Few natural phenomena capture the imagination like the butterfly: the wriggling caterpillar that wraps itself up and reemerges as a winged beauty. So it is that dancers can seem magical to us. By day, they’re ordinary citizens in street clothes; by night, they unfurl their limbs and float across the bright stage.
In the case of the butterfly, it’s the mysterious cocoon where the magic of transformation takes place; for dancers, the studio’s the site of ongoing metamorphosis. Few of us are privy to that process, unless we’re invited inside. Last Friday night, the aerial dancers of La Petite Chouette welcomed an audience to Entrée des Artistes as if sneaking us through a performers-only entrance.
Inside the first chamber, dancers in camisoles and tights stretched and chatted at a ballet barre, while one young woman hung suspended from the ceiling, languidly stirring the air with her arms, her legs wrapped in bolts of pale pink fabric. Then it was on to the main studio, where seven members of the all-female adult company presented six sections of aerial dance. Among them were solos on corde lisse, lyra, flying trapeze, fabrics, and sling — a wide swath of fabric in which one dancer wrapped herself, cocoon-like. Joanne Terry climbed high above her spinning metal hoop, then lowered through it headfirst until her shoulder brushed the floor. Sophia Phillips and Serra Benson shared a spare and lovely duet on invented apparatus, moving through a series of counterbalances, and exploring asymmetry and stillness.
Since establishing La Petite Chouette in 2006, artistic director Ninette Paloma has emphasized artistry over flashy tricks. On Friday, that insistence showed in the way these performers transitioned from floor to air, lifting off and touching down with the delicacy of butterflies.
The studio will reopen its doors for an encore performance on Friday, December 14, at 6 p.m.