If you go

What: Frequent Flyers' International Aerial Dance Festival

Features: Classes, lectures, demonstrations, discussions, networking and performances of a variety of aerial dance styles, from trapeze to silks

When: Saturday, July 27, through Saturday, Aug. 10

Where: Various locations throughout Boulder

Who: Open to anyone in the public interested in watching or learning aerial dance, from beginners to advanced

Cost: Varies

Info: 303-245-8272, frequentflyers.org

Highlight: A unique project titled "Mapping" will be performed at 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday in the Atlas Black Box Theatre on the University of Colorado campus; tickets are $12 at the door.

Nancy Smith did something unusual in preparation for this year's aerial dance festival: She sent scientists a sample of her DNA for genetic testing.

Soon, she'll receive the results, revealing her predisposition for genetic disorders, what position of her DNA is Neanderthal and more. The Boulder woman says she's been wrestling with her mixed feelings about the test -- the privacy issues, ethics, emotions, sense of identity.

But, ultimately, it's all in the name of dance.

For the Frequent Flyers' 15th annual International Aerial Dance Festival this year, dancers are partnering with the Australian-based Stalker Theatre for a show like Boulder's never seen before.

The project, "Mapping," kicks off the festival Saturday night at the Atlas Black Box Theatre on the University of Colorado Campus.

Valerie Morris, top, and Danielle Hendrick prepare for the 15th International Aerial Dance Festival.
Valerie Morris, top, and Danielle Hendrick prepare for the 15th International Aerial Dance Festival. (Mark Leffingwell/Daily Camera)

The festival, which runs through Aug. 10, features many of the world's top circus performers, dancers and flyers, who will teach their art to anyone who's interested. The renowned festival includes classes, lectures, demonstrations, discussions, networking and performances of a variety of aerial dance styles, from trapeze to silks.

"Mapping" is a one-night show with limited seating that pairs aerial dancers with cutting-edge interactive video technology.

The technology uses infrared cameras that track the movement of the dancers, creating a real-time "fluid simulation" system on giant screens on the walls three-fourths of the way around the room. The dancers move, and projected lasers on the wall seems to dance with them.

"It's incredibly stimulating visually, very engaging," Smith says. "The whole idea is to be immersed in it."

Although she says each audience member will bring his or her own story to the unique scene on stage, the underlying inspiration of the show is to explore the concept of genetic mapping.

Hence, Smith's own genetic testing. She's learning firsthand about the topic, which ultimately influences the choreography and feeling of the show.

"I'm looking at the interrelatedness of my dancers and the relationship of the movement to the technology, because genetic testing is all about scientific research and technology," she says. "There's a technological component, and the interpersonal component -- how we are all different, how we are all the same, connected and disconnected. What are our beliefs about that, and how does that inform what we're doing?"

Angela Delsanter climbs her harness as she rehearses for the opening of the 15th International Aerial Dance Festival.
Angela Delsanter climbs her harness as she rehearses for the opening of the 15th International Aerial Dance Festival. (Mark Leffingwell/Daily Camera)

The dancers will explore this controversial and complicated topic through movement during the show, she says.

Ira Liss, assistant director of communications with the Atlas Institute, says the projected images remind him of looking into a microscope at a cell.

"It definitely adds another dimension, a visual dimension. And an element of spontaneity, because the graphics that will be shown will be changing as the dancers will be moving," Liss says. "It's a performance that will change every time it's performed with the nuances of the performers. In that way, the audience is seeing something completely new and unique every time, created in the moment."

In addition to "Mapping," this year's festival features several other new offerings:

Shayna Swanson, from Chicago, will teach the Cyr Wheel, an aluminum hoop that the Frequent Flyers studio doesn't yet offer. This wheel is growing in popularity in the aerial dance world, and participants can learn more about it at the festival. Swanson will also teach her unique ways of rope climbing, which relies on your toes to climb.

Cohdi Harrell, of New Mexico, will bring a new approach to static trapeze.

Jo Kreiter, of California, will offer a teen class called "Rescue. Kreiter is nationally known for her work with at-risk youth and as a feminist, Smith says. Scholarships for Kreiter's program are still available. The classes, which explore the concept of rescue in our community, start Monday. Contact Frequent Flyers to apply.

Contact Staff Writer Aimee Heckel at 303-473-1359 or heckela@dailycamera.com.