What exactly is aerial dance?

We are delighted at the prospect of having “Madam Silk” lined up in the programme of Droichead Arts Centre this month. Madam Silk is the new aerial dance performance by Fidget Feet. For a preview of the show and the making off, have a look below.

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Aerial dance, it sounds impossible, it looks amazing. What exactly is it? I was talking to Sheenagh Gillen, the general manager and Chantal McCormick, the artistic director of Fidget Feet, to get an insight in who they are and what they do.

What does Fidget Feet do?

Fidget Feet is Ireland’s foremost Aerial Dance Theatre Company, originally from Donegal.  The company creates spectacular indoor and outdoor work and has become renowned internationally as a company that stretches the boundaries between several arts forms, combining aerial skills with contemporary circus and creating theatre fused with aerial dance, music and video art. In short, making contemporary circus and aerial dance accessible is what we’re aiming for.

Fidget Feet create spectacular contemporary circus suspended from cranes, trees, buildings and boats. Fidget Feet also specialise in aerial dance, making site-specific work for theatres and festivals. Our mission is to invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of our audience.

What exactly can we expect from contemporary circus?

There is new contemporay circus movement happening in Europe, which is mainly taking place in  France, Belgium, UK and other countries. Using twenty years of circus traditions this new movement is bringing circus techniques out of the big top and into the theatres – no animals included, only the human body and a new circus artistic way of creating dance movement in the air. Fidget Feet and Drapés Aérien have co-produced a new aerial spectacle from this new contemporary movement. “Madam Silk” is a haunting and visual stunning piece of aerial dance, which combines a unique mixture of many art forms including dance, circus, video art alongside original music. This makes it something for everyone, from young to the not so young! Fidget Feet is influenced by Canada’s amazing aerial company Cirque du Soleil.

Could you explain what aerial dance is?

Contemporary circus is also known as aerial dance, so mixing circus traditions with dance, dancing in the air! Aerial dance is unique and fills the whole stage with aerial acrobatics.

What is Madam Silk about; is there a story or concept behind the performance?

Madam Silk is inspired by French writers such as Anaïs Nin and Gustave Flaubert from the romanticism period. The show evoles within a journey of time with each of the three performers representing some extraordinary woman from history. The piece rises and spirals through the past, the present and the future, not unlike one of Charles Dickens famous stories “Scrooge”.

The show opens in an empty house where the memories of Madam Silk lay forgotton under sheets of fabric. The winds of time blow through the window and awaken her and each scene represents a different century and has been influenced by different writers.

How do you create a performance like Madam Silk, from start to finish?

Chantal McCormick, the artistic director of Fidget Feet, met Fred Deb’ in America years ago when she was teaching at an aerial dance festival. After this she invited Fred to teach a 4 day aerial course in Newcastle in the UK and attend Fidget Feet’s “Remember her”. There and then Fred and Chantal decided to work together.

In November 2008 we started researching at Firkin Crane in Cork working on dances with fabric. Then in February and April 2008 we spent 3 weeks working on a 40 minute version, adding aerial hoop trousers and cocoons rigged from a spreader bar. That’s when we also started to include music in the performance. We improvised on the equipment and workshop ideas, then set choreography and worked with music. The fabric routine was added on and we then introduced a choreographic style to the moves.

In October and November 2008 we received a Blank Canvas residency in Frikin Crane and a Bursary Award to research adding film to aerial dance. A couple of new scenes were then created. We also worked on the creation of a new aerial piece of equipment called the hoop dress and the designing of all the costumes.

“Madam Silk” was finalized in 2010. We have spent plenty of time on each section adding new choreography and just keep improving the piece, even when we are on tour. The process never really ends.

How long did it take to make Madam Silk?

We started in November 2008 and finished the piece April 2010. We did approximately 3 months of rehearsals in Ireland over 2 years.

What should participants expect from a workshop in aerial dance?

We will be teaching aerial for beginners using fabric rigged like hammocks or cocoons. They will also be rigged vertically so you can climb up and suspend from the fabric. This is a very physical but fun class for anyone who has ever wanted to just give it a go. Some upper body strength can help. This is a safe and fun way to fly!!

We still have tickets available for this amazing show as well as for the workshops. For info and bookings ring 041 9833946.

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