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The Influence of Sign Language on Aerial Dance

I just performed a new solo last week for an arts association fundraiser, hosted by my husband, Don Carson and me, at The Marsh Studio.

Having focussed on my spoken word/aerial dance solo for “HerSelf Rising”(the performance with “Girls on Trapeze”) I brushed off the auras of my grandmother and great-grandmother and entered the fresh, unexplored terrain of “what now”?

Recently a student, Julie, introduced me to “signing”. She works with teaching pre-schoolers sign language so I asked Julie to show me the gestural phrase for the words “only love endures”. It was lovely. I began going through the sequence my solo, integrating that gestrual signage at points throughout the piece.

I didn’t want to exactly duplicate the phrase each time, so delving into my understanding of Laban Movement Anlaysis, I created a variation of the phrase, creating a continuity without a rigidity of repetitionSo I had the structure, the gestures, the music, and, of course, the love & generosity of performing — Ahh! — then the moment-to-moment weaving of these elements becomes the dance.  Where I see perfectly accomplished technicians falter is, in the amplified moment of performance, this alchemy is missing.  Don’t hide behind technique!  Show your heart!  

Perhaps because I have seen aerial dance and circus performances for so many years I am acutely sensitive to every nano-second of nuance, intention, head and hand gestures, ways to engaging and disengaging with the apparatus, phrasing, transitions and stillness.

As I went through my rehearsals with my iPad camera as my ally, I watched for evidence where there was a disconnect between me and the rope, the bar, myself, the imagined audience.