University of Wyoming students performing at Vedauwoo rec area. Photo by J. Harper, Courtesy University of Wyoming.
Lately, aerial dance has become a major genre—take a look at productions of Cirque du Soleil or on Broadway, and you’ll see dancers high overhead, engulfed in swaths of fabric or bounding gracefully off the walls. And dedicated aerial dance companies are popping up all over the country. As techniques evolve, more universities are incorporating it into their dance programs. “Aerial demands breadth of training in a variety of apparatuses,” says Nada Diachenko, dance professor at University of Colorado, Boulder. “It takes a lot of body conditioning, and safety issues are huge.” Here are three programs with extensive aerial dance offerings. —Amy Brandt
UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
Location: Durham, NH
Dance audition required: Yes
Prior aerial experience required: No
Degrees offered: BA in theater with an option in dance; dance minor
Program description: Ballet, pointe, tap, jazz and aerial arts make up the core curriculum, as well as courses in pedagogy, composition, dance history and choreography. Aerial classes are in two-hour time blocks in which students rotate between four stations: Trapeze and silks are offered every class; lyra, single-point trapeze, net, triple trap, Spanish web and other apparatuses are interspersed throughout the semester. Safety, rigging techniques and injury prevention are also addressed each class. Advanced students assist beginning and intermediate classes; once a week, advanced aerial students meet for an extra lab.
Facility: One studio with 20-foot steel-beam ceilings that allow for rigging
Performance opportunities: Spring dance concert provides opportunities for aerial performance, Aerial Showcase at the end of each semester, outdoor performances
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO, BOULDER
Location: Boulder, CO
Dance audition required: Yes, for both CU-Boulder’s graduate dance program and the Frequent Flyers program. Base strength requirements and health insurance also required for aerial training.
Prior aerial experience required: One year of focused training in an aerial apparatus; teacher-training candidates should be at an advanced level in an aerial apparatus, with prior teaching experience in either dance or aerial dance.
Degree offered: MFA in dance; secondary concentration in aerial dance with two track options (performance or teaching) through a partnership with Frequent Flyers, a professional aerial company and school.
Program description: Aerial track students complete 10 credit hours through FF towards total MFA requirements of 60 hours. All students take aerial fitness, aerial dance technique, ground-based movement, improvisation/choreography, open gym, stretching and workshops. Candidates work with fabric, trapeze, hoop, invented apparatus and stilts. Performance track includes student company and private lessons. Teaching-track candidates graduate with an MFA and FF teaching certification. CU graduate dance coursework includes technique, choreography, pedagogy, graduate seminar, final project, among others.
Facility: Aerial classes take place at Frequent Flyers’ studio, plus one on campus.
Performance opportunities: Student and/or faculty concerts, Aerial Dance Festival, informal showings
UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING
Location: Laramie, WY
Dance audition required: No audition required for the BA, which all freshmen declare. Students audition for the BFA program at the end of their freshman or sophomore year.
Prior aerial experience required: No
Degrees offered: BA in dance, BFA in dance performance, BFA in dance science, dance minor
Program description: Vertical dance courses (which involve rope and harness) are offered as electives to the overall dance curriculum, which includes ballet, modern and jazz. Vertical I is open to all dance majors and introduces safety measures, basic equipment and vertical dance vocabulary. Dancers work individually and in pairs, developing sequences and transitions for a final performance. Vertical II expands upon rigging techniques and focuses on individual choreography. Both courses begin each class with conditioning specific to vertical dance.
Facility: Classes are held in a black-box theater with an easily accessible grid, as well as in larger theaters. Rehearsals are held outdoors in late summer in preparation for performances at a local recreational area.
Performance opportunities: Two main-stage productions a year, collaborative faculty concerts, biannual performance at Vedauwoo outdoor recreation area, American College Dance Festival Association Northwest Conference