The Atlanta Aerial Arts Festival 2016 took place at the tail end of March-beginning of April. I have been meaning to tell you all about it ever since I got home, but life has been a whirlwind (moving across the country and all…). Better late, than never though! I thought I would share what you missed in case you missed it – and you can get excited to go next year.
The Festival started on a Thursday, with the option of taking private lessons from your favorite instructor in the morning. After workshops Thursday afternoon, the evening kicked off with a mixer that was free and open to the public. Local students of McKinley Vitale performed, as did students of Allie Cooper from Radical Movement hailing from Santa Cruz, CA. I felt old watching them perform, and I feel old saying this, but these kids were good! They had youthful spunk and energy that radiated through the room and were the perfect way to kick off the weekend. You could clearly see Allie Cooper’s momentum training reflected in her students and it was fun to see that in action.
The next three days were filled to the brim with aerial fun. Some of Friday’s workshops included an aerial ballet class, taught by a member of the D’Air, who showed aerialists how to include graceful arms, legs and pointed toes into their work with the fabric. Shannon McKenna taught a mean straps class, or was that two or three? Everytime I looked over, she was
torturing showing more students how to correct their shoulders in their strap work. Shannon’s strap work is clearly evident in her shoulders and she was breaking down technique like the pro she is.
Allie Cooper and Molly Graves taught workshops on momentum; Megan Gendell taught duo work on trapeze; Julianna Hane taught a workshop on Somatics. You can read more about her teachings on the Born to Fly blog, where she reflected on the festival. Tara Cary taught handstand basics. One of the techniques that everyone really liked included cartwheeling up the wall while facing the wall to work on handstands from another angle, rather than always cartwheeling up with the back to the wall, which can cause you to habitually overarch.
Brett Copes was there to lift and pull, and do that thing he does. It doesn’t matter how advanced of an aerialist you are, we all come into this to fly, so Brett’s class was filled with beginners to professionals who were ready to strap in and get hoisted up. Shannon McKenna enjoyed a backflip starting at one edge of the room and landing at another. Students got to learn how to properly fly one another.
Delbert Hall was there, once again giving aerialists a chance to shock load as much as they can to see how much force they could generate. (If you haven’t ever had a chance to do this, make it a point to try and do it one day!) As usual, students were able to generate readings of over 700 pounds, surprising the skeptics in the crowd, and reminding everyone that shock loads are real. You can’t ignore the forces you are generating if you are going to be safe.
Panel Discussions include many different topics. One that I went to and enjoyed was a talk by a physical therapist, Jennifer Freeman, who had worked with several aerialists and knew what kinds of things to address with the crowd. She gave some great advice about when to see a physical therapist. I have also been practicing one of her rotator cuff exercises every day since I attended her lecture and my shoulders have been loving it!
Another panel discussion that I enjoyed was one that I got to lead alongside Julianna Hane. We talked about Teaching Philosophies. I told the story of 4 different studios and how their teaching philosophies impacted their business. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about as I go to open my own studio, and it was fun to share with other people who were curious. Our talk is in the process of becoming part of a module in the Born to Fly Teacher Certification Program.
Friday night’s performances ROCKED!
I was thrilled to watch flying hoops, silks, handstands, trapeze, rope, there was a little of everything. Radical Movement had spoiled us the night before with their solos, so I was a little bummed not to see more of that, but their group work was fun. The looks those girls gave the audience were of the kind that could kill! Next up, Jocelynn Rudwig demonstrated what she had been teaching the past two days – how to gracefully dance through the air. Those long legs! I’m so jealous!
Kari Nguyen’s fabric piece was emotionally intense. With every movement of her arms, reaching for the fabric or reaching out into space, you could feel her passion. One of my students from the day tapped me on the shoulder after the piece and said, “Now I get it.” In one of my classes, I had been working with students on making a statement and getting them to punctuate their aerial work. It was satisfying to know they recognized a good example of it when they saw it. That’s the first step to progress in artistry afterall. You have to know what you’re after.
Carolyn Logan also performed an emotionally intense piece on trapeze. She wore green and wore a blindfold. Everyone was on the edge of their seat as she moved with great passion through the air without her sight. There were some wonderful transitional moments that showed Carolyn’s work as an artist.
A crowd favorite of the night was a piece entitled “Lampshade,” performed by Natalie Abell and Shayna Swanson. In the piece, they are sisters who are constantly getting on each other’s nerves, picking on one another and slapping each other’s butts. They incorporated their premise into the intention behind every transition, making for a truly entertaining piece from start to finish. For example, they had scarves around their necks. As one sister tried to reach for the scarf of the other in an annoying, sisterly “gimme, I want” manner, suddenly one person was hanging by their neck with the other person basing precariously on the Lampshade apparatus.
The music cut out halfway through their piece, but they handled it like professionals. They started dialogue with the phrases that they use to get each other into character. They covered so well that most members of the audience thought the music was supposed to go out and that this was how the show went! It made the piece even stronger because you were right there, hanging with them in every breath, every word. It was a great ride.
D’AIR finished the evening with a piece that creatively involved umbrellas. Four performers took the stage. Using two single-point trapezes, they partnered with flavorful shapes and colorful costumes. For me personally, this was the most interesting piece to watch having just come from studying single-point trapeze with Canopy. Canopy and D’AIR are sister studios and share much of the same curriculum. As I was watching their choreography, I saw moves that Canopy had shared with me (which will be shared with you soon in our upcoming trapeze book!), and then I also got to see how the moves were altered and changed to become something new and fresh. I got to see the ever-happening evolution process of creating and choreographing come to life right before my eyes, and that was gratifying.
There was so much going on at this festival, that it’s hard to talk about it all. There were tons and tons of workshops and more performances and lectures, demonstrations, private lesson opportunities, and more. Bottom line is that you’ll just have to go next year and experience everything for yourself. It was a happy place for any aerialist who enjoys their craft.