Aerial dance

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Ivan Torres - Airdancelive Escuela & Cia
Blue Lapis Light performance at Texas State History Museum

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.


There are two types of aerial dance. One in which a choreographer utilizes rigging and suspends their dancer in a harness–like system from a rope or cable and explores the difference in gravity, weightlessness and varied movement possibilities offered by the suspended state–this is also often called Vertical Dance. The other is when a dancer or acrobat intertwines the use of the floor or a wall with their aerial apparatus in a dancerly way. The first utilizes the strength and expression of dance with an altered state to communicate contemporary ideas. The second uses dance as a way indicate that their work is less trick based than circus arts and in some cases hopes that disassociating with the circus makes their work appear more contemporary and artistic.

One of the first choreographers to utilize what we now think of as Aerial Dance was Trisha Brown. She called these pieces "Equipiment pieces", 1968–1971. Please see the video of a reproduction of one of her early pieces They are not “dancey” pieces, but by flipping the pedestrian on its side, Brown illustrates the dance in an everyday movement. She was notably the first dance choreographer to pull dancers up into the air. She choreographed multiple pieces off the ground some involving projection and multimedia, using the air and the surface of a wall in novel ways.

In the late '90s an Argentinian aerial dance troupe named De La Guarda gained notoriety in London for their show combining performance art with aerial dance. The troupe is no longer touring however some previous members have started a new company called Cuerda Producciones that continues to create aerial dance theater pieces.

Wanda Moretti of Italy is creating a vertical dance network aimed at collecting knowledge for artists and professionals in the field. Moretti says, “From its beginning 30 years ago, vertical dance evolved from the multiple practices and influences of its initial instigators. It was born from the desire to explore space, environment and become a place where everything was possible.”

Bandaloop is the most famous and impressive aerial dance company in The United States. Founded by Amelia Rudolph a dancer and rock-climber the company aims to bring dance to new audiences and to reinvigorate public spaces. Their work is prolific and takes a large team of technical riggers and trusting dancers. Bandaloop offers workshops to the public in aerial/vertical dance throughout the year.

Crossing the fine line into circus arts… Aerial dance is tricky to define, one can see when an aerialist possesses dancerly qualities but unlike the act of dancing, just because someone is “doing aerial” doesn’t make them an aerial dancer. What makes dance interesting is not watching someone move, but watching someone move for a reason - the same is true for aerial dance. It is the intent that makes it art.

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[1] – 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 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.[2] 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 when she handed over her aerial dance business to Cherie Carson. 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 choreography 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".[3]

An activity that mixes strength and beauty, which is conquering people around the world. There are no restrictions about age, gender or biotype. Performed with responsibly, there is no risk. The practice of Acrobatic Tissue brings a lot of benefits to the practitioner: - Strength - Flexibility - Agility - Resistance - Musculature - Overcoming fear of height and drops - Works artistic expression - Breathing - Determination - Self-confidence - Memory (therefore it is necessary to memorize the movements sequences) - Group work (it is necessary to trust of your partner or teacher)

Site dance[edit]

Other examples of aerial modern dance are the site-specific works of Joanna Haigood of the Zaccho Dance Theatre, Amelia Rudolph of "Project Bandaloop," Sally Jacques' Blue Lapis Light [1] and Karen A. Fuhrman of Grounded Aerial. 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.[4] 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. And Grounded Aerial incorporates character theatricality, gymnastic athleticism, and plot development as the emphasis.

Amateur dancers[edit]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aerial Dance Festival
  2. ^ Terry Sendgraff web site - About Terry Sendgraff
  3. ^
  4. ^ Zaccho Dance Theatre web site Archived January 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. - Artistic Directory Joanna Haigood

Further reading[edit]

  • Kloetzel, Melanie and Carolyn Pavlik, editors. Site Dance: Choreographers and the Lure of Alternative Spaces; University Press of Florida; 2009.
  • Bernasconi, Jayne. "Low-Flying Air Craft: a report from the Aerial Dance Festival 2000 and a talk with Terry Sendgraff". Contact Quarterly. 26.2 (2001): 19–24.
  • Felciano, Rita. "AXIS: Dancing with and without wheels". Dance Magazine 76.3 (2002): 58–61.
  • Haithcox, Kiran. "Learning to Dance on Air". Dance Magazine 76.3 (2002): 51–52.
  • Howard, Rachel. "Terry Sendgraff". Dance Magazine 79.8 (2005): 60.
  • Kreiter, Jo. "The Soul Needs the Body: the body and technology from a dancer’s perspective". Contact Quarterly. 26.2 (2001): 15–18.
  • Sanderson, Marcia. "Flying Women". Dance Magazine 76.3 (2002): 46-51.
  • Strom, Cat. "Tours: Hanging by a Thread: De La Guarda’s 'Villa Villa' Bounces into Sydney's Big Top". Entertainment Design: The Art and Technology of Show Business 38.9 (2004): 10-11.
  • Bernasconi, Jayne C. and Smith, Nancy E. "Aerial Dance". Human Kinetics, 2008.

External links[edit]