At UNH, The Dancers Fly
By Lori Wright, Media Relations
April 25, 2007
At UNH, students twist and flip in the air, taking advantage of the
university’s nationally recognized aerial dance program and a
style of dance that has been popularized around the world by Cirque
The theatre and dance department is known as the premier public university
where students can learn aerial dance. While universities and colleges
around the nation offer bachelor’s degrees in dance or dance performance,
UNH has been thoroughly incorporating aerial dance into its curriculum
for five years.
This spring, students will display their talents at the Aerial Dance
Showcase, Wednesday, May 2, in the Newman Dance Studio, New Hampshire
Hall. Shows are at 6 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $3.50. The showcase benefits
scholarships for theatre and dance students. For ticket information,
The Aerial Dance program was introduced in 2002 by Gay Nardone, associate
professor of dance. Founded in the 1970s by Terry Sendraff, aerial dance
has skyrocketed in popularity with Americans because of the success
of Cirque du Soleil. The first Cirque show was launched in 1984; today
8 million people see Cirque each year.
“My idea to add aerial dance began as an interest in knowing
how to work aerial apparatuses for a dance concert incorporating circus
skills. I met and worked with circus performers and aerialists. At that
time I began studies with two aerialists who have been at the root of
my training,” Nardone says.
Nardone trained (and continues to train) with Elsie Smith and Serenity
Smith Forchion, former duo-trapeze aerialists in Cirque du Soleil’s “Saltimbanco.” In
2003, the sisters founded the Nimble Arts Trapeze and Circus School
in Brattleboro, VT. Because of Nardone’s personal connection with
them, students also have the chance to train with the artists.
Today, UNH’s aerial dance program incorporates a number of apparatuses:
single, double and triple trapezes; fabric; lyra (aerial hoop); rope;
straps; sling; the Spanish web; and the hammock.
Several aerialists have landed positions with professional dance companies
because they could fly. Most recently two of our dance and aerial students
were hired for the National Equity touring company of “Pippin” with
aerial dance added to the production.
“I always have needed a different kind of floor so that I could
get a different kind of sound for my tap dance. I moved out to the apron
and from there I started to wonder where else I could go, and the answer
was up. What UNH does here is now changing with the professional dance
world. Broadway would be a good example; there were five shows in the
last season that included aerial arts,” Nardone says.