Singer Pink may have brought aerial arts to a global audience in her 2010 Grammy performance, but a Salt Lake City group is working to ground the high-flying art form in Utah.
Aerial Arts of Utah's "Flight of Fancy" concert on Friday, Nov. 30, marks the first time the group featuring eight aerialists and four guest artists will be showcased with an evening-length dance concert at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center's black box theater. The show will feature trapeze, aerial hoops and acrobatic yoga numbers.
The company, launched in 2010, is both a school and a company that has performed at such venues as The Leonardo museum, the Park Silly Sunday Market and the Utah Arts Festival, where members performed suspended from the arch of the Salt Lake City Main Library.
What sets the aerial group apart is its focus on artistic expression, rather than just fitness, said artistic director Liz Stich. Company members' educational pedigrees include two MFAs in modern dance, a BFA in modern dance, an MFA in film, a BFA in theater and a PhD in biochemistry.
"We enjoy the pure entertainment value of what we do," Stich said, adding that they aim to go beyond physical stunts to a more universal expression of human experience.
Aerial Arts of Utah took over Revolve Aerial Dance when owner Julianna Hane moved in June 2010. Co-owners Annie Kocherhans and Deborah Eppstein purchased Hane's teaching business, while Stich, who had taught and performed with Hane, became the company's artistic director.
The group was at Sugar Space but moved a year ago to a new location, with 22-foot ceilings, at 1301 E. Miller Ave. (3128 South), where it was able to add new aerial equipment as well as AcroYoga classes.
Kocherhans and Eppstein, who have been friends for nearly a decade, first saw aerial performers at an arts festival out of state. Back home in Salt Lake City, they sought out classes despite being afraid of heights. "I even modified our dining room to accommodate both a trapeze and the silks for extra practice at home," Eppstein said.
At the concert, Kocherhans, who owns a hair styling business, and Eppstein, who is CEO of Q Therapeutics, a stem cell company developing products to treat neuro-degenerative diseases (such as ALS, MS and spinal cord injuries), will be performing a duet on aerial silks, while Stich will perform two duets and a solo.
"There is nothing like being in a venue with the lights shining, and music playing, and you know people are watching," Kocherhans said. "You can't see the ground, you can't see anything, it feels amazing."
But because aerial dance is so technical, dancers can't get completely lost in the experience of performing. "We are always thinking about where you put the next hand, because it's very specific," she said. "But of course you never give the impression you are thinking about it."
Interested audience members are invited to the studio to watch student aerialists, who have trained for 15 weeks to develop solos and collaborative works, in the Performance Lab series. Those who want to try aerial work are invited to Friday night beginners classes.
"It seems like many local events are beginning to hire aerialists to add the 'wow' factor," Eppstein said. "While we do often perform as special event entertainment, we have found the community here to be supportive of our efforts to cultivate a more artistic approach to the aerial arts, blending our backgrounds in modern dance, theater and film to create a unique aesthetic. Utah is such a culturally rich environment, particularly in dance, so we hope to expand our collaborations within the community even more in the future."
Flying through the air, with the greatest of ease
P Aerial Arts of Utah presents the "Flight of Fancy" showcase.
When • Friday, Nov. 30, at 7:30 p.m.
Where • Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center's Leona Wagner Black Box Theater, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $15-$20 from 801-355-2787 or arttix.org
More • The group hosts a monthly Open Air Night, modeled after open-mic nights for comedians and musicians, where students and instructors are invited to share works-in-progress.
Information • aerialartsofutah.com