Monday, January 17, 2011

Dublin Aerialists

(Pictured: Elaine McCague, Karen Anderson and Emily Aoibheann at the Complex in Smithfield. Unfortunately the fourth member, Niamh Creely, was absent for the shoot)

Introducing, the Dublin Aerialists!

This is the first time I have discussed my aerial practice on this blog because so far it has been intermittent and limited, although I have been intermittently training for a number of years, despite the limitations. In November, a woman I perform with invited me to do an aerial number for a night of dance she was busy organising for March of this year. I said, ok, I'm going to use this as an opportunity for action! I'll have a training space by December and a routine by March! It was really a good kick off point to get the Dublin Aerialists ball rolling. We called a meeting immediately, brainstormed with other circus, fire and performing artists and dancers and acro-balance yoga practitioners (!) and started considering practical issues like insurance and possible venues and creative possibilities such as future collaborations.

We established a daily conditioning and stretching class in Seomra Spraoi with other advanced practitioners of various disciplines: yoga, bellydance, acro-balance and contortion. We placed an ad on Gumtree seeking spaces we could use, introducing ourselves and giving some information about what we wanted to do. In the meantime, we visited Vanessa in the Complex in Smithfield where I had performed with the Pony Girls (and she remembered me, favourably). It was one of the first places we thought of and found Vanessa to be both supportive and creatively ambitious, like us!

We have formed an alliance with Fidget Feet, Ireland's only aerial dance company, who have been training us these past years and campaigning for Aerial arts in Ireland for a long time. We are hoping to organise classes in an aerial specific venue in the very near future and are all extremely excited about how our mutual efforts and achievements thus far will continue to develop and produce results. Truly, wonderful.

We received an email from Claire Ryan from the Sunday Tribune who writes a column about classified ads. She wanted to interview us about who we were and what we were about which is how we came to feature in today's Sunday Tribune Magazine. It's really exciting to get national coverage and we are hoping that this publicity garners us some positive attention that will aid us in our aspirations.

We are only just getting off the ground now so have very limited facilities, but there has been strong interest and excitement within our personal circles alone so we are confident that our project has a strong future. We are really pushing to develop things fast, to facilitate aerial dance and circus arts in Dublin and make it available and accessible to more people. It is an absolutely fabulous art and the training, intensive as it is, slowly becomes completely impulsive and addictive in a positive way. After years of two-week bursts and irregular training opportunities, it is brilliant that we can now access some facilities regularly and start to train seriously. I can see my progress already and it's very exciting indeed.

I'm working on a few ideas for aerial performance at the moment too - so watch this space... no doubt I'll make a big deal about it once I'm prepared to debut.

Here is a direct link to the article, but I have also included it below.

You can contact the Dublin Aerialists on dublinaerialists[at] or add us on Facebook.

Ad Lib - Emily Aoibheann, Aerialist, Theatre Artist and Writer
The story behind the personal ads

"Aerial performance is basically acrobatic circus art. Cirque Du Soleil is probably the most well-known and professional example of it. Those performers are amazing and at the absolute top of their class in terms of what aerialists can do. Ours is much more grass roots and amateur because we've only been training for a couple of years. We don't do swinging trapeze but we perform with fabric silks that you climb up and drop down – and we also perform with aerial hoops and rope.

I first tried aerial performance at a flying workshop during a fringe festival three years ago. It was mostly wall-running on harnesses but I was instantly hooked. I met the other main organiser for the Dublin Aerialists, Elaine McCague, through the workshops and we've both been really determined to establish a strong aerialist community here in Dublin ever since. The problem is that it's been very difficult to find spaces where we can practise. Galway and Cork and Belfast have their own community circus bases that are fantastic, which cater for professional artists and hold classes for the public, but there isn't one in Dublin. Elaine has spent a lot of time training in aerial performance in London and aside from that we've both been training with Ireland's only aerial dance company, Fidget Feet, as much as we can but that's all outside of Dublin so it's not ideal. We really want to get a hub going here in the city. It's such an exciting and spectacular skill and we'd love to make it available to more people so that they can try it out.

We placed the ad to find somewhere to train and maybe reach someone who would be interested in supporting contemporary circus arts and willing to help us get something new off the ground. We've heard of people in the past who've found warehouse spaces that were vacant or unoccupied and managed to come to an arrangement with landlords about occupying the space. They agree to keep it used and maintained and in return they get to use the space rent-free, which would be the perfect solution for us. So we thought we'd put an ad out there looking for landlords who have a vacant warehouse that would suit our needs for a training space. We're very willing to clear up or clear out anywhere that may be suitable. Aerial art and performing with the silks and ropes at a height isn't about the adrenaline buzz. It takes a huge amount of calm and strength and stamina and it's quite schooled; you work for a number of years on your routine. It's not about taking risk. Being in front of an audience is a great sensation and we love the buzz of live performance, but that comes from enjoying the interaction with the public rather than the thrill of danger.

I'm an artist and I work hard at being that. I'm really hoping that I can stay in Ireland because so many people are leaving at the moment. I don't think Berlin needs another artist. I think Dublin needs artists to stay here and cultivate ideas and opportunities so Dublin can become a hub for creativity. I think we really need to start addressing the fact that our artists are leaving and are finding it very hard to stay in Dublin and establish sustainable projects.

We've had some success so far in terms of the ad. We've been offered use of a warehouse in Blanchardstown (note: This is a misquote, we were never offered a warehouse in Blanch, we were invited to come and see one there), which is great, but we're hoping to hold out for somewhere that is a little more central. The circus has always held real romance for me. I grew up in Blanchardstown and the arrival of the circus tent was something that I found very surreal and extraordinary and brilliantly weird. I remember being fascinated by the performers. I think people who become performers or artists have always had it in them."

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