The Columns

Jenefer Davies Discusses the Genesis of Aerial Dance at W&L

— by on May 20th, 2009

Theater and Dance at W&L presents Aerial Dance Performance, under the direction of Artistic Director Jenefer Davies, on May 29 and 30, 2009, at 3:30 p.m. The performance will take place on the exterior wall of Wilson Hall. Tickets are not required.

“I believe this is the first time aerial dance has been tried at a college,” says Davies, “especially one that is choreographed by students.” Davies says the purpose of the aerial dance is to increase the appeal of dance across the W&L campus. Thirteen students will be taking part. They come from many different areas and include athletes and climbers as well as dancers.

Students will be lowered from the roof in mountain climbing harnesses for the performance. An industry leader and top professional rigging company has been hired by the theater department for the performance. Their rigging credits include Broadway performances such as Peter Pan.

Davies will be working alongside James Dick, W&L’s director of campus recreation who oversees the Outing Club. The performance combines elements of dance and rock climbing. Difficulties include time constraints and physical and gravitational challenges required for aerial work. The performance will last 45 minutes, with up to three dancers at a time on the wall for a series of five to eight minute dances. Students will wear special costumes, and Davies is planning to use very long pieces of fabric to add another level of expression to the dance.

“It’s really beautiful,” says Davies “especially when the dancers are low because the push-off is very slow and they can do a lot of movements before they go back in again. The higher they are on the wall, the more limited their movements are because they are closer to the rigging.”

Davies has been interested in aerial dance for the past eight years. “I started looking into it because it’s fairly new in the history of dance and at the moment dance companies are playing around with it – there’s no established technique yet. When you take away the element of gravity, it completely changes what you’ve been taught about the nature of dance. It’s also imbued with an athleticism that’s certainly always contained in dance but not always apparent. I think men in particular are drawn to aerial dance. They have this amazed wonder on their faces when they see it and feel a kinship with it right off the bat, because it contains elements that everyone can do such as pushing off a wall and spinning.”

The aerial dance project was made possible by a $7,000 Mellon Grant from the Associated Colleges of the South.