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Jul
18
2024
Performing Arts

Yellow Springs-based aerial performance troupe and school GravityWorks will debut performances at the Foundry Theater on Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, July 14, at 2 p.m. On the steel hoop in center are GravityWorks co-founders Maya Trujillo and Kayla Graham. (Photo by Lauren "Chuck" Shows)

GravityWorks takes to the air in ‘She Grows Wings’

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GravityWorks Circus will take to the air for the first time in their home venue, the Foundry Theater, with a trio of performances this month.

“She Grows Wings,” the debut show of GravityWorks’ ensemble, will be performed Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, July 14, at 2 p.m.

As the News reported last year, GravityWorks opened in March 2023 as the brainchild of two local residents: Aerial Arts Director Maya Trujillo, a longtime aerial performer, dancer and educator whose own journey with high-flying feats began at sister school GravityWorks Mexico in San Miguel de Allende; and Theater Director Kayla Graham, an actor, improviser, educator and fight choreographer well-known to Miami Valley stages whose skills in the air have grown along with the local aerial school.

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The pair told the News last year that their intention with GravityWorks was not only to teach the craft of aerial performance to local students of all ages, but to build a performing ensemble that incorporates elements of both aerial performance and narrative theater.

In late June, Trujillo and Graham again spoke with the News, indicating that “She Grows Wings” is the first realization of the long-term creative vision of GravityWorks the two outlined last year. As Graham pointed out, the show is not all about “tricks in the fabric,” and though there is no spoken word in the show, it follows a narrative.

“Storytelling can, of course, be done physically,” Graham said. “We’ve only been doing this for a year, but we knew that we wanted to produce a theatrical aerial experience.”

“She Grows Wings” follows a young daydreamer as she attempts to escape the daily realities of her parents’ combative and failing relationship by diving ever deeper into her own imagination.

“She’s trying to find her own inner strength and figure out how to cope with this stress in her life,” Graham said. “We sort of follow her through her imagination and her journey to come back to reality.”

Trujillo spent several weeks painstakingly hand-painting costumes for the show with a variety of colorful floral images, and at the time of the interview, had recently finished moving GravityWorks’ aerial fabrics from the theater’s sprung-floor dance studio, where the ensemble rehearses, in preparation for the show.

“We got a lift and I rigged all this up last week — I enjoy rigging quite a bit,” Trujillo said, adding that her long relationship with heights made an easier job of installing the specialized hardware and fabrics that now hang from the ceiling of the Foundry’s auditorium, waiting to support GravityWorks’ performers as they climb, swing and glide.

The GravityWorks ensemble grew from a collection of students who took classes under Trujillo and Graham, first at Antioch College’s Wellness Center, and then the Foundry, where they are now artists in residence. Some ensemble members have taken classes and workshops since GravityWorks opened, and others rolled right from their first class into the performing group, which began work on “She Grows Wings” in January.

“There wasn’t an audition process,” Graham said. “We just wanted people who were interested and willing to be part of it — and could commit to a months-long rehearsal process.”

Of the ensemble’s 12 members outside of Graham and Trujillo, nine are adults and three are youth. All 12 take turns demonstrating their skills on the aerial fabrics, though Trujillo pointed out that they’re typically not as high off the ground as a longtime performer might be.

“Everyone’s still a beginner, so they’re not going very high,” Trujillo said. “There are maybe a couple of people who perform a little bit higher than mid-section.”

She added, however, that she and Graham perform a portion of the show on a steel hoop, which hovers higher in the air above the requisite cushioning mats than most ensemble members will climb.

Because the Foundry’s dance studio, where GravityWorks rehearses, can only accommodate six people at a time, ensemble members have been rehearsing “She Grows Wings” separately in smaller groups. On Monday, July 1, the members of the GravityWorks ensemble met and rehearsed together for the first time.

In addition to their mid-air performances, the ensemble also showed off their skills with ribbon dance and hoop and poi spinning, creating a visual symphony of movement on stage. A few scenes in “She Grows Wings” feature juggling, a late addition to the show made possible by the spouse of one of the ensemble’s members.

During a break in the general hubbub of rehearsal, ensemble members Alice Little-Luebke and Alissa Scheibert spoke with the News, with both saying they were initially drawn to GravityWorks last year because they wanted to try something new.

“And I kept coming back because it was fun,” Scheibert added.

Little-Luebke said that her work in merchandising often requires exercising her upper body through lifting and carrying. Though aerial performance also requires upper-body strength, she said her time with GravityWorks has helped her access other strengths, too.

“Lifting myself is a different story,” she said with a laugh. “But honestly, the biggest thing for me is this is the first time in my life I’ve felt graceful. I kind of move through everything like a truck, and this is all about slowing down and learning to move with a little more finesse.”

“I feel stronger, not only physically, but mentally,” said Niamh Jones-Graham, one of the ensemble’s youngest members. “It’s really kind of helped me clear my head and sort of just take my mind off of things.”

Ayla King, another young ensemble member, agreed, saying: “I feel more confident when I’m in the air.”

That kind of confidence, Trujillo and Graham said, is at the core of what they aim to provide to ensemble members through the opportunity to learn and perform — and what they hope to bring to even more people moving forward.

“We hope some of those who come out to the show will see what we’re doing — what our students are able to do — and they’ll want to join us,” Trujillo said. “It seems like people really grow.”

GravityWorks will present “She Grows Wings” Friday–Sunday, July 12–14. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $25 for students and seniors, $10 for teens; children 12 and under will be admitted free. Tickets are available online at http://www.bit.ly/FoundryTix. For more information on GravityWorks, go to http://www.gravityworkscircus.com.

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