Arts & Culture

Aerialists perform spring show

Aerial Arts Society individual, collaborative pieces featured trapeze, lyra, silks, acrobatics

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, April 23, 2018

Kathryn Samp ’18, co-director of the Aerial Arts Society, dances in a hammock, a type of aerial silk, suspended above the stage in Alumnae Hall.

In a display of strength, flexibility, precision and courage, Brown Aerial Arts Society members performed for a packed Alumnae Hall Friday and Saturday nights. The aerialists captivated their audience while suspended from silks, the trapeze, the lyra and each other in “Acromancy,” the Aerial Arts Society’s Spring Showcase.

The performance opened with a group number to the title track of the recent movie musical “The Greatest Showman.” While three performers hung from the trapeze, lyra and silks, the rest of the group members performed acrobatics around them. The Showman’s hat continued as a prop woven into the choreography of many of the routines throughout the rest of the showcase.

“Starting with a group number is not something that we always do,” said Anna Bjella ’18, technical director of this year’s Aerial Arts Society. “There were three of us involved in choreographing it, so it had dance bits, apparatus bits and … acro bits.” She added that she felt the opening was strong, “which helps build, if not a storyline, at least a feeling of continuity throughout the show.”

Following the initial group introduction, the show was broken into two acts, composed of 15 partner and individual performances.

At one point during the first act, Adam Moreno ’18 performed on a pole while blindfolded to Halsey’s “Eyes Closed.” Later, Katherine Magee ’18 and Jake Heinlein ’18, in their piece dubbed “Dueling Wizards,” danced to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Paul Dukas using a trapeze and silks in tandem, with the “wand” strokes of one performer influencing the movements of the other. In the second act, Larissa Gusek, a Rhode Island School of Design student, performed with Moreno to Aqua’s “Barbie Girl,” driving a miniature pink car onto the stage to supplement their acrobatic performance.

The audience revelled in each of the group’s acts, applauding constantly and cheering in surprise as each performer posed, climbed and danced. Many attended to support friends, while others said they came simply to see a performance unlike anything else on campus.

Putting the show together was a challenge for the group, which faced problems when trying to secure practice and performance space — especially difficult for aerial arts, as it involves rigged equipment and safety precautions, Bjella said. “We hadn’t been in the apparatuses since early December,” she added. As technical director, she was in charge of deciding whether it was safe enough to perform. It wasn’t until the day Bjella had decided to make the call that the pulleys used to support the apparatuses were put up, she said. Kathryn Samp ’18, co-director of the Aerial Arts Society, added that the group started preparing for the performance two months ago, but due to these logistical conflicts, they were only able to get on the apparatuses and begin choreographing routines three weeks ago.

“I basically visualized my whole routine and then hoped that, when I was able to get on, … it would work out,” said Yael Braverman ’20, who performed on the trapeze at the beginning of the second act. She spent a lot of time watching “YouTube videos over spring break and then like two weeks of practicing,” she said. Braverman had previously done trapeze when she was much younger and hopes to learn other acts moving forward.

Co-directors Samp and Jana Butman ’18 emphasized that this year’s performance, while faced with roadblocks, was also a success. “This year, we were able to strike a good balance between the spontaneity and individuality of our club, as well as organization and preparation to get our show together,” Samp said. The group does not have formal practices or coaches, she explained. “It’s very self-directed, very individually motivated. You train as much as you want to get the results you want,” she added.

“All of the routines this year were so phenomenal, we didn’t have to coach people’s acts,” Butman said, underscoring the group’s strength and independence.

Butman performed on the lyra — an aerial hoop suspended at the center of the stage — in the third-to-last act of the show, followed by Samp’s performance in the hammock, a single silk suspended in a loop. Butman and Samp portrayed contrasting characters in their performances: Butman’s evil sorceress countered Samp’s good witch.

Samp, Butman, Bjella and 10 other senior members will graduate at the end of this semester, making this their final performance with the group. “A lot of the community that I’ve found at Brown is through aerial,” Bjella said. While Samp and Butman agree that next year will be used to rebuild the organization, “with the amount of turnout this show has gotten, I’m confident that a lot of people are going to be very motivated to join next year,” Butman said. “We support people coming in who have absolutely no experience, no strength. … We think it will be pretty easy to build up our club again after all the students graduate,” Samp added.

The show marked a moment of transition. “I started crying in the middle of the final trapeze act,” Butman said, reflecting after her final performance with the group.

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