Arts & Culture / Dance / Mosaic / April 18, 2012

Learning dance the aerial way

Last week’s residence by Aerial Dance Chicago culminated in a performance, but most of their stay at Knox involved teaching workshops. Several Knox students from across every major participated.

Held in the Auxiliary Gym, the room — the usual dance studio — was changed by the presence of three slings hung from the rafters. The workshop began as most dance classes do, warming up the entire body and spending a few minutes building core strength.

However, it quickly changed into something more, as students, following demonstrations by company members, began to experiment with the slings. Starting with such simple activities as swinging back and forth, they soon started ascending into the air, flipping around in the fabric and pulling themselves higher.

When demonstrated, movements performed with seemingly no effort in the air were revealed to have a complex language of their own.

“Pike, cross underneath, other leg goes low around — start with your right arm … slide it up using your hip. If that’s okay, pull upwards and then let your hip come down,” dancer and company member Danielle Garrison said as she demonstrated a position for students. This elaborate description was for only one pose, still early on in the workshop.

Not everything was technically difficult, however. Many of the activities simply asked dancers to use the sling as a stretch or a way to extend movement.

“That’s such a good stretch,” senior Erin McKinstry said, coming out of a motion. Other students shrieked with glee as they traveled through the air.

The class facilitated a strongly collaborative environment. Since only three dancers could be on the slings at any time, participants were able to spend time actively observing and discussing with other students. The entire atmosphere was relaxed and fun, as dancers spent more time focusing on finding their centers and becoming comfortable with movement on another plane, rather than correct every flexed foot.

Katy Sutcliffe

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