At Ana Prada’s home on Costa Rica’s lush, sunny Nicoya Peninsula, the doors and windows are flung open to let in the ocean breeze and the sounds of chirping tropical birds. She spends hours each day suspended from fabric above the ground, practicing the craft of aerial dance.
Walls don’t play an important role here—and yet, Prada’s been thinking about walls a lot lately.
“In the [United] States, they’re talking about walls as a way to disconnect from other people,” the Bogotá, Colombia native says. “I’m more interested in using walls as a kind of support, as a step toward reaching someone else.”
This April, she’ll bring her aerial talents and malleable fabric walls to CU Boulder for “The Current,” an annual dance faculty showcase. In her limited time here as a Roser Guest Artist, she’ll direct students in the performance of an original piece that uses only fabric and human strength to create gravity-defying movements and shapes.
Since aerial dance is still a small niche in the dance world, Prada’s been able to help define what it is and what it looks like.
“For me, it’s a really authentic way to move, because there are no preconceptions,” Prada says. “I don’t need to look like anybody. There’s no certain style or choreographer I have to emulate. With aerial, I have the freedom of just being who I am.”
Themes of authenticity and connection run through almost every piece in “The Current” this year, says Assistant Professor of Dance and Concert Director Gesel Mason—so Prada fits right in.
“We’re celebrating our diversity and thinking of how we connect,” Mason says. “We’re pulling from Hip-Hop, transnational fusion and contemporary dance. The music is coming from everywhere, from Erykah Badu to Jimi Hendrix to electronic dance music. There’s an interest in sharing and dialogue with the audience.”
Among the pieces audiences will see are a duet about losing and finding yourself in a relationship, a Hip-Hop inspired group piece called “U.s.” with a section set to a guitar icon’s performance of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and a mesmerizing, virtuosic solo by Assistant Professor Donna Mejia.
Mason herself choreographed a group piece about the difficult conversations people occasionally must have in intimate relationships. She wants to explore the challenge of speaking up and the wave of relief that hits after someone has revealed something big to a partner or loved one—a feeling she believes almost everyone has experienced.
“I know how difficult it can be for any of us to have that hard conversation about something important to us,” she says. “The audience will get to know the people on stage a little, since the dancers and I are pulling real stories from our past along with imagined situations.”
The conversations depicted range from funny to touching and deal with sexuality, relationships, breakups, mental health, drug issues and more. She hopes audience members will find themselves in one or more of the stories and says she, along with all her “Current” colleagues, is constantly in search of new ways to draw the audience in.
“Each choreographer shares a point of view that sparks conversation with the audience rather than presenting a specific narrative,” she says. “There’s an invitation to the audience to be part of these worlds.”