Aerial Dance Chicago dance with silk wings in "Mirror"


Entering its 25th anniversary season, Aerial Dance Chicago offered a unique and intimate experience with their spring premiere of “Mirror,” held on March 22-23. The performance showcased five captivating new pieces as well as a special appearance by the Aerial Dance Chicago’s Youth Dance Ensemble.

A solo performed and choreographed by Chloe Jensen called “Treading Air,” set to a soft piano composition by Max Richter, was a piece that celebrated the freedom of flight. As the lights filled the small studio, Jensen positioned herself near one of the six aerial silks suspended from above. Gazing upward at the long stretch of fabric, she tentatively reached for it, gently nudging the sheet as if afraid it would burn her skin. When she finally took hold of the silk, Jensen wrapped the fabric around her body. Covering her shoulders, wrapping her torso, and blinding her vision – strangling herself in the soft sheets.

Unraveling from her self-made bondage, she seized the silk and gracefully ascended upward. Suspended in mid-air, defying gravity, Jensen unfurled the fabric like a pair of sails, letting them ripple open to reveal a set of silk wings. Just as Icarus flew too close to the sun, so did Jensen, as her silk wings become stripped from her body and she is forced to descend to the floor.

Yearning for her lost wings, Jensen continued to reach for the sheets. Running frantically, she flung herself at the fabrics letting them swing her across the dance floor in a flurried rush. Unable to reach the same euphoric high as her initial ascent, she was forced to crawl along the floor desperately clutching the sheets in a frantic hug – as if holding the memory of her angelic flight one final time.

Another stand-out was “Redemption,” choreographed by Tracey Von Kaenel and featuring dancers Erin Bates, Hannah Johnson, and Julianne Rice. Set to the music of Robbie Robertson, which blended the booming echoes of drums with the piercing sounds of a harmonica, this piece, paradoxically, evoked a sense of heaviness.

Dancers frequently utilized the dance floor, employing sharp, angular movements and executing flat-footed jumps that resonated with a weighty thud upon landing, creating a striking contrast to the delicate sway of the dangling silks around them.

As the dancers ascended the fabrics, they maintained this sense of weight, keeping their bodies straight and flexing their feet to mimic the sensation of walking up through the air, ultimately reaching an upside-down standing position from which they stared down at the audience below — as if challenging the audience’s perception of which direction is up.


Aerial Dance Chicago's "Mirror"; Photo by Suyash Chitrakar

“Running through the Grapevine,” choreographed by Karen Fisher Doyle and starring dancers Tatiana Castañeda, Katie Harmon, Cindy Johnson, and Jennifer Sarsfield, was a piece that elicited a strong parallel to that of Greek muses. Paired with music by Radiohead, the dancers, clad in white jumpsuits, opened the performance with the silks delicately wrapped around their bodies in a style reminiscent of a toga.

As the music gradually filled the space, dancers enveloped themselves in the silks, twirling in graceful circles until they were completely swathed, blurring the boundaries between dancer and fabric. Breaking free from their self-made cocoons, the dancers ascended the sheets, striking a series of statuesque poses that evoked the sensation of watching a statue garden spring to life.

Following the gradual transitioning poses, the dancers accelerated their pace. Creating their own cylindrical force, the dancers initiated a slow spin with elongated extensions of the body, gradually curling inwards to intensify their speed until they became a blur of motion. This created an enchanting spectacle of elongated legs and swirling fabrics, captivating the audience with a mesmerizing display of dynamic motion and grace.

“Free Me,” collectively choreographed by Chloe Jensen, Karen Fisher Doyle, and Tracy Von Kaenel, was performed by Erin Bates, Tatiana Castañeda, Katie Harmon, Cindy Johnson, Hannah Johnson, Julianne Rice and Jennifer Sarsfield, evoked imagery of a battle raging within. Set to the haunting score of Jamin Winans and Michael McCann, the music utilized powerful vocals that crescendoed into a resounding cry, evoking a powerful sense of resistance.

Silk sheets entwined in a tangled web of fabric take center stage as dancers encircle the knot, intermittently tugging at the silk, freeing strands and gradually unraveling the intricate web. The liberation of the fabric was short-lived as dancers swiftly seized the silks, forming a circle around lone dancer Tatiana Castañeda.

Disoriented, Castañeda navigated through a maze of sheets, ducking and weaving amidst the swirling silks; eventually, she is left alone on the ground as the other dancers quickly scurried up their respective sheets. Desperately reaching for connection from above, she remained isolated, dancing in solitude while the others looked down in picturesque silence.

Slowly, one by one, the dancers descended from above to join the lone Castañeda. Coming together, they rolled and contorted their bodies across the floor, melding into one gooey mass of movement. Ending in a stunning backbend, they utilized the aerial silks to suspend their heads a mere inch above the floor. With arms limply outstretched, back arched and intense gaze fixed upon the audience, they resembled lifeless bodies hanging from ropes, creating a haunting yet mesmerizing display.

Other works included “Microcosm,” which focused on the duet potential of aerial dance, as well as the youth performance of “Through the Looking Glass,” both choreographed by Chloe Jensen.

Aerial Dance Chicago’s performance of “Mirror” was a visual feat that was able to showcase the many unique aspects of aerial dance. The performance was a memorable, one-weekend experience that showcased the artistic talent of aerial dance and left me craving more.

Check out more from Aerial Dance Chicago at their site, or by clicking the company link below.