I took a class last night at the aerial gym called Act Development and Refinement. It’s meant to help aspiring aerialists create cohesive works they can showcase at student shows, festivals, or just when you want to have your friends over and force them to watch you perform (check the mail for your invites, guys!).
There are generally two types of aerial performances: Ambient and Choreographed Pieces. Ambient aerial is when you have a set amount of time to go up on an apparatus and perform for a milling crowd. Usually there is a DJ or sound system playing music. For this type of performance, you plan out series of sequences you can do back to back, with lots of pausing to pose and spin and shit like that. It’s popular at bars or corporate events. Usually you will do multiple sets during an event. A Choreographed Piece is a set routine performed to specific music and is generally used at a show where the performances are the main event.
(Maybe you already knew all of that. I’m just explaining it because it took me like a year to figure out.)
I’ve done a little bit of Ambient performing and I performed a duo routine on silks in one student show last year, but I haven’t ever put together “An Act” before. It’s something I’d like to do, so I’ve been taking private lessons and doing a lot of internal whining about how I really wish I had an act. I’ve also been daydreaming about performing in a super great sort of gothic, but also sparkly costume (after I lose 10 pounds) and like really fantastic fake eyelashes, where all the people who ever made fun of me for anything, or made me feel shitty in any way were in attendance and forced to admit I’m far cooler than they will ever be. This is an important part of “The Process” of act creation, obviously.
The class last night was the first one, so there was a lot of dialog about theory behind creation of a routine and how to go about it. Toward the end of class, Monique, the instructor and burlesque performer, told us, if nothing else, we need to remember to be authentic. We need to figure out what sort of style works best for us and create a voice out of it.
I spent my run this morning (because I’m doing that nonsense again) thinking about what authenticity in aerial arts means, and how it specifically relates to me. Generally speaking, one of my strengths is authenticity and having a voice. I’m fairly opinionated and I like attention, I think any Facebook personality test would say. Truth and transparency are things I value highly. But being authentic in an aerial performance? This gave me pause. How can I be true to myself when the essence of what I’m doing is an act? My goal, in performing, is to appear more beautiful, graceful, strong, and generally amazing than I actually am. If I’m gonna be real with who I am when I’m performing, then I’d better plan to trip over a crack in the floor on the way to the silk, sweat and shake while I’m in the air, and possibly fart accidentally for the grand finale.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized Aerial is an art, like any other form of art. My job, as the artist in this medium, is to communicate my personal perspective to the audience. I just need to figure out what my personal perspective as an Aerialist is.
I have a bunch of Aerialist performer friends. We all know a lot of the same tricks, but when I really broke it down, I realized they each has a wildly different personality in his or her act. Monique is a sexy, liquid, burlesque performer with an affinity for a dark edge. Lauren is whimsical and light in her performances. Dakoa is bendy and gothic. Monika is sensual, but with a characteristic seemingly infinite extension in every movement. Karen is spunky, strong, and dynamic. Each voice is clearly unique.
This, apparently, is what I need to determine for myself. So far, I think I’ve ruled out a sexy burlesque kind of a style. I think I’d rather watch that than be it. I just can’t pull that shit off with a straight face. And I’m not flexible enough to lean toward the contortionist side. But I’m strong. And I have nice lines. My toes are always pointed. I might tend toward ‘quirky’. I like sparkles. Can that be a style? Sparkly?
I think I need to meditate on this. But I’ll figure it out. Just you wait.