What is Aerial?

Aerial dance is the broad term for a style of modern dance that incorporates the use of hanging equipment, also called aerial apparatuses. Aerial silks (also known as aerial fabric, aerial tissue, aerial ribbon, or aerial curtain), trapeze, lyra (aerial hoop), aerial rope (corde lisse, Spanish web), aerial sling (aerial hammock), and aerial net are a few of the more popular apparatuses, although aerialists are also known to invent their own equipment. It is an incredibly demanding art form that requires a high degree of strength, power, flexibility, courage, and grace to master.

Aerial dance shares a fundamental movement vocabulary with circus arts, where high-flying acrobatic feats were used to amaze audiences. Cirque du Soleil popularized the concept of aerial arts as a dance form and theatrical expression rather than a purely gymnastic movement art. Isabelle Chasse’s Aerial Contortion in Silk for Quidam is an inspiring example of aerial arts incorporating emotion and expression. It has continued to evolve and is gaining national recognition as a fitness program in popular media broadcasts like The Doctors and The View.

What are aerial silks?

Aerial silks, also known as aerial fabrics, aerial tissue, aerial ribbons, or aerial curtains is one of the newest and most challenging, yet most awe inspiring and versatile aerial art forms. Aerial silk artists climb, twist, spin, drop, and contort themselves on fabric curtain sheets that hang from the ceiling.   The beauty of the silky material wrapping around the aerialists body is matched only by the breath-taking courage it takes to be suspended several stories above the ground. The suspense builds as an aerialist wraps complex, multi-dimensional sequences, then drops into a death-defying free-fall until the last second when they catch themselves mere feet from the ground. The technology to create synthetic fabrics strong enough to hold the incredible amounts of weight of high impact drops has only been around for less than 50 years.

Poses and sequences often borrow from older aerial arts forms like trapeze or rope, but new ones are constantly being discovered, including dynamic movements like drops, slides, and rolls. The fabric is supple and pliable, and is wrapped and unwrapped around various parts of the body. It is also one of the only aerial apparatuses that can be done at full height. Aerial silk artists cannot wear safety harnesses, because it would get tangled in the fabric. Normally aerial silk artists work between 18-35’ but there is really no limit to how high it can be done. Debbie Parks, another aerial innovator does a silk performance from a hot air balloon. Do not try this at home!

It is an exciting time for this new aerial style, because it is gaining popularity yet it continues to explode with new developments. Aerial dance training used to be limited to Olympic level gymnasts and circus performers, but now it is being offered to the public as a dance and fitness program.  Some of the newest trends to develop from aerial silks are aerial yoga and aerial suspension training.

Borrowed with permission from Sky Gym in Atlanta http://www.aerialsilksatlanta.com 

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