Ups and Downs: An Aerial Valentine at Rhythm & Rye

by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS

Look up, look up for acrobatic feats of aerial grace at Rhythm & Rye as Joanna Gibson and her troupe of nine aerialists offer an evening of dance above the bar and tables at the popular Olympia watering hole—home to entertainment ranging from music to burlesque to the ever-popular StoryOly series.

Aerialists for the program are:

* from Bellingham, Dream Frohe and PJ Perry
* from Olympia, Gibson, Reilly Gurl, Emily Van Kley and Eric Sanford
* from San Francisco, Aaron Koz
* from Seattle, Bridget Gunning and Dana Orr and Bridget Gunning.

The theme of Ups and Downs: An Aerial Valentine is the nine stages of grief and love. “Emily’s stage is attraction,” explains Gibson. “My stage is denial. So each performer has essentially been given a prompt unless they already had a piece choreographed that happened to fit a stage very well.”

There was some rigging already in place before Rhythm & Rye entered that space. Gibson has a free-standing aerial rig she can set up indoors. She says it’s “kind of like an extra-tall steel sawhorse with eyebolts at the top. So we’ll be putting that together, which will give us a structurally sound way to rig equipment. The apparatuses in the show will be silks (and) fabric, rope (or) corde lisse, straps, hoop (or) lyra, and maybe static trapeze. Some of the apparatuses go by more than one name, such as the hoop.”

In the first half of the show, the aerialists will perform pieces that follow the stages of falling in love: appreciation (Frohe and Perry on silks), attraction (Van Kley on silks), infatuation (Orr on rope), attachment (Koz on straps) and honest exchange (Frohe on hoop). The second half of the show will be the stages of grief: denial (Gibson on trapeze or rope), anger (Gurl and Sanford on rope), bargaining (Koz on straps), depression (Gunning on hammock) and acceptance (Perry on rope). There will be one piece per stage.

This is the first aerial show at Rhythm & Rye, and Gibson says she’s excited about expanding into a new performance venue. She took her first circus arts class almost three years ago at the Aviary in Olympia with Sara Sparrow. Her first aerial performance was in December 2014. Since making her debut, she’s performed in several shows in Olympia and a few gigs in Bellingham. She produced three shows at the Aviary before it closed, and the first show at Airbound Arts, Olympia’s new community practice space for aerial and circus arts. She was one of the co-creators of Petrichor, a full-length circus show devised, crafted and performed as part of a class at Sparrow Studios.

Along with aerial, Gibson is honing her work as a hand balancer. “I made my hand-balancing debut this past November at Tassel Tuesday, a monthly variety show at Rhythm & Rye,” she says. “I also dabble in acting, having played the role of Piggie in Elephant & Piggie’s “We are in a Play!” at Olympia Family Theater this fall and Corie Bratter in Barefoot in the Park at Olympia Little Theatre two years ago.”

What: Ups and Downs: An Aerial Valentine

Where: Rhythm & Rye,
311 Capitol Way N, Olympia

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16

How much: $10

Learn more: 360-705-0760 | Facebook

Skip to content