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WhatIsWhat 1.0 2003

Cirque: Choreography; The Aerial Atherton Twins

The first day I came in to choreograph aerial I had the twins doing tut style angular forms and trying to explain New Yorks house hip-hop and martial arts influenced Zoo-Fu style that I had learned from dancing with the Step-Fenz since 97.  I came in trying to get rhythms with freezes and glides.  I watched what they had too when we started out, which appeared to me to be the classical chest out flying “like in a dream” look combined with a drama-workshop-esque build of primal roars! at one another and thankfully some serious power and balance combo positions. i was envisioning a possessed techy Egyptian style. An aerial act of mechanisitc hieroglyphic flying form with 90 degree ankle and futuristic interlocking tic-toc skateboard referencing aerials.

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ABOVE: The Atherton Twins perform an early version of the Aerial Straps Act in Cirque Du Soleils, Varekai.

I also realized through engaging with the twins in the choreographic process that The Shannon Technique transitional threading hand moves would transfer easily to the straps. I had been using the back of my hand, my elbows and wrists to thread thru the Rocker Bottom Crutches, creating more dynamic crutch grabs by pushing my hand further thru the opening than necessary, expressing the arm in terms of form and only then going on to the utilitarian purpose of the reach and grab. I was in effect camouflaging the twins utilitarian grabs of the straps in the way I had been doing on my crutches for years. This hiding of the mechanics of grabbing the straps set the pacing of the rest of the choreography taking place on the ground. It was during these times that I felt the twins were most appreciative of my contributions. Did I mention THEY HATED IT and their French Canadian coach hated it and the props master for act who also happened to be a previous choreographer of the Aerial Acts. He hated it.  If you watch the reality series Fire Within you will witness my triumph over one of the obstacles the twins in league with their coach had thrown in my path to putting my work on them.  All this to say the resistance to my highly stylized form was completely evident in the version of the performance you see here. This rejection most readily apparent in ankle angle and the toe going to a classical soft edge from the angularity I was thematically instilling. The over arching style of the freezing forms and gliding forms being mine is undeniable because they are evident within my own dancing far earlier than what they have done. Every time they pointed their toes they were going against what i was looking for as a dancer who constantly positions his feet in the air. CRITICALLY this is when I realize I am just one guy in the big picture and its literally a fucking circus and if the coaches and the props master and the artist are against my styles and creative process as the choreographer, I was going to have to suck it up and make my mark indelible regardless. I had to push my way to the forefront. To this end the stylistic tone of the act is purely mine. Its departure from the history of cirque aerial clear and crisp. It might possibly be the first hip-hop influenced aerial act by Cirque Du Soliel. Over the past 8 years the twins have evolved this act to smooth out every moment. I have never been invited back to the big top to work with them on their evolution of the act. Still to this day the flavor of my dance vision lives within it and remains readily apparent to anyone who knows my work.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International
This Work, Cirque: Choreography; The Aerial Atherton Twins, by Bill Shannon is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA license.