Irish Aerial Dance Festival

Early in the morning bodies converge around a sports hall floor on hands and knees, faces to the floor, waiting to get warm. Ambient sounds ease into sleepy limbs to awaken sparks and ignite movement. Dance! Follow the dancer-man, he knows the body and its want to spin and turn, tumble, stretch and skip, push, pull and breathe. Energy seeps into your awareness, filling up your diaphragm with light and strength. Hips sway and bodies leap into the air as eager beats hasten to a crescendo of heat, light and alertness, ready for the day.

Here, the amazing is the everyday. All around you humans behave like superhumans, lifting their bodies on the strength of one arm, contorting and flying like superheroes. A temporary, insulated utopia where adults can be children, this is the place that always makes you remember: what you can do is incredible. What you do here, and all year, is  a superpower beyond the realm of most humans’ understanding. Your body can do the impossible. You can fly. Those around you seem unbelievable to you. They seem fearless and flawless, but even superheroes get sore hearts.

You worry. The treasonous crack still healing in your left occipital bone threatens to complain – it’s only been eight weeks since your body failed you for less than a second, but that was long enough for injury to remind it never to fail you again. In that second you were falling and then stopped with an almighty thud that sent ringing into your ears, tension into your ligaments and shaking into your nerves. Since then, while you rested, your limbs grew weak, heavy and stiff, and now you struggle with movements that once came naturally. Slowly rebuilding, you pull up, exert, take a break, breathe, strengthen, pull up again. Your hands, turned soft with disuse, scream as you hold your weight in them but you ignore the noise and keep going. The higher you go, the greater the fear that impedes you, and suddenly upon moving up to a five metre high trapeze all you can see in your mind’s eye is your fall, and you climb down with frustration and remember with tears that a fall from only 4 feet broke your skull. You relax, breathe, hug, cry, and try again. It works. You won’t be controlled.

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This is the tenderest place on Earth for different but similar souls to be together and feel bonded in art, pain, bruises, fear, elation, effort, learning and love. Emotions are strong – difficult but radiant with beauty, and tears flow from many puffy eyes into vats of creativity and joy. Each being holds and supports all others with respect and encouragement in a beautiful bubble where friendships and relationships begin, strengthen and grow. You find yourself close to people who accept and appreciate you and you see in them wondrous hearts that fill up like yours does upon seeing them and you hug, congratulate, console, care, reassure, lean. This intensity of physical exertion causes emotional spillage, but with these heroes around you every drop weaves into a shimmering tapestry of truth and jubilation.

It’s time to make. Can you really do this subject justice, you wonder? Determination outweighs the anxiety that makes you doubt your ability, and the creative process explodes over two weeks working with a woman whose input you treasure. She assures you that you’re doing fine, so you explore, create, discard, make new, listen, hear, read, feel. When the time comes to show, you write on your arms and legs – FIGHT, CHOICE, SURVIVOR, WOMAN, REPEAL, FEMINIST. Not worried about the one eighth or less who may disagree you fill up the stage and roar your call, soaring to an audience of comrades, swearing to win the struggle where you chant in the streets, fighting in black and laughing at the walkout you offended who doesn’t believe women should be free in their power to be.

Wrap it all up then with bodies converged on a floor again, this time a dance floor where crazed techno beats pound and energised bodies bound – jump motherfucker jump motherfucker jump jump motherfucker jump motherfucker jump jump motherfucker jump motherfucker jump jump motherfucker jump motherfucker jump! Bodies filled with strength and glow speak to each other deeply and jump together in time. They fink u freeky and they like u a lot – you’re part of one being with a circus mind. Disco sounds sing you to daylight before you’re ready to stop. This night and these beats are burned into your core now, ready for anytime you feel too far away. However far it feels, you can close your eyes and return anytime in your dreams to the place where reality is a circus, and circus people are your home.

There is no way to describe this festival to someone who hasn’t been.  This is my best attempt.

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