Aerialists Wow Audience with Art-Themed Show


Yvette Chen

Oberlin College Aerialists, suspended high in the air in Hales Gym, hang upside-down over the audience below. The troupe paid tribute to famous works of art with deft movements and a hint of danger this past Saturday.

Katherine Dye, Staff Writer

Off the Wall, Saturday’s performance by the Oberlin College Aerialists, featured impressive death-defying feats of strength and flexibility. The aerialists exhibited a variety of skill levels and acts, some of which were more striking than others.

The theme which very loosely tied all of these acts together was a visit to an art gallery in which the cura-tor, Miss Clavel, played by Genevieve Senechal, took the audience on a tour of the paintings. Each act represented a different famous work of art, such as Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night or The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Miss Clavel gave background information about the works of art, which was supplemented by programs that provided pictures of the actual pieces and additional information about each of them.

The performances were all impressive and at times simply astonishing. Acts by College senior Jessica Lam, College first-year Juliette Glickman, College first-year Katharine Geber, College first-year Zoe Beach and guest performer Samantha Sterman, OC ’13 were particularly arresting.

Gerber and Glickman twisted their bodies and manipulated the aerial silks — or in Beach’s case, the static trapeze — with deftness and grace. The performances on the aerial silks were particularly striking because of how much danger appeared to be involved, as well as the level of skill the performances seemed to require. Aerialists performed extraordinary feats of deftness and strength, their movements oftentimes analogous to a kind of midair dancing.

The duet by College senior Karellyn Holston and College junior Chris McLauchlan, based on the famous photograph V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt, was playful and fun; its display of the performers’ strength as well as their coordination was truly impres-sive. The final act by Sterman, based off of the Andy Warhol painting Gold Marilyn Monroe, was definitely the highlight of the evening.

Sterman exhibited astonishing skill as she swung back and forth on straps while climbing and twisting herself into it in increasingly complex and dangerous formations. The acts performed on the aerial hoop were also awe-inspiring and appeared quite difficult, though oftentimes these segments were not nearly as engaging as others.

Despite the admirable effort to integrate art history into the evening, the theme ultimately fell flat. The acts, creating a visual spectacle in their own right, rarely seemed to represent the works of art from which they allegedly drew inspiration. Oftentimes the only way to distinguish what work of art an act was supposed to portray was through the color of the performer’s leotards or through other small costuming details. The theme, though clever, felt tacked-on and unrelated to the performances themselves.

Hales Gymnasium was also not an ideal venue for the performance, as the seating was arranged in such a way that it was occasionally hard to see and hear what was going on. Additionally, Miss Clavel was not given a microphone, which made her short art history lessons somewhat useless and certainly did not enhance the experience.

Overall, the performance was fascinating and enjoyable to watch. The audience seemed highly impressed with the physical prowess of their classmates who, for the most part, appeared in top form. Unfortunately, however, the theme failed to resonate throughout the show. The combination of art history and aerialist performance evoked interesting ideas that would have worked better had they been thought out more completely. Perhaps if additional resources had been available to more vividly realize their vision, the aerial-ists’s homage to those visual masterpieces would have been a masterpiece all its own.