Aerial Dance Thrills in Berkeley

One attraction of aerial dance is that it offers the possibility of exploring three-dimensional space.


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A Teens Who Fly dancer performs in "Winter Show."

Cherie Carson

December is an intense month for a group of artists that in previous times could only have been seen under a circus big top. But aerial performers have moved their rigs into brick-and-mortar buildings where their disciplines have become part of local dance calendars, and the Bay Area now regularly hosts a biannual three-day aerial dance festival with both local and outside participants.

One attraction of aerial dance is that it offers the possibility of exploring three-dimensional space. Additionally, physically demanding apparatus-based work also offers an inherent sense of freedom. Curiously, the art has become primarily attractive to women perhaps because unlike other dance disciplines, it allows them to develop upper body strength.

The East Bay’s UpSwing Aerial Dance Company is at home in the historic Sawtooth Building in West Berkeley. Cherie Carson, who had trained in modern dance, had become hooked on aerial performance the minute she laid eyes on it. A decade ago, she had the opportunity to take over dance pioneer Terry Sendgraff’s studio and jumped at the chance. Sendgraff had developed a unique form of trapeze that she called “Motivity.” Unlike most trapezes, which are suspended on two ropes, Motivity uses a single-point trapeze. With its ability to rotate, it changed the art’s motion potential. UpSwing dancers perform on a complete set of apparatus: trapeze, including Motivity, bungee cords, silks, Lycra, and hoops.

On Dec. 9, the company will join other Sawtooth artists for this month’s second Friday performance with a new piece, tentatively entitled Tear Drops. Carson thinks of it as emanating from an internal focus. It may be performed low to the ground and in different sections. Audience members will be invited to wander between the performers.

For the Dec. 14 show, UpSwing has invited its neighbors, the Afsaneh Dance Academy-Ballet, to share a program. Since both companies are women-based with dancing that is lyrical and eminently fluid—though stylistically very different—this should make for an intriguing mix. In addition to student choreography, Upswing will include its holiday favorite Snowbirds.

Dec. 9, 7-9 p.m., free, The Grand Hall, Sawtooth Building, 2525 Eighth St., Berkeley; Dec. 14. 8 p.m., $10 or $5 for 17 and  under, Sawtooth Building, Studio 12, $10, 510-587-0770,  UpSwingAerialDance.org.

 

This report was published in the December edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

Published online on Dec. 5, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

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