In Ventura’s The Aerial Studio, you’ll find young people twirling, twisting and swinging on silks, hoops and hammocks or bouncing off trampoline walls in preparation for a new spring production. These artistic fliers, along with professional performers, will present their first off-site aerial dance show, The Awakening, in Ventura during two shows, May 19-20 at Ventura College.
The show, incorporating dance (in the air and on the ground), acrobatics and music, “is a huge step for us,” said Gregg Curtis, co-founder and executive artistic director of The Aerial Studio (TAS). The 17 students in The Awakening have performed in limited ways around town at festivals and other venues, and inside their warehouse studio, Curtis said, “but they’re ready to perform on a real, large-scale stage.”
Curtis, a former U.S. gymnastics national team member who has worked with Julie Taymor and Cirque du Soleil, and his wife, Carmen, also a former gymnast, founded TAS after moving to Ventura from Las Vegas in 2008 to raise their children. After teaching at sites around town, they purchased and refurbished the current 6,000-square-foot studio space on Dupont Court. There they offer classes for all ages in aerial fitness and dance, acrobatics, tumbling, martial arts, parkour and more.
“The community has received us with open arms, and we’ve grown this program from a few students to now about 500,” Curtis said.
Teens make up the core performing group in The Awakening, an original production.
The Awakening was inspired by the recent shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that led to students around the country “finding their voices and expressing them,” Curtis said. “Our students speak with their bodies — their movement.”
The final number in The Awakening, he said, is a tribute to victims of all violence, “with students artistically standing up to fight for peace.”
“Each number connects to the next, from acrobatics to dance to aerial work to balancing,” said Terry Beeman, TAS troupe director, whose extensive résumé includes work with Debbie Allen; tours with Paula Abdul, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey; and credits for Oscar, Grammy and Emmy Awards shows and numerous films.
Beeman said another thread throughout the show is “the longing and wanting for something. Each student has his or her own personal inner story: how things hold you back when you want something so badly, and breaking free. I’m making them get really emotional.”
Curtis himself found a way to “break free” through aerial dance that inspired his vision for TAS as a noncompetitive learning community. After not making the Olympics gymnastic team in Barcelona in 1992, Curtis said, he was unsure of what to do next when he got a call from Cirque du Soleil to audition.
“Suddenly, what I was seeing in two dimensions, I was then seeing in 3-D, and I thought, ‘Whoa, I can do anything,’ ” he said. “I’m not competing anymore: I’m performing.”
The Aerial Studio presents The Awakening at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, and 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 20, at the Ventura College Performing Arts Center, 4700 Loma Vista Road. For tickets and more information, call 340-3412 or visit www.theaerialstudio.net.