not. I feel that I am better at what I do because I love what I do. I offer my heart and soul and I’m completely dedicated to continuing to learn and become better. As an employer, I want others to be funemployed too. Helping them find what they are good at and giving them more opportunities to blossom in the areas that they are good at. Allowing people to do what they excel at and learning to delegate and not try to do everything myself. (DCF: You sound like you are an amazing boss!! #AreYouHiring)
I feel like funemployed is also being surrounded by great people. I’m lucky to have an amazing team that surrounds me, that make work fun. Recently our whole studio got flooded, covered in water, water damage and it destroyed so much but my family, my troupe, my employees had fun cleaning. Even though it was a disaster, working together, giving to one another and making the most of it, I think that’s important too. (DCF: So sorry about your studio but way to turn stress into bonding!!)
Allowing people to be innovative and creative within their positions I think creates fun employees. Giving them opportunities but also allowing them to create opportunities for themselves. I was also told home is where your heart is, and it’s true if you’re surrounded by people you love you can be happy anywhere. Same within the work place. If we all trust one another, work hard together and love one another, we will make a great team. (DCF: I want to frame this and put it on my office wall!!).
DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?
CC: My first cheerleader was Valorie Kondos, my coach, the head coach at UCLA gymnastics. She encouraged me to go after my dreams, she helped build confidence in me as a woman and also encouraged me to stand up for who I am and what I believe in. She gave me opportunity, she helped me learn the path of great dedication and hard work and belief in what you’re doing. It’s important, it will help you get where you want to go. The power of positive thinking, yes you have to work hard but you also have to believe in it. Believe in yourself, believe in what you want, put the power of positive thought out there and it shall come. Nothing is easy but nothing really worth it ever is. That path of work and dedication makes it worth it. Also she reminded me of how blessed we are to be here. That we’re blessed to be in America, to be women that are free to get an education, that have opportunity. And feeling blessed helped me feel encouraged to want to also share that positivity with other women. We are the blessed ones. It’s our opportunity to give back and make a difference. (DCF: So true, giving back is so important and part of why I love doing this series. It is important to share your blessings with others and pay them forward!).
She was one of the greatest coaches I ever had. She taught me about teaching with love and compassion. That the student would have to choose to get better because they wanted to, not because they were forced by the teacher to, because they wanted to. Teaching with love and compassion is how I now teach and trying to inspire other women to be more, to be better, to give back, to be dedicated, to trust in themselves and believe in all the greatness they have to offer. (DCF: PREACH!)
DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?
CC: Everything in life prepared me for where I am now. It’s ok to feel bad about things that maybe you have done, but true regrets I can’t ever really have them. Because of where I am now, I had to learn each lesson to be where I am now. And where I am now, I feel very honored and blessed to be here. I wouldn’t change it.
Everything happens for a reason. It took me a long time to truly believe this but now I do truly believe this. Every step of the way has led me to be ready for my next step. When I get new gigs and new opportunities, while I’m doing and pursuing them, there’s all these moments where I realize how much I needed to go through in order to be ready to be here now.
My gymnastics career gave me great dedication and understanding for the body and fitness, repetition and technique. The aerial arts have taught me about a family, a team, performing, working together, expression, artistry. Being a mother has given me purpose, great dedication to want to be better than I could ever imagine. To also believe in love. To feel so loved by your children, at least for me has shown me true love and the power of love. The blessing of love.
Now as a teacher that teaches teachers, everything that I’ve been through gives me the opportunity to help guide them in ways that I never would’ve thought of. At UCLA I got my degree in sociology and higher education. I thought that I was going to be a professor, but I went off to join the circus. (DCF: I love that going off to join the circus is still a choice!!). Later, I worked towards my Masters of Science in holistic nutrition. I might not be a professor now but all of my years of experience and training, taking yoga teacher trainings, they have lead me to be somewhat of a professor in my field. I teach yoga teacher trainings to teachers and aerial teacher trainings to teachers. Teaching them more than just the physicality of the tricks, the mentality of being a teacher and a guide and the importance of being a mentor.
DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?
CC: My children give me a lot of motivation, my children offer great love to me and support but make me want to be better. They inspire me as they see the world with innocence and bliss. They inspire me to have more patience, to try to be in the moment and work to find balance. Finding the balance between the things that I love and the ones that I love. Giving time and energy to my work but giving time and energy to my family, and giving time and energy to myself. When I am happy and I take care of myself, I’m a better mother, I’m a better employee and I’m a better employer. Finding That balance is always something I’m continuing to strive for. I have so much passion and so much desire, and I’m so excited to do so many things that it’s hard to find that balance. There’s not enough time in the day. (DCF: Totally understand the feeling and the juggle). But I also try to remember how lucky I am in every moment and my children are still young that it’s so important for me to be here in these moments. My family comes first and means I have to take care of myself, stay healthy so I can be there for them.
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?
CC: My work is my passion, it makes me feel alive, it makes me feel special. I feel like I’m forever trying to find that balance. Breathe, meditation, help and remembering to take some time to do the things that I need. Sometimes I feel lucky to always be striving for balance, I’m not bored. I’m so blessed by so many amazing people that surround me. I’m blessed by amazing family, I’m blessed by having passion and desires to want to do more and be more. It’s a blessing and a curse.
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
CC: I feel like the sacrifices change on a daily basis. Sometimes I would say I sacrifice time with my family, sometimes I sacrifice time for myself. Sometimes I’m sacrificing time learning more or seeking out my passion. I feel a lot of the sacrifice is choosing to be more dedicated and more organized and maybe choosing not to have as much free time or social time. I’ve also had to sacrifice in the sense of choosing to be highly, highly dedicated, traveling a lot, working out to stay in shape. And then yet, those sacrifices have given me so much so it’s hard to actually call them sacrifice.
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
CC: As a woman, I’ve had to learn to stand up for myself. A woman in this field I’ve also had to learn to teach to both men and women. And also being faced with sometimes other women maybe looking down on me for not being able to stay home and be a mother full time. I feel like honestly, I’ve been lucky to be in a time where I’ve had women mentors that have helped shape me and shape my career. I feel like one of the hardest things was trying to balance being a mother and working, taking that time off to be pregnant and then getting back in shape was challenging and maybe it put me behind a little bit but it also gave me these beautiful, amazing children.
I feel really blessed to be a woman in America, able to pursue my dreams and my business and be supported by other women. I do find that not all women have had that same experience and so I find it important for me to help offer places where women can get together in a noncompetitive place, in a circle of trust. To communicate, to help one another, to share, to support one another. I think it’s important to be surrounded by people that lift you up, make you feel better about you and help you become better. (DCF: We agree wholeheartedly!!) So giving opportunities, creating community spaces for us women to get together and lift one another up. I’ve been blessed in my life to have people support me that are female, so I feel like I need to give that back.
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
CC: Some advice I never listen to, one of the classic ones I always hear and I actually hear myself saying now is “don’t rush, live in the moment, enjoy the moment.” I feel so often life is going so fast, I don’t want to rush, I want to enjoy the moment. I want to be here, now. I don’t want it to end. I don’t want to miss out. And I think sometimes focusing too much on the future or what I need to do, or want to do, can get in the way of me being in the moment. I wish I would’ve realized that sooner.
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
CC: I’m trying to think of my greatest failure. It’s hard because I’ve had so many. I find that failing or making mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn from. That I’ve had to learn to accept them and move forward and learn something from them. Take it as an opportunity to grow, then it’s hard to look back and remember one particular failure that was more than another.
DCF: What is your proudest moment?
CC: Well recently one of the proudest moments was being on stage with Beyoncé and getting the opportunity to choreograph aerial acts for her Formation World Tour. It’s the biggest world tour ever and she brought on the best people in the world. To be called on as one of the best was a huge honor. Then meeting the people that I got to meet, lights, sound, production, the best in the world. Such a great honor. To create something and to hear from them that they believe in it and they trust it and they love it, was huge.
I feel more comfortable teaching, but when I create and choreograph I feel a bit exposed and I know it’s art so not everyone will like it. And when the top people in the industry do, it’s a great honor. (DCF: You earned it!!)
Beyoncé is an amazing woman that offered me huge support. She’s a woman to look up to, she works so hard, she’s so dedicated and so motivated. I was very inspired by her, her music, her work ethic and was honored to be a part of the team.
I also was honored to be able to bring yoga into the rock-style world. Yes, teach them aerial, choreograph, but also teach them yoga and AIReal Yoga. Helping heal their bodies, helping strengthen their bodies for the tour, helping share how important yoga is, even for the rock stars. Calm the mind, focus the mind. Help keep them healthy so they can be on tour. Help balance out their strength and flexibility so their body doesn’t hurt. Giving a sense of that physiotherapy but also that support. Working with a beautiful, dancing troupe of women, all loving one another, supporting one another and working their butts off together.
DCF: What’s next?
CC: I’m currently teaching AIReal Yoga™ teacher trainings. I love sharing my love for the hammock as a yoga prop. I believe the hammock should be in all yoga studios as a prop, just like a block or a bolster. I’m trying to find more yoga studios to install hammocks and offer teacher trainings, in order to get more people certified by the one and only aerial yoga brand accredited by the Yoga Alliance. (DCF: Let us know ASAP when you come to DC #SecretlyWantToBecomeAYogaInstructor). I’m also teaching aerial teacher trainings and running The Aerial Studio. I’ll be on tour with Wanderlust and continuing to teach with Wanderlust. I’m about to make some new AIReal Yoga videos, which is really exciting and we’re hoping to go into production in December. (DCF: Can’t wait!!)
How To Follow:
I’m on social media; Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. We’re looking to expand our team and continue to grow.