Aerial dance utilizes various apparatus in order to push the directional and physical edges of intentional movement. During the faculty showcase portion of the 19th annual International Aerial Dance Festival 2017— seen Aug. 4-6 at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder, CO.– trapeze, silks, lyra, Spanish web, cyr wheel, aerial cube, and more enabled Boulder’s own Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance company members and elite guest performers to execute nonhuman feats of spatial disruption. The foundation of these feats is not, however, mechanical. It is the immense core strength and pure athleticism of these relentlessly skilled artists.
The theme “Toward the Light” provided a potential contextual link among the nine individual pieces. As Artistic Director Nancy Smith pointed out before the performance, the theme was an experiment this year and not necessarily to be taken literally. Indeed, light and its concomitant shadows were both overtly and metaphorically explored in various ways, but not perhaps by all the performers.
The Corner of My Eye opened the evening, as dancers Megan Cattau, Alysha Perrin, and April Skelton flowed smoothly around and through each other, timing their splits and perfect drops alongside musical crescendos for maximum sensory impact. At one point all three twisted into the same graceful pose on their strategically placed trapezes, granting the audience alternate angles from which to view and understand the necessary technique.
Like strangers in a strange land, Liminal’s dancers (Danielle Garrison, Laura Burgamy, and Mandy Hackman) seemed to be investigating and experimenting with an environment that was both new and somehow familiar. Their bare backs increased the impression of vulnerability, as well as creating a disjunct between eye and expectation. They also had curious relationships with one another, being sometimes supportive, other times aggressive, and often almost cannibalistic in their interactions.
Internationally renowned Sarah Romanowsky’s consummate stagecraft, impressive flexibility, and enviable extensions thrilled in Ascent, her first solo piece. In her second piece, the darker, exciting Moonlight (which closed out the show), she utilized both lyra and momentum in order to perform swift, sleek gyrations that cast mesmerizing shadows on the spotlit floor.
Enso featured the legendary Sam Tribble on the cyr wheel, accompanied live by Austin Tadaaki Tribble’s lyrical, thoughtful spoken word performance. Sam Tribble’s virtuosity with the wheel makes its movements seem inevitable, and his formidable strength makes being suspended horizontally look effortless.
The Traveler addresses the concept of a refugee’s fraught journey. The choreography of Danielle Hendricks (with dancers) suggested a kind of human tessellation, an intricate interweave of physical and mechanical elements. At the beginning, cast against the backdrop of the first-person video projection of hurtling down train tunnels, a slowly stalking figure abruptly doubled. So closely coordinated were the steps and gestures of these two dancers, they appeared as one being, emerging from the depths.
While generally abstract, Kiva/Kachinas held some clear references. The aerial box centerstage became a beating heart, light pulsing in time. Limbs teased out of openings, a structuring of selves and perhaps the beginning of lives. The beings on stage were not human, though; they seemed curious beasties.
A film of disintegrating glaciers from the Centre for Ice and Climate at Niels Bohr Institute provided the projected visual behind Faltering Ice. The latter is excerpted from a larger work exploring climate science on Oct. 27 and 28 at Atlas Black Box on CU campus. The movements of Valerie Morris and Nancy Smith were haunting, as if we were seeing an echo of something gone.
There was a lightheartedness to artist Teo Spencer’s Learning to Climb. His expert and limber manipulations of the silks were executed with a wry self-awareness and sly self-deprecation. He seemed to regard the silks as a somewhat arch partner-in-crime, eyeing them with an appraising half-smile before spidering up them.
The greater Festival (apart from the faculty showcase), running July 30th through Aug. 11th, includes classes, immersives, community gatherings, and other unique opportunities to witness and learn from this select group. Some people were lucky enough to enjoy an intimate sneak peek and interact with the artists at the Frequent Flyers Studio as the Festival was just getting under way.
Next year marks the 20th annual Festival and the 30th anniversary of this groundbreaking company, an artistic landmark recently recognized by the Colorado House of Representatives. The professional company’s next performances will take place Nov. 10-12, at the Dairy Arts Center, and tickets go on sale Oct.1.
Jane E. Werle: As an infant Jane E. Werle, unable to protest, was removed from Colorado by her well-meaning parents. In 2004 she was able to rectify this error when she relocated from Massachusetts to Boulder for graduate school. One M.F.A. and a husband later, Jane works to further the arts in the Front Range as a writer/editor and dance enthusiast (no-shame, first-on-the-floor amateur– despite some training– dancer). Jane is also a longtime nanny and a visual artist, taking one of these very seriously and the other as a growth experience. Every child she’s cared for has experienced some form of the SDP: Spontaneous Dance Party.