The corner of Valmont and Airport roads is focused on high-flying events. There’s the Boulder Municipal Airport, the Valmont Bike Park and the much lesser-known Frequent Flyers Productions, which, according to its website, is “Colorado’s pre-eminent aerial theater-dance company.”
Driving down Valmont, one might get distracted by the bike park, airport or jail, but there is an unusual form of entertainment tucked away off of 55th Street. A small red logo on a cement wall is the only indication of the existence of Frequent Flyers Productions. Following this sign leads you to a small building with a couple of tiny offices and a long, tiny hallway.
This skinny hallway opens up to a huge warehouse made of orange bricks and several glass windows. It is full of floor mats, crash pads and random apparatuses hanging from the ceiling. Several people are stretching as contemporary pop music blasts over the speakers. However, once these people get in the air, they show their special talents.
Aerial dance is not well-known in the general public, so it may come as a surprise to many that there is an aerial dance company right down the road in Boulder. Even more surprising is the fact that kids as young as 6 years old can get a chance to learn how to become an aerial dancer by taking classes or individual lessons.
Aerial dancing first popped up in the United States in the ‘70s. It involves a performer and an apparatus that hangs from the ceiling. The choreography is different from regular dance in that the performer can dance in three dimensions, in the three different categories of tricks: climbs, wraps and drops.
Frequent Flyers Productions opened 25 years ago as the first, and only, aerial dance company in Boulder. The non-profit studio focuses on both performing and teaching others the art of aerial dance. Classes are offered for kids and adults 6-years-old and up in just about every area of aerial dance: fabric, low-flying and circus trapeze, partnering and even a workout class.
Fifteen-year-old Yoshi Endo gets up from stretching and heads over to two long pieces of aerial fabric hanging from the ceiling and begins to climb it. He soon becomes wrapped up on each limb and hangs in various positions, performing aerial dance to the pop music, from Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know” to Katy Perry’s “Firework.”
Endo said he started in gymnastics, but aerials seemed like more fun so he transitioned over seven years ago.
Valerie Morris, a head teacher at the company, says having prior movement experience, such as yoga, dance, Pilates or gymnastics, is a huge plus for transitioning to aerial dance.
“We all train very very hard to make it look easy,” Morris said. “It takes a lot of strength and a lot of training to be able to do any of these. And I think that’s one thing, until they come and take a class, people don’t realize.”
The strength of each performer is apparent, as they hang upside-down by an ankle and discuss what act should go next in their performance. They climb up the various apparatuses with ease, making jokes as they go.
The quote on the wall dramatically emphasizes the attitude of the students: “Nothing can stop a hero, not even fear. Fear inspires.”
Not even the fear of a broken bone, sprained knee or worse, can keep back the strength of the students.
Morris emphasized the danger saying of the performance saying, “It is dangerous. What we do is dangerous. If you screw up, you can really royally screw up.”
Despite the danger of performing aerial dance, the laid-back, fun atmosphere is apparent, from the music playing to the students joking around as they perform.
“It’s a shame that we never have any fun here,” Mark Nelson, a student in the teacher training program, said, sarcastically.
Frequent Flyers Productions is located at 3022 E. Sterling Circle in Boulder. They offer classes, private lessons, workshops, teacher training programs and aerial summer camps. Winter and Spring classes are currently going on right now. Drop-in classes are $12 to $16, with an unlimited 4-week option for $60 to $75. Six-week session classes are around $150, although some may be cheaper.