Saturday, October 26, 2019

Company as Community


What's With The Producing?

Recently my son asked me why I continue to produce shows. I know why he asked; from his perspective it is just a whole lot of work. He sees me working late at night and planning classes for the company on the weekends. He looks in my closet which is half full of costumes and rigging and wonders, "WHY?"



What he doesn't see is what happens in the studio during classes or rehearsals and the bonding that dancers create when working together. This is especially true when working somatically.

The Skinner Releasing Technique that is integrated into our aerial work provides opportunities for letting go and feeling one is part of a community with an unstated goal of becoming one's best self.


Yes, we have goals to be better dancers technically but, along the way, we might also feel we are changing within. When we let go of tension, we become more open minded. When we partner on a trapeze together, we find ways of both sensing and working together. In these activities our antennae go beyond ourselves and we become aware of others in the world.


The process of doing a show is all about building community.


When I am preparing a company for a concert, what is most important is that our goals blend so working together is both more efficient and enjoyable. By the time we are ready to perform, we not only know the dances, we also know one another and our responsibilities are shared.





Dancers say things like,

Yes, I'll tie up the trapeze after I'm done performing.
Sure, I'll help with that costume.
or simply
Does anyone need anything?

And our audiences can sense this and recognize that these endeavors are more meaningful that simply getting ourselves onstage.

And, yes, we trust our audiences will find meaning in the dances and our performances. But we also hope audiences believe in our entire process as a way to quietly influence the world into coming together.


Intertwine yourself with Fly-by-Night:

Help us continue to build community

Support our online campaign HERE




Sunday, August 18, 2019

Back in the Studio

The Summer of 2019 has been a wonderful time to reflect on Fly-by-Night's Repertory as we decide what to present for our 20th Anniversary Season. We have revisited a number of repertory dances in preparation for performances next February 1 and 2, 2020. One of these dances is:

Birds of A Feather
This trio was originally done in 2001 with Janet Aisawa, Despina Stamos, and Suzanne Jaehne and it includes an incredibly inventive sound score by Paul Uhry Newman.

One of the amazing aspects of the work are the costumes by Elissa Iberti and hats made by milner T. Michael. Here are the delighted dancers on the day we brought out the hats to try on:

 Alum dancer Alissa Kaplan Soto

Alum dancer, and original cast member, Despina Stamos

New FBN dancer Erica Lessner
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Hiatus Mea Culpa







This blog entry is an opportunity for me to plead guilty to abstaining from social media for a long hiatus including neglecting this blog as well as platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 


I'm not here to make apologies. Let me simply state that when one has a full time job, is a wife, and the mother of a teenager, running a non-profit (including said non-profit's social media) is going to end up at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of priorities.

Additionally, my artistic incentive arises from time spent being mindful of both my kinesthetic being and internal artistic process. Being "out there" on social media erodes this internal work.


Internal "do-nothing" time is crucial to deep reflection. It means feeling ripples that go inward as well as one that go outward.

In my defense, during this hiatus I have attended somatic conferences which included multiple classes and presentations on best practices as a somatic teacher as well as a presentation about the journey Fly-by-Night has taken over the course of offering our scholarship program for people of color over 10 years. These conference activities help guide me as an artist and a teacher only if I also take time to reflect on what I learned.

Some things I've been reflecting on:


1619 Project This important reporting by The New York Times is a series on how slavery was woven into the fabric of the United States. 












Cruel Optimism, a book by Lauren Berlant that discusses how the American Dream keep us from thriving.















How to successfully apply differentiation tools for maximum student growth and individual success. This has included a number of online essays but also the book Differentiation in the Elementary Grades.








Podcasts get me around NYC. Rather than the news, I listen to podcasts. Recently I went through the entire Season 3 of Serial
This investigative reporting hosted by Sarah Koenig, gives an in-depth look at what is often referred to as the "criminal justice system". If you make it through the whole series you will understand why some folks call it the "criminal system" (no justice).

FYI: it is very much related to the NY Times project mentioned above.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Melissa Noble

The Artists of Airborne: Honoring the Legacy of Robert Davidson

Melissa Noble has restaged male duet sections of Davidson's Rapture/Rumi for the Airborne Festival. She and her two male dancers, Justin Gibbons and Derek Nicholson, will arrive in NYC from Houston this week for the performance next weekend.

Below are notes Melissa wrote about her work with Davidson:
I was part of the development of Rapture/Rumi and toured with Bob's company for 5 years. He recommended me as his replacement at University of Washington when he left for Denver, I taught trapeze for 8 years there. It changed the course of my life and I pursued other aerial teaching and choreography which has included ARC Dance Company, Juniata College, Indiana University, Windfall Dance Company.

Melissa was a touring member of the Robert Davidson Dance Company from 1994-1999 and was part of the development of the Rapture Rumi work that debuted at On The Boards in Seattle, WA. She then began a tour with Aero-Betty of Portland, OR, which included the Macy’s Passport shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles and were broadcast on national TV.

Her ongoing exploration of Aerial Dance and Movement Theatre has led her to collaborate with Avant Garde theatre companies such as Circus Contraption, the Pacific Performance Project, The Cabiri and choreography for Winfall Dance Company in Bloomington, IN as well as several works for ARC Dance Company in Seattle, WA including the world premiere of her aerial dance piece Beyond Flight at Meany Hall at the University of Washington. She has also taught singers at the Jacob’s School of Music and the Houston Grand Opera Studio and has choreographed for many operas, including the Kaneko Project of Madame Butterfly, Madison Opera, Opera Omaha, Opera North Carolina, and San Francisco Opera. Melissa has been faculty at the University of Washington and Indiana University and an Artist-in-Residence at Juniata College.

Melissa is currently on the Faculty at University of Houston, where she is also an MFA candidate in the Interdisciplinary Practice and Emerging Forms program and she recently completed an Artist Residency in Marfa, TX.



Melissa and her husband, Adam Noble, are co-directors of Dynamic Presence Project and have mounted original works at On The Boards, Seattle and Indianapolis Fringe Festival. See rehearsal footage of Davidson's Rapture/Rumi below:




Come see Melissa, alongside fellow artists who trained under Davidson, honor their mentor!


Airborne Festival:
Honoring the Legacy
of Robert Davidson

Saturday, September 15
@ 8:00 PM

Sunday, September 16
@ 2:30 PM

Manhattan Movement and
Arts Center
248 West 60th Street
New York, NY 10023

Purchase tickets HERE


Please support this project HERE

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Annie Bunker & Wrenn Bunker Koesters/ O-T-O Dance


The Artists of Airborne: Honoring the Legacy of Robert Davidson

Annie Bunker and Wrenn Bunker Koesters/ O-T-O Dance
Photo: Annie Bunker by Ed Floes

Annie Bunker is the Artistic Director of O-T-O Dance, founded in 1985 in Tucson, AZ and now based in Hilo, Hawai’i where she and her family steward their Faceplant Farm growing an array of wondrous edibles 365 days a year.  


She is on the Dance faculty of the University of Hawaii Hilo and Hawaii Community College teaching, Aerial Dance, Modern, Jazz, Environmental Dance and other classes. Annie has been the recipient of many National and International Awards, Grants and Fellowships including the prestigious Arizona Artists Award from the Arizona Foundation For the Arts. Over the past four decades she has toured extensively; performing, teaching and choreographing throughout the United States, Central and South America, the British Isles, Europe and Russia with support from Americans for The Arts, the USIA, various U.S. Embassies, the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Tucson/Pima Arts Council. 


Annie, her husband Chuck Koesters, and O-T-O Dance were part of the first wave of Aerial Dance Artists instrumental in bringing recognition to Aerial Dance as a valid and significant dance art form and have been pioneers in sharing Aerial Dance with people of other cultures. She has taught movement and interdisciplinary arts to children and adults of all ages and abilities through Artist in Education programs with numerous States Arts Commissions, her Company's school and as guest artist at Universities as well as National and International Dance Festivals. Annie has created works in collaboration with poets, actors, musicians, performance artists, visual artists, and scientists, many of which have been presented in traditional and non-traditional site-specific spaces throughout the world.

Below are notes Annie wrote about her work with Davidson

Photo: Zachary Gorski
My husband and collaborator, Chuck, and I  met Bob at a booking conference in Portland, OR it was 1991 and Aerial Dance did not exist in the south western area of the United States. We commissioned Bob shortly after, bringing him to Tucson to work with our Modern Dance company, OTO Dance creating yet another part of Aerial Dance history. Through Bob’s trust, love, joy, friendship and exquisite mentoring he so graciously and generously introduced the movement form to us and to our geographical region. 

Up until his taking the position at the Denver Center we would bring him to Tucson every year to visit, create, collaborate and tour.  “Airborne Miester Eckhart”,  “Rapture Rumi”, “Cambrian Dances”,  “Rames Rises”, “Nine Waltzes”, and “Ave Maria”, are among his works we embrace within our repertory. 


For many years, Bob and I performed his duet “Ave Maria”, he then passed his part onto my company partner Charles Thompson then in early December 2016 gave his blessing for me to dance this duet with our son, Wrenn. Bob was so happy and said “it would bring this work full circle...” 

Wrenn was a newborn when our journey with Bob began, Bob was Wrenn’s very first Uncle and forever Aerial mentor. Wrenn learned to walk holding the low bar and has danced with the single point trapeze his entire life, keenly embracing Bob’s flying aesthetic. 



You can see Bunker perform Ave Maria with her son, Wrenn, on the low flying single point trapeze, as a part of Airborne.

Come see them, alongside fellow artists who trained under Davidson, perform to honor their mentor!

Photo: Zachary Gorski


Airborne Festival:
Honoring the Legacy
of Robert Davidson

Saturday, September 15
@ 8:00 PM

Sunday, September 16
@ 2:30 PM

Manhattan Movement and
Arts Center
248 West 60th Street
New York, NY 10023

Purchase tickets HERE

Please support this project HERE





Friday, August 24, 2018

Jayne Bernasconi

The Artists of Airborne: Honoring the Legacy of Robert Davidson

Jayne Bernasconi
Photo by Stacey Shapiro 

Jayne Bernasconi, M.A., E-RYT 500, is the founder and artistic director of Air Dance Bernasconi, an aerial dance company based in Baltimore since 1999.


photo by Kanji Takai

From 1995-1999 she danced with Frequent Flyers Productions based in Boulder, CO where she worked with aerial pioneers Nancy Smith, Terry Sendgraff and Robert Davidson.

Jayne's words on Davidson: “I knew he must have been a great artist if he could make a trapeze from a broken snow shovel handle. Working with Bob, I admired his ability to choreographically challenge me beyond anything I had ever done, which, in turn, made me the kind of aerial choreographer/teacher to challenge my dancers or students to go beyond anything they believed they could do....

"When you’re hanging onto a bar for dear life and completely suspended over a group of people, it’s hard not to look too tense and grippy, but Bob with his Skinner Release work, had a way of conveying what he wanted in his choreography.  There was one section of a dance I was in, where 7 or 8 people were all rolling on the floor in a slumber state and I had to break from the group to move from the ground up…seamlessly and then float and hover over the group…like I was sprinkling fairy dust or something.  I just looked back on that dance and can remember his words, 'softer….softer….more effortless' He knew what he wanted as a choreographer and he was great at conveying these images or ideas to this dancers."

Bernasconi has taught and participated at the international Aerial Dance Festival in Boulder, Co since it's inception 20 years ago. She is adjunct dance faculty at Towson University, where she teaches aerial dance and yoga. She also co-authored the book/DVD “Aerial Dance” with fellow Airborne performer, Nancy Smith.

Bernasconi's choreography has been seen throughout the US and abroad, check out her promotional video HERE!
photo by Kanji Takai

As a part of Airborne, she will perform Below the Above on the silks.

Come see Jayne Bernasconi, alongside fellow artists who trained under Davidson, perform to honor their mentor!



Airborne Festival:
Honoring the Legacy
of Robert Davidson



Saturday, September 15
@ 8:00 PM

Sunday, September 16
@ 2:30 PM

Manhattan Movement and
Arts Center
248 West 60th Street
New York, NY 10023

Purchase tickets HERE

Please support this project HERE







Friday, August 17, 2018

Nancy Smith, Frequent Flyer

photo by Nina Reed

Nancy Smith originally wanted to be an astronaut or a race car driver. Instead, she became the founder and Artistic Director of Frequent Flyers® Aerial Dance since its inception in 1988 and began doing her annual Aerial Dance Festivals in 1999.

Frequent Flyers is a 501(c)3 professional company based in Boulder, CO. Smith's work with Frequent Flyers has been seen in Boston, California, Louisiana, Virginia, Montreal, the Bahamas, throughout Colorado, and most recently at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

Nancy with Robert Davidson in 1979 
Skinner Releasing Workshop
Smith first worked with Bob Davidson in 1979 during a summer Skinner Release Technique (SRT) intensive and subsequently undertook research on the use of imagery to facilitate training the body during her master's work at UCLA, bringing both Joan Skinner and Bob for controlled experiments in the Kinesiology Department. Shortly thereafter, Smith moved to Seattle and studied SRT for five years. She is a Level One SRT instructor and has developed her own unique means of blending aerial dance with SRT. When Bob moved to Denver, he set choreography on Frequent Flyers' dancers as a guest artist and also was a guest teacher and performer at the international Aerial Dance Festival.

Smith developed and teaches Aerial Release Technique (A.R.T), which is the foundation for her teaching method. Focusing on releasing, breath, alignment, economy of effort, poetic imagery, and a codified vocabulary, students are cracked-open for expression.

She has received numerous awards including "Living Legend of Dance in Coloado", "Women Who Light the Community", the "Cutting Edge" Award, the "Pacesetters Award" for Arts and Entertainment, a National Endowment Fellowship in Dance, and the "Arts Innovation Award".



She is also an instructor at University of Colorado's Dance Department, spreading the wonder and beauty of Aerial Dance and co-authored the first book on the history / theory of Aerial Dance, as well as, the introduction to Terry Sendgraff's memoir.

                                                                                                                                                     photo below by James Goldmill

As a part of the Airborne Festival, Smith will perform Breath/e, a self-choreographed solo on the "window," a steel rectangular invented apparatus exploring the concept of our first and last breath.

Come see Nancy Smith perform alongside fellow artists who trained under Davidson as they honor their mentor!

Airborne Festival:
Honoring the Legacy
of Robert Davidson

Saturday, September 15 @ 8:00 PM

Sunday, September 16 @ 2:30 PM

Manhattan Movement and
Arts Center
248 West 60th Street
New York, NY 10023

Purchase tickets HERE

Please support this project HERE



photo below by David Andrews

The Artists of Airborne:

Honoring the Legacy of Robert Davidson