If you go
• Some of the featured performances at the 16th International Aerial Dance Festival at The Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder:
What: Showcase Performances, featuring Frequent Flyers' professional company and the festival's faculty
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 8-9; 2 p.m. Aug. 9-10
What: "Schmoozefest" cocktail hour, followed by Cabaret Performance
When: Cocktails at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15; show at 8:30 p.m.
Tickets: Cocktail hour is open to the public; show tickets, $12
What: Student Repertory Showcase, featuring students from the two-week repertory workshops on aerial fabric, invented apparatus and duets on the low-flying trapeze.
When: 2 p.m. Aug. 16
Ten years ago, Rebecca Starr dreamed of taking classes at the internationally renowned International Aerial Dance Festival in Boulder.
At the time, Starr, of Florida, was a student and could not afford the cross-country trip.
This year, Starr will finally make it to the two-week festival — as an instructor.
"Never in my small-college mind," Starr says, "could I have imagined that 10 years down the road, I would be teaching the workshops I once dreamt of taking."
She will be teaching contortion and pole acrobatics, as the first instructor to ever teach pole at the two-week festival.
Pole is among of handful of ways the event has expanded this year.
The 16th annual Aerial Dance Festival, organized by Boulder's Frequent Flyers, launches Sunday and runs through Aug. 16. It features aerial arts workshops, from low-flying trapeze to aerial fabric to less-known arts, such as rope and harness and Cyr Wheel (an aluminum hoop). Classes are open to the public, and the festival typically draws more than 175 participants from across the world.
The festival also presents a handful of performances, which attract about 1,400 audience members. An annual highlight are the Showcase Performances Aug. 8-10 featuring Frequent Flyers' professional company and the festival's faculty.
The Showcase is known to rival the best traveling circuses and dance troupes because it brings together some of the world's most talented and respected aerial artists. Many have never performed on the same stage before.
Starr will perform on a pole and aerial hoop, or Lyra, in the show.
"I am thrilled to share what I love, my art, with others who have the same passion," she says.
For the first time, the festival also will include a cabaret performance on Aug. 15 at The Dairy Center of the Arts, hosted by Naughty Pierre from Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret in Denver.
Nancy Smith, founder and artistic director for Frequent Flyers, expects the cabaret to increase interest in the festival.
Smith says she also is excited about the festival's new collaboration with Circus Now, a nonprofit umbrella organization for circus arts in America. Circus Now will offer a wide spectrum of other workshops, such as a guide to theatrical makeup, costuming for aerialists and how to launch a successful career in the aerial arts.
All of the out-of-town instructors are new this year, Smith says, including Sam Tribble, who is teaching "traveling rings." Maneuvering these large rings is much harder than it looks, Smith says.
"The first time I saw it in a show, I thought, 'I have to do it. It looks so me,' " Smith says. "I tried it, and it's very hard. First of all, it weighs a lot. It looks like nothing, but they're 60 pounds. That's a lot of weight to be keeping control of."
Tribble is plenty qualified to teach this unique apparatus, though. He's a member of the Sacramento Hall Of Fame and was an All-American gymnast in college.
Want to read more?
Check out Aimee Heckel's first-person review of the Aerial Dance Festival's rope and harness workshop as the Workout of the Week in the Aug. 13 edition of Essentials.
Today, he's the U.S. Worlds team coach for Cyr Wheel and trains Junior Olympic athletes. It's also a certified hypnotherapist and a firm believer in the mental aspect of sports training.
Smith says she decided to add pole to the festival this year, based on the interest of so many of her company's dancers. The stigmas once associated with pole dancing are no longer relevant, she says.
"More and more aerialists are exploring it," Smith says. "It's amazingly gorgeous and takes tremendous strength. You're off the ground and dancing in the air. So it made sense to include it in the festival this year."