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Aerial modern dance is a subgenre of modern dance first recognized in the United States in the 1970s. The choreography incorporates an apparatus often attached to the ceiling, allowing performers to explore space in three-dimensions. The ability to incorporate vertical, as well as horizontal movement paths, allows for innovations in choreography and movement vocabulary.
Aerial modern pieces, whether solo or ensemble, often involve partnering. The apparatus used has its own motion, which changes the way a dancer must move in response. The introduction of a new element changes the dancer’s balance, center, and orientation in space. Aerial modern dancers gather annually for workshops in Boulder, Colorado, County Donegal in Ireland, Brittany, in France, and Italy.
In Boulder Colorado, Frequent Flyers Productions produces the Aerial Dance Festival – the first of its kind – and has been held every year since its inception in July 1999. Here, workshops, performances, and discussions bring together dancers, gymnasts, circus artists, and other aerial enthusiasts to showcase their own works and learn about new developments in technique and technology.
In Brittany, in northern France, the festival is called Les Rencontres Danse Aeriennes (LRDA, or "Aerial Dance Encounters") and was originally founded in 2008 by Fred Deb.
The Irish Aerial Dance Festival is organised by Fidget Feet, an aerial dance theatre company based in Ireland, run by artistic directors Chantal McCormick and Jym Daly. It is run every year in Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland.
Lindsey Butcher of Gravity & Levity, based in Brighton, England, runs the European Aerial Dance Festival in Brighton, England every summer.
Fred Deb was one of the forerunners of aerial dance using fabric in France. Deb started her company Drapés Aériens in 2001, she has choreographed and conceived many works in collaboration with Jacques Bertrand. Originally a dancer by training, Bertrand is her assistant, partner, and technical director.
Another early influence on aerial modern dance, Terry Sendgraff, is credited with inventing the "motivity" trapeze. Terry Sendgraff actively performed, choreographed and taught in the San Francisco Bay Area from the early 1970s, until announcing her retirement in 2005, at the age of 70. The motivity trapeze came about as a result of an exploration on a low-hung circus trapeze. The ropes twisted together, causing the apparatus to spin. By formalizing this, hooking both ropes to a single point of attachment, Ms. Sendgraff used the apparatus to spin, twist, as well as fly in a straight line and in a circle.
In Italy, an emerging aerial Dance company (Cafelulé), brought the contemporary dance discipline in a vertical stage. The performance of the Company distinguish from others by the details of the coreography and the armony of the movement, typical elements of the classic dance. Aerial dance is an art form that is incredibly demanding and requires a high degree of strength, power, flexibility, courage, and grace to practice.
The first and only book detailing the history of aerial dance was published in 1988 by Human Kinetics: Jayne C. Bernasconi and Nancy E. Smith "Aerial Dance".
Other examples of aerial modern dance are the site-specific works of Joanna Haigood of the Zaccho Dance Theatre, Amelia Rudolph of "Project Bandaloop," and Sally Jacques' Blue Lapis Light . Haigood’s work is based on careful research of the history, architecture and societal impact of found spaces, and the translation of these memories into the movements performed in that space. Project Bandaloop combines rock-climbing with dance in performances that scale and/or descend canyons, rock walls, and tall buildings across the world. Video of their outdoor work is sometimes integrated into indoor performances, projected onto screens or trampolines behind the dancers on stage. Blue Lapis Light uses multiple apparatuses, such as aerial silks, harnesses, and bungees to create dances on bridges, office buildings, hotels, and other outdoor spaces.
There is an ever-growing community of non-professional aerial dancers, many who take class and attend workshops at aerial dance festivals, with professional companies, or at individual schools and training places.
- Aerial Dance Festival
- Terry Sendgraff web site - About Terry Sendgraff
- Zaccho Dance Theatre web site - Artistic Directory Joanna Haigood
- Kloetzel, Melanie and Carolyn Pavlik, editors. Site Dance: Choreographers and the Lure of Alternative Spaces; University Press of Florida; 2009.
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- Bernasconi, Jayne C. and Smith, Nancy E. "Aerial Dance". Human Kinetics, 2008.
- Airdancelive Escuela & Cía
- AerialDancing.com: Connecting the aerial dance community to resources, to opportunities, and to each other.
- Aerial Experience Productions—features aerial dance from around the world
- Cafelulé - Aerial Dance company
- Croft, Clare. "Flying into the Unknown". The DanceView Times, Washington, D.C. edition 1.9: November 24, 2003
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- Eagly, Ursula. "Dancing Outside the Box". Creative Capital
- Frequent Flyers Productions, Inc.