An Interview with Andrea Burkholder

Photograph of Andrea Burkholder by Tom Kochel. Used with permission.

Andrea Burkholder is a dancer whose medium is the air.

As an “aerial artist,” the Hyattsville resident performs a mix of modern dance and circus acrobatics around the greater Washington area.

In an email interview with the Hyattsville Wire, she talked about her unique performances and her thoughts on the area.

What exactly is aerial arts?

Our company came up with the term “Aerial Arts” to describe our mission to bring the artistry of dance to the impact of aerial/circus work. We do not create work that is about the tricks, as circus work is, but we do stay committed to using our apparatus as the means to convey our work. Choreography and the power of the movement and time between the “tricks” plays a much bigger role in aerial arts. We are not  high-flying and do not use nets. We work anywhere from just above the ground to 24 feet high.

How did you get started in it?

I was a professional dancer, always working very intensively and physically, with a lot of partnering and contact work. In 1998/1999, a fellow dancer informed me of a class in “aerial dance” that was just starting in Baltimore. I decided to try it. The woman teaching had just moved from Boulder, Colo., where aerial dance was fairly popular. Soon after joining her class, I became a founding member of her company, Air Dance Bernasconi.

After working with her for a couple of years, two of us from the company decided to start our own, D.C.-area based aerial company. However along the way of our training, we decided to go back to the more pure circus form of aerial and add our performing and choreographic artistry to that, rather than to continue doing aerial dance. (Aerial dance is a specific genre of aerial work that involves apparatus which are easily accessible to a “ground-based” dancer.)

If someone was interested in learning how to do this, where would they start?

Five years ago I began teaching aerial work at Joe’s Movement Emporium in Mount Rainier.  My company teaches for the complete beginner through the professional. We offer beginner workshops as well as beginner solo, duo and trio lessons. All of these offer training in aerial conditioning, basic trapeze and silk skills. They give enough information to let you know how you would like to pursue the work. Everyone is strong enough to start and everyone gets stronger as they do the work.

At what age do people retire from this kind of job?

People who have trained properly and avoid major injury can have a long career in this work, as the work evolves with you. I am 37 and much stronger  in my body and in my performance than I was at 27, and I have several friends in their 40s and 50s still teaching and performing.

How did you end up living in Hyattsville?

I graduated from University of Maryland at College Park in 1997 and got work in dance in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, so staying in that area seemed like a smart thing to do. I first moved to Hyattsville by Kenilworth and Decatur, then I moved to Mount Rainier, then Takoma Park. But when it came time to look to buy a house (around 2003), I heard  about the Arts District developing in Hyattsville and wanted to live in a place that supported my husband and I as artists (he is also a dancer and choreographer). While we are still awaiting the support for the performing arts from the Arts District, we have been so happy to be so close to all of the arts venues in the D.C. region. We would love to have a studio location in Hyattsville to truly make this town our home, personally and professionally.

Read more about Andrea’s work on her website, Arachne Aerial Arts.

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