International Aerial Dance Festival

The International Aerial Dance Festival (ADF) is held every year in Boulder, Colorado. It is a hub for aerialist around the world. People come in for one or two weeks and get to train with professional aerialists and circus artists from around the world. The festival is hosted by Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, and classes are held both at Frequent Flyers and at the University of Colorado Boulder. The festival started July 31 and ended August 12.

Since ADF is held right in my home town, I have been fortunate to attend for four years now. I love getting to train with such amazing teachers and get to know aerialists from around the world.

This past year, three guest teachers were brought in: Ana Prada, Rain Anya, and Tanya Burka as well as many teachers that work at Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, the host of ADF.At the two-week-long festival, each week you can take up to five classes. Each class meets for an hour and a half every day, sometime between 9am and 7pm. At the end of the each day, there are also special evening workshops.

All of the classes I took were wonderful. The first week I took four classes: Fabric, Invented Apparatus, Lyra, and Low Flying Trapeze. Fabric was taught by Tanya Burka, MIT as well as ENC graduate and performer with Cirque du Soleil. Tanya was a great teacher. She taught us a piece of choreography and had us play with different dynamics. We also played with the movement of the fabric, such as throwing the fabric horizontally while being inverted. My next class of the day was Invented Apparatus, taught by Nancy Smith, the founder of ADF. A lot of the class was improv based. I loved getting to explore apparatus that I hadn’t seen before. It was so interesting to see all the different people’s processes and how they like to explore. Next was Lyra, taught by Ana Prada, a Columbian yoga practitioner and aerial dancer currently working in Costa Rica. The class focused a lot on moving using the breath. We also worked on very twisty movements using both the inside and the outside of the lyra. My last class of the day was Low Flying Trapeze. April Skelton, formerly of Canopy Studio in Athens, GA and now the Education Director at Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance in Boulder, CO, taught multiple phrases that we worked on throughout the week. She had a very different approach to the low flying trapeze than I was used to; she uses the ropes and the fact that the trapeze can form around your body to create new and unique moves.

One of things i learned in Low Flying Trapeze

One of things I learned in the Low Flying Trapeze class

After all the classes at night there were also workshops that included Thai massage and juggling. There were also performances by the teachers over the weekend showing some of their best work. I loved the shows and getting to see how amazing the people I was learning from were.

The next week I took another four classes: Fabric, two Lyra classes, and Pre Contortion. The second week, Ana taught Fabric. Again, she taught a lot about moving from the breath as well as being efficient with movements so you don’t waste energy. I found it really useful to work on this way of moving, especially because when I work on fabric, I tend to hold my breath. Next, the two Lyra classes were taught by Tanya. I had a lot of fun working with a single point lyra, which I don’t usually work on. We did a lot of spinning and bendy moves. I was so inspired by working with the single point lyra that my new solo that I’m creating is on a single point lyra. Finally, my last class of the day was Pre Contortion which Tanya also taught. I loved getting to be bendy and work on my flexibility even more. We also worked a lot on strength so we could be able to support the flexibility.

I had so much fun over the two weeks and learned so many new things. I wish I had gotten to work with more of the teachers, but I loved all the teachers that I got to work with. I also made so many new friends. Over the past couple of years, I have met people who come back every time, and I’ve made friends with them, so much so that it starts feeling like a family reunion.


Here is one of the friends I made last year.



His name is Mangle and he is from New Zealand.



I became friends with the woman who uses him in her circus.

I had such a great time at ADF this year, and I hope more teens decide to come in the future. It is such a great opportunity to work with new teachers and meet new people.

ADF was the highlight of my summer, and I can’t wait until next year.


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