Frequent Flyers aerial dancers shed face masks for expressive, transformative show – Boulder Daily Camera

The pandemic has motivated many folks to reevaluate the direction of their lives. While some have switched career paths entirely, others have taken on new hobbies or revisited subjects they once loved.

Valerie Morris and Sofia Rodriguez perform during Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance’s production of “Gravity & Relativity” at the Dairy Arts Center in December 2021. (Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance/Courtesy photo)

The latest creation from Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance — “Transformation in the Calling” — serves as a beautiful reminder of the many unexpected detours life can take.

The hour-long performance draws from the lives of its five featured dancers, who, in addition to wowing audiences with airborne choreography, have embraced their labels of mathematician, ice skater, ballet dancer, scientist and elementary school teacher.

“Watching the early creation of movement with the ‘playground’ of aerial apparatus we hung, gave me the inspiration,” said Nancy Smith, founder and artistic director of Frequent Flyers. “I watched the apparatus transform with the dancers’ movement. It led me to think about how aerial work transforms us in so many ways — physically, emotionally, creatively — and the passion becomes a life path.”

Smith has fostered community engagement and created spellbinding shows along the Front Range since she founded Frequent Flyers nearly 35 years ago. Welcoming curious newbies into her studio, she sees many continue to attend classes. For some, aerial dance stretches beyond just an interest or alternative exercise practice.

“Once you learn to dance in the air and fly, there’s nothing quite like it,” Smith said.

From left, Valerie Morris, Michelle Randolph and Lisa Caldwell practice choreography for Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance’s latest production “Transformation in the Calling.” Tickets are on sale now for the show that runs April 15-17 at Dairy Arts Center. (Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance/Courtesy photo)

“Transformation in the Calling” spotlights the journey of real-life participants with clever nods to their other professions, captivating solos and a special apparatus that also transforms throughout the production.

“I found aerial in 2010 while I was in college and hadn’t yet decided what I wanted to study,” said Michelle Randolph, who teaches math at the University of Colorado Boulder. “I was immediately interested in aerial and wanted to learn. Before that, I had done some dance, but wasn’t particularly athletic, so I had a long way to go to build the strength to get to where I am now.”

Dance — with its patterns and symmetry — is rich with geometry.

“I was drawn to aerial and to math in part because they both felt like a challenge,” Randolph said, “Aerial for me started as a physical challenge and eventually also became a creative challenge, while math was more of an intellectual challenge. While there are definitely similarities between the two, I find that I prefer to think of them as separate things that can be informed by one another.”

Randolph still utilizes some elements of math when swaying on the silks or balancing from rings suspended in mid-air.

“My mathematics training taught me to solve problems and think logically, as well as creatively,” Randolph said. “In my aerial training, I can apply these skills to help me see unique possibilities as well as develop a greater understanding of my body in space and in relation to the aerial apparatuses.”

For Randolph, taking a break from curriculum planning to practicing and creating with fellow acrobatic peers was a welcomed change.

Valerie Morris and Michelle Randolph perform during Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance’s production of “Gravity & Relativity” at the Dairy Arts Center in December 2021. (Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance/Courtesy photo)

“I love working collaboratively with the other incredible artists of Frequent Flyers, together we can create something that wouldn’t exist without the unique experiences and influence of each of the amazing dancers,” Randolph said. “Through the course of our rehearsal processes, we build community and trust with one another, as well as inspire one another to continue growing together, and individually, as artists.”

Whitney Moore, a Frequent Flyers member, practically grew up on skates. She laced up for the first time at age 3 and participated in competitive figure skating from ages 11 to 24 years old.

A few years back — wanting to reach higher than what Axel jumps would allow — Moore traded the element of frozen water for air.

“I decided to try my first aerial class in 2015,” Moore said. “I’m always searching for new ways to move, and aerial dance seemed like a dream to me.”

Her background in figure skating made the transition a smooth one.

“Because figure skating and aerial dance are both performative art forms, the leap wasn’t too difficult,” Moore said. “There’s definitely crossover between the two art forms. Both combine technical prowess with artistry and expression. While execution may feel different between the forms, they share a core ability to foster exploration and expression.”

While attendees will no doubt revel in the on-stage unfolding, the show’s subject matter and message may just motivate them to aspire to new heights.

Whitney Moore, Valerie Morris and Sofia Rodriguez perform during Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance’s production of “Gravity & Relativity” at the Dairy Arts Center in December 2021. (Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance/Courtesy photo)

“I’m hoping the show speaks to those in our audience who may be on a journey themselves or who may find they’re at a crossroads in life,” Moore said. “I’d love for it to inspire folks to look at their paths in life from all angles and to allow themselves the space to let their journey unfold with patience and without judgement.”

The upcoming shows will also be transformative in the sense that performers will finally get to shed face coverings.

“The dancers have just begun working without masks, which is fantastic both for their ability to breathe more freely and to see their facial expressions,” Smith said. “They will not be masked in performance. Since we’ve been working with faces covered for so long, we’re spending some time in rehearsal working on this.”

Lisa Caldwell, Valerie Morris and Sofia Rodriguez will also perform in the show.

For Smith, getting to creatively explore with dancers in person is a welcomed change after so much in-studio time was missed during the pandemic.

“It’s rewarding to work with these five amazing humans,” Smith said. “They are strong, creative, dedicated, smart and delightful. We had so much fun making the show. Stewarding this tight-knit group is an honor. The collaboration requires tremendous trust on everyone’s part, especially since you often, and literally, hold someone’s life in your hands.”

Smith hopes her latest creation leaves audiences “moved, inspired and thrilled.”

Tickets for the all-ages show are $28 for adults and $24 for students, seniors and children under age 12. There are three opportunities to see the show, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Iconic folk musician Richie Havens once expressed that he was not in show business, but in the communications business. For Smith, his words resonate deeply.

“The stage belongs to the audience,” Smith said. “If they’re not there, then neither are we.”

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