Every new dance piece requires discovery. Telling a story with the body is the essence of dance. With aerial work, we add the wonderful complication of the space above our heads. For the dancer, the use of this space requires a special kind of exploration. We must change the supports we normally use on the floor and rely on new parts of our body: passing from the feet to the hands, for example. We access this change through the use of apparatuses. But which one to choose? Trapeze, Lyra, silks, harness, web, corde lisse …so many aerial apparatuses, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, all amazingly beautiful. How do we decide? When creating a new aerial dance piece, we focus first on the main idea: the story. This approach is different from the circus, where the specialized control of a particular apparatus often drives the creation of a routine. In aerial, we look for the equipment that can best support what we want to say.  Finding that apparatus is always a long journey, whether we have already trained with the equipment, or whether it’s completely new to us. At times, we will have to create new equipment to […] Read More
Recently, one of my students from my aerial class asked me how to rig aerial silks on a tree.  She wants to train, and naturally take some pictures of her performing aerial tricks in her beautiful garden tree. Listening to her enthusiastic desire and excitement reminded me how seductive trees are for an aerialist.   As a responsible aerial teacher, I had to tell her that getting into a relationship with a tree is intricate.  She could either end up with her heart broken with disappointment, or in a love story with a happy ending. Of course, option No. 2 is what she wants!  I told her that before she attempts first contact, preparation is crucial. ******* At the beginning of my aerial journey, I fell for a tree too.  Actually, I fell in love with many of them. Coming from a tropical country, it’s quite easy, as there are so many handsome trees.  My sister, supportive as always, came along to do what she does best: being there to pull my feet to the ground if necessary. Together we chose the tree, rigging the silks from one of its many muscular branches.  We took all the precautions; we prepared […] Read More
When a student recently asked me how it was that I began to work in aerial dance, my first thought wasn’t about the feeling of freedom, or the elegance which an aerial dancer can portray. Instead, my first memory of my aerial dance journey was the smell of four tigers in a circus ring. At the beginning of 2003, I decided to create my first aerial dance choreography, “Water Beings” (“Seres de Agua”), as part of a larger production: H2O.  The choreography presented water as a mirror, a reflection of the imagination, from which everything arises. All existence comes from water. As human beings, this memory lives in perfect harmony with the permanent movement of our souls and minds. By sitting right in the middle of the action, on the performance space with the dancers above their heads, the audience would experience this fantastic world of water beings for themselves. As a dancer and choreographer, I wanted to create work which plunged into the lives of these sea creatures, who swim forward yet at the same time are suspended, weightless. I was fascinated by this paradox of movement. Some impulse I could not define urged me to explore this idea […] Read More
How does a mini-movement become an aerialist’s best friend? Once Monica and I were teaching a spectacular drop which requires lots of height (8m !!), to a group of well trained dancers.  It should have been a “tada” moment, but it wasn’t.  “What happened!” we asked. A couple of dancers complained that they felt as if they had  whiplash.  We were surprised and even panicked!  These dancers had a lot of experience.  They look like superheroes, with tights included.  We kept asking more questions.  We even demonstrated the drop one more time.  Then we realized that although these aerialists had many years of experience, they had never met the only movement that can maintain them in this specialized performing art for the long run.  In the business of aerial dance, we tend to perform a lot of drops, static figures, slides, etc.  These tricks are like those friends that you always invite to your party because they are popular, impressive or beautiful.  Most of the time, we forget the simple movements: the ones that are not very popular, maybe because of their discretion. These movements are friends that should be so close to you that their execution becomes second nature. […] Read More
My mother was a seamstress, and a good one.  She sewed many of our costumes, not only when we were children, but later when we became professional dancers. Somehow I took it for granted that she would always be there.  So when I read about dance production, I always skipped the parts about costume design. But time always catches up with us. In Mar del Zvr there is a scene in the first act: the duet of the Myth of the Flat Earth.  The idea is simple.  A sea monster finally traps a sailor who dares to go beyond the edge of the horizon. When I first came up with the idea for this show, that specific duet was important to me. It was the first moment when I felt I had achieved my vision of floating. I had the fantasy fresh in my head, the perfect couple to dance it, and an impeccable rigging system upon which to perform it. Everything was ready. Suddenly, one of my colleagues handed me a pile of rocks: heavy catalogues selling dance costumes, full of beautiful bodies in the same sad meaningless poses.  With the best of intentions, she asked me very nicely, […] Read More
A fancy statement for a fancy movement. Like pirouettes in ballet , drops in aerial dance are an essential element which must be mastered in order to enhance the choreography.  There are  even classes which only  teach this kind of trick. But what is a drop? Who can perform it? When are we ready to execute it, and how is it done? And more importantly, how does it make you feel? ***** I don’t remember the first time I did a drop. But I do remember the first time I did a big drop. It was in a warehouse, in the middle of a real Madrid winter, un frío que pela: cold so bitter that it peels off your skin. I was taking class with Roberto Gasca and there were at least 10 more students.  Roberto called out, “OK, everybody up!” Roberto loves difficult, complex drops. There’s always a moment in his class where he says stop everything, we’re going to go all the way up! I felt more than a little fear, but also excited at the idea that once I was up there, I would just have to let go. My hands were grabbing the cloth at the […] Read More
In my country, religious processions are a real art form. They require concentration, practice, and a great deal of determination.  And they are fun!  Once the statue of the saint is raised onto the shoulders of the followers, the routine starts:  a few steps forward, a couple of steps back, until the saint reaches the church. At the moment, we are like the participants in a procession: moving a few steps forward, some back, until opening night. ***** The boat is up, dancers included! During our last visit to Panama in March, our objective was to hang three hundred seventy four pounds of pure steel in mid-air.  The task was not easy. But with the help of Brett Copes and his super power of knowing how to lift people and objects off the ground, our dreams came true. The excitement of having the boat in place and ready to go up was beyond our expectations.  Selfies in the boat, next to the boat, inside the boat… we couldn’t help it! Then the challenge began, with one of most important tenets in dance:  mind over matter.  If the mind understands the movement, then the body will follow; it just requires practice. […] Read More
Four minds focus for twelve months on six dancers and a flying boat made of three hundred seventy four pounds of pure steel.  At our production meetings, there was no question about it.  We would have a flying boat as the main feature of “The Adventure” section of our upcoming show, Mar del Zvr.  Our artistic minds concentrated on this final picture:  one beautiful flying boat, with dancers in, on, and everything in between. In six weeks we will be ready to hang it. As aerial artists we are always looking for ways to use new apparatuses in our work.  This boat has taken twelve months to go from idea to design, to get it built and finally hang it.  My sister, Monica Newsam, asked a great artist from St. Louis, Tom Brady, to design some sketches. He did a phenomenal job, grasping the contemporary mood of a production that is based on events five hundred years ago.  After we decided on one of his designs, it was time to pass from fiction to reality: construction.  The paper can hold any kind of dream.  I remember Tom saying:  “the only way to do this is engineering, engineering, engineering.” We kept […] Read More
“Limited in his nature, infinite in his desires, Man is a fallen god who remembers heaven”. Alphonse de Lamartine.  “L’homme” addressed to Byron, 1819. I don’t know if man can remember heaven. But the feel of the air on our limbs is the closest  we can get to tasting perfect freedom. In that moment, if only briefly, we can be gods. Our desire to explore and defy gravity comes attached with  limitations. Just like good things, limitations comes in threes. Strength, flexibility and balance are skills that we must master in order to attain the moments of grace offered by aerial dance.  As we strive for that taste of freedom in our work, we look for safe passage that will allow us to transcend our limitations. The smooth blend between floor and airborne work is the key that opens the door to infinite possibilities in dance.That connection is granted by locks which secure our bodies in the air. One of the most important anchors when working with silks are foot-locks.  They are essential to attain freedom while exploring movement in the air.  Figure 8 and under-loop are secure, easy to use foot-locks. They allow beginners to attain confident stability while […] Read More
I was asked to give a talk entitled “Dance Through the Decades.” Funnily enough, as an aerial dancer, It’s difficult do that! Unlike other disciplines such as ballet, modern or contemporary dance, there isn’t an extensive body of written knowledge about aerial dance.  The most powerful or meaningful body of knowledge about aerial dance is contained in the body of the dancer. So what I can do today is share with you my experience of this exciting, beautiful and still evolving dance discipline.  Aerial dance is such a young discipline that information regarding its history remains very scattered. Some scholars, such as Bernasconi and Smith, tell us that aerial dance begins in the 1960s, with Alwin Nikolais and his work “Sorcerer.” I believe that the search for new spaces in which to dance led us to explore the space above our heads.  During the 1980s, the post-modern dance movement, led by visionaries such as Trisha Brown and Murray Louis, found unconventional venues for choreographed movement. This voyage of dance discovery didn’t happen just in the USA; it was happening all over the world.  Flying is not choreography. Using a device to provide a moment of an aerial illusion in a […] Read More