Movement Explodes Another Barrier

Movement Explodes Another Barrier


Shayna Swanson.  Images courtesy of Frequent Flyers® Aerial Dance Festival.
Shayna Swanson. Images courtesy of Frequent Flyers® Aerial Dance Festival.

As dance, in general, pushes the physical boundaries of what the human body can do, aerial dance challenges perceived limits of the body in space. Constraints still exist; the movement of the apparatus must be taken into account and used, and gravity remains, though aerial dance defies it differently than does purely “ground-based” movement. Strength, balance, and grace are shared key elements, but are expressed uniquely in opposition to separate forces.

The 17th Annual International Dance Festival featuring Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance Company runs August 2-14, 2015, with a smorgasbord of classes, shared innovations, demonstrations, lectures, and much more. This reviewer attended opening night of the performance portion of the festival, Friday, August 7, at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder, CO. Performances continue through August 9. Company members and visiting artists are teaching and workshopping particular abilities or foci during the festival, and this is their opportunity to share their work with an even wider audience.

The evening’s program describes it as “a variety show,” and it is, both in the traditional sense and as an intersection of a number of dance and performance disciplines. A variety of artists, apparatus, and concepts keeps the audience guessing, from piece to piece, what new wonders will next appear. Genuinely enjoyable to be a part of, the show is more of an immersive experience than something to watch. The circus arts inform several pieces, with acrobatic and dangerous feats presented with showmanship and flair. Other pieces more closely resemble modern performance art, based more in conceptual realms.

Teo Spencer.  Images courtesy of Frequent Flyers® Aerial Dance Festival.
Teo Spencer. Images courtesy of Frequent Flyers® Aerial Dance Festival.

Damsel, Disheveled, Demure, choreographed and performed by Angela Delsanter and Danielle Garrison, effectively uses movement to convey the idea of reflection and duality in self and other. Teo Spencer’s Amethyst is more thoroughly dynamic, and Spencer’s body pulses with power as he manages to roll up his hanging silks. Ana Prada’s stunning Dualidad also rippled with artistic and actual muscle, and was an audience favorite. During Galaxies, Sam Tribble and his “simple wheel,” (a large, substantial hoop) present the illusion of sharing a mind, so fluid are Tribble’s moves and their connections with those of the hoop.

The Company exhibits similar familiarity with the trapezes and rings used in their two ensemble pieces, Untitled 2015 and Star Sailors (excerpt). The former shows the dancers’ immense attention to precise collaboration to best effect. The ordered visual chaos is almost bewildering to watch, and the strength and coordination of each dancer obvious. The complexity of successfully choreographing movement over a larger portion of the stage– most of the upper air included– is better appreciated than imagined by a non-professional such as myself. In addition, the limbs of dancers are sometimes used as extensions of the apparatus, arms as bars and legs as ropes. At one point, a dancer’s body is even suspended by flexed feet.

Though the company’s (and Festival’s) founder and artistic director, Nancy Smith, reminds us that there is no intended thematic link among the diverse works, the overarching theme could be understood as the marvel of the human body and the magic that happens when that marvel is well-directed and explored by the creative brain. Jamie Melaragno’s performance of Riemann Zeta Function (Jennifer DePalo-Peterson performs this piece on Saturday and Sunday) is entirely ground-based but impressive as anything in the the air. As her extended leg rises higher and higher into a rock-solid arabesque, the only uncontrolled movement visible is a single eye-blink.

Jane E. Werle: With artwork and writing published by Bombay Gin, Hot Whiskey Press, Wyrd Tree Press, Summer Stock, and her own imprint, Thirsty Lizard Books, Jane is a passionate proponent of creativity, self-expression, and the pursuit of elusive and meaningful beauty. A poet, educator, and longtime nanny, she works and explores with kids, challenging young minds and safeguarding young hearts. Jane graduated with an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and has come up with no compelling reason since to move away from the lively Denver area and its admirably self-made cultural opportunities. Contact Jane with editing needs, parenting problems, and extravagant travel writing proposals.