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


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Nathan Dryden

The Artists of Airborne: Honoring the Legacy of Robert Davidson


Nathan Dryden

Photo by Larry Hanelin

Nathan Dryden is a movement artist, teacher, and performer. Dryden's work crosses through the fields of contemporary dance, improvisation, theatre, and aerial-dance. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Utah, School of Dance where he is working this Fall semester as an Adjunct Assistant Professor. Dryden first worked with Robert Davidson as a member of O-T-O Dance in Tucson, AZ. Davidson encouraged him to attend the Skinner Releasing Technique Summer Intensives in Seattle, WA. Dryden devoted himself to studying both SRT and aerial dance, becoming Davidson's teaching assistant and eventually taking over his classes after Davidson left the intensive's faculty. Over time mentorship evolved into friendship with the two men sharing Glenlivet and conversation on theatre, music, gardening, trapeze building, and (occasionally) dance. Dryden is a certified instructor of the Skinner Releasing Technique at the Introductory and Ongoing levels. He is also on faculty as a teacher trainer of Open Source Forms (OSF). OSF is a practice "deeply rooted in, and fluidly expanded from Skinner Releasing Technique." (opensourceforms.com) Dryden has taught as a guest artist at various universities across the U.S.A. and internationally – including workshops in Turkey, New Zealand, Canada, and England. As a guest artist at the Juniata College Theatre Department he created/directed several evening length works of movement theatre including: And They Lay…Dreaming, Charles Mee’s Big Love, Stories of Grounded Sky with Rick Wamer, and Samuel Beckett Circus with Kate Clarke.
In September 2017, Dryden co-presented We Rise and Fall Together, as part of TEDx Salt Lake City. The production centered around contact improvisation as a means of spontaneous communication and community development. See the video HERE.

As a part of Airborne, Dryden will perform Reach, a self-choreographed solo on the single point low-flying trapeze.

Come see Nathan Dryden, 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



Photo by Larry Hanelin

Friday, August 3, 2018

Eileen Little and Dan Loeser / Fight or Flight

The Artists of Airborne: Honoring the Legacy of Robert Davidson
Fight or Flight Theater Company


Photo: Chris McMullan, The Right Photography

Fly-by-Night Dance Theater is thrilled to present Fight or Flight Theater Company as a part of our upcoming aerial dance festival, Airborne: Honoring the Legacy of Robert Davidson.

This New York City based aerial theater company is co-directed by Eileen Little and John Behlmann, with Daniel Loeser serving as the Associate Artistic Director. The artists met while training with Robert Davidson at the National Theater Conservatory in Denver.

They formed Fight or Flight in 2008 as an outlet for continuing the trapeze teachings of Davidson, and have been creating exciting and original aerial theatre for 10 years. Specializing in original works and adaptations, Fight or Flight has had productions Off-Broadway (Shakespeare’s Richard II / co-production with Sonnet Rep, Trapeze Hero! / ArsNova ANTFest, This is Not J.A.W.S. / Dixon Place) and regionally (Shakespeare’s Henry V at Burning Coal Theatre, Raleigh, NC, Winner of 2011 Triangle Arts Best Play, Best Director, Best Lead/s, Best Ensemble).

As a playwright, Dan was recently the winner of Primary Stages ESPA Drills and semifinalist for the Headwaters new play festival. His plays have been performed at Ars Nova (AntFest), Cherry Lane, Dixon Place, and others. He has an MFA from the National Theatre Conservatory.

When not performing with Fight or Flight, Eileen can be found in the New England aerial where she teaches aerial classes with Seaside Circus in Gloucester, MA and ESH Circus Arts in Boston, MA.

The company has also led countless workshops, exhibitions, and educational performances across the country. Check out their promotional video HERE!
As a part of Airborne, they will perform Like This. The duet, choreographed and performed by Eileen Little and Dan Loeser on the single point low-flying trapeze, includes text from Rumi's poem of the same name.
Come see Fight or Flight, 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


Photo at Left: 
Chris McMullan, 
The Right Photography
 Photo: Robert Perachio                                                                                                                                          Photo: Chad Griffith   






Friday, January 12, 2018

The Difference Between Relaxing and Releasing


I took many workshops on Skinner Releasing Technique from Joan Skinner and in each and every workshop Joan would define the difference between relaxing and releasing.

"Releasing is an active process", Joan would say.


That is because releasing is like meditating and it takes focus and self-initiative. Relaxing is great (and here in the U.S. we need to do more of it!). But relaxation is different than focusing on the images and checklists and exercises involved in Skinner Releasing Technique.

That being said, I have recently enjoyed using a relaxation app  by Andrew Johnson which is aptly called "Relaxation". Because I teach so many hours in a week, it is lovely for me to let go of leading and follow Johnson's simple instructions instead.

Johnson's process involves many of the things that SRT uses including:

  • Breathing
  • Physical listening
  • Letting go of worries

For best results Johnson recommends using the app every day for a period of 3 weeks. I can attest to the fact that a daily dose of the app's relaxation does allow me to get closer to the physical experience that I have experienced while studying and teaching Skinner's technique. So, by relaxing I am in better shape to do my releasing.

So, while I'm not in the habit of endorsing products,
I do recommend trying this one.


Sadly though, I think it is only available on the App store for iOS devices.