Ana Prada will be in residence at CU Boulder April 3-14
Ana Prada’s career has been up in the air for nearly two decades, and that’s just the way she wants it.
She began studying ballet at age 11 in her native Colombia before moving to New York City at age 19, where she studied at such prestigious schools as the Martha Graham Dance Company and the Limon Institute. But her career really got off the ground five years later, in the late 1990s.
“That’s when I started doing dance trapeze and low-aerial work,” says Prada, who now lives in “a little town in the jungle,” Montezuma-Cabuya, Costa Rica.
Today, she is an internationally recognized aerial silk performer — movement while suspended from drapes of suspended fabric — and aerial dance teacher. She also teaches Gyrokinesis and Gyrotonic and Vayu Aerial Yoga, her own trademarked movement system.
And from April 3-14, Prada will be the Roser Guest Artist at the CU Boulder Department of Theatre & Dance, where she will not only teach, but also hold auditions and create a show to be performed for the public.
It won’t be Prada’s first visit to Boulder. For the past three years, she’s been part of the annual Aerial Dance Festival produced by Frequent Flyers, founded and directed by CU dance lecturer Nancy Smith. Danielle K. Garrison, a graduate student with an aerial dance focus, nominated Prada for the residency after working with her.
“I am thrilled that she will share her experience and knowledge of aerial dance with the students at CU Boulder. I believe it will galvanize students to get more curious about and possibly pursue this increasingly accessible genre of dance,” says Garrison, who has studied with Prada in France and worked as her assistant for dance festivals in Boulder and Santa Barbara.
Following her experience in New York, Prada applied for a job with a theater company that was “looking for a dancer who wasn’t afraid of heights.” Presumably, the Caravan Stage Tall Ship Theatre also needed someone who didn’t get seasick.
“It’s a theater on a 90-foot-tall ship,” Prada says. “They kind of threw me in the water pretty quick. I wasn’t strong as an aerialist, but I loved it.” She also had to learn the nuances of English as spoken in Newfoundland, home of the company.
“It’s a hard accent, really crazy. But I did it,” she says.
When her time at sea was over, she knew she wanted to pursue professional training in aerial work. So she moved to Montreal, unofficial aerial capital of North America and home to Cirque du Soleil and the world-famous École Nationale de Cirque, or National Circus School, to train.
“Coming from a dance background, it was hard for me. There is a lot of strength training for acrobatics, more like gymnastics,” she says. “I didn’t have that, but I’m stubborn, so I did it. That’s when I fell in love with the fabric, with the silk.”
She began performing not long after arriving in Montreal, including with Cirque du Soleil’s 2008 show in Spain, “El despertar de la Serpiente.”
As much as she enjoyed doing circus, Prada became interested in finding ways for dancers to do aerial work that wasn’t as physically demanding.
“Circus is really hard. It requires a lot of training and technique. You do a lot of repetitive movements, and it’s easy to get injured,” she says. “I wasn’t crazy to break my body. But I started doing yoga in ’98 in New York, and I always had that to save me. So I had this curiosity about developing a practice that was more sustainable than just breaking my body at age 35.”
She developed a technique to “truly dance in the air in a more efficient and connected way,” and began teaching students in her approach. She moved to Hawaii to perform in a show, Ulalena, and went on to co-found the Samadhi Aerial Dance Company and developed Vayu Aerial Yoga, which uses a custom designed yoga swing.
According to Prada’s website, “Using the support of the swing we are able to challenge the body moving through various postures, as well as allowing the nervous system to relax, encouraging a letting go into complete surrender.”
“It’s really a new approach to working in the air,” Prada says. “I’m more interested in movement than tricks, so this is really like dance in the air … My research is about how to move with connection, not with force, and somatic awareness.”
Having left Montreal in part because she doesn’t like winter weather, she’s aware that spring in Boulder often entails snow and cold.
“I’m really excited,” says Prada. “It’s going to be great.”