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Air-borne troupe has the right moves

Citizen Staff Writer



Trapeze and aerial dancer Suke Estrada winds her way through a maze of out of control swinging trapeze at O-T-O Dance studio.

“There’s no risk, there’s only growth,” Estrada says to the five beginning trapeze students who twist, swing and hang on the four ceiling length trapeze. “Don’t be afraid.”

This is the beginning aerial dance class and the five women are practicing a piece choreographed by Estrada for the up-coming O-T-O student showcase Tuesday.

“The inspiration is how we experience so much interruption in life,” says Estrada, a trained modern and ballet dancer since the age of 5 and O-T-O dancer since 2005.

Whether trained dancers or interested Tucsonans, about 60 students will perform on the O-T-O showcase from the company’s beginning, intermediate and advanced aerial dance classes.

Dubbed the flying modern dance company, O-T-O has since 1985 provided a unique avenue for those in the industry.

It began with dancer-choreographer Annie Bunker, who employs dancers from all over the United States to contribute to the physically challenging performances.

In 1991, O-T-O began to incorporate teaching into its repertoire and opened up aerial dance classes for children, teens and adults curious about trapeze dance.

“Aerial dance is the combination of circus-type moves integrated with dance movements,” Assistant School Director and O-T-O dancer Aja Knaub says.

The ability to fly is an appealing characteristic for many participants and the reason students are willing to endure blisters, sore muscles and physically demanding trapeze moves such as the tear drop or tilt-a-whirl each week.

“I had always wanted to fly like a bird,” student Kim Clausen says. “It’s a great challenge. It makes you feel like a little kid.”

Clausen, a trained ballet dancer since 1966 and instructor of the dance at her local studio, Soul Dance, had always been enticed to try aerial dance and trapeze work. When she discovered O-T-O’s classes it awakened a new dance passion within her.

“I immediately called and gave them money,” she says.

The new form of muscle building and exercise are another reason students decide to take the class.

“The strength of my arms is definitely bigger,” O-T-O student Bethiah Rossa says proudly.

Rossa, a senior at the University of Arizona, wanted an alternative form of exercise and heard about the classes through her brother.

“I really wanted to get into this alternative scene,” she says. “The first couple of weeks I was sore, then sore again.”

Despite the physical challenges, Estrada touts the benefits of trapeze work.

“It’s functional strength,” she says. “It’s good for me.”

The ability to form, mold and create new movements is an organic process in the class. Though students do follow the instructor’s guide and choreography, they are encouraged to experiment with dance.

“It’s challenging,” says Knaub of the classes. “But fun.”


What: O-T-O Dance student showcase, featuring performances by O-T-O students. Event includes a silent auction, with all proceeds going to a scholarship fund for students who need help paying for aerial dance classes.

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Price: $5

Where: The Historic Y Hall, 300 E. University Blvd.


Aerial dance classes will resume again in January. No previous experience is needed. Classes are for all levels, and no reservations are required. If you want to take only one class, drop-in fees are $12. Everyone must sign a hold harmless agreement, which can be found at www.orts.org.

When and price:

• Children’s Aerial Dance II: ages 8-12, 4-5 p.m. Tuesdays, $140

• Aerial Dance I teens and adults: 5-6 p.m. Tuesdays, $140

• Aerial Dance II teens and adults: 4:45-5:45 Mondays, $130

• Aerial Dance III teens and adults: 5-6 p.m. Wednesdays, $140

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