Cycropia is one of a handful of aerial dance
troupes within the United States. Using low-flying trapezes,
trapeze hoops, hand loops, aerial fabric, a Spanish web and
other aerial apparatus, we combine modern dance, athleticism
and the magic of defying gravity. Cycropia has developed quite
a large following, having earned a reputation for spreading
wonder and delight wherever we go.
We are as devoted to our community as they are
to us since we take our mission of community building seriously.
Over the years we have completed several Artist-in-Residencies
in Madison, lecture demonstrations at elementary and high schools
and we offer ongoing workshops for adults and children. We strive
to offer at least one annual free show, hanging our trapezes
from majestic oak trees in Wisconsin's parks.
Aerial dance was invented by Terry Sendgraff in
Oakland, California. The initial spark for Cycropia came in
1989, when the University of Wisconsin's German Department invited
aerial dance pioneer Robert Davidson to perform Airborne:
Meister Eckhart at Madison's Mitchell Theater. Through aerial
dance, song and drama, Davidson told the story of the 13th century
German mystic Meister Eckhart. As he performed throughout the
United States, Davidson included local performers in his production.
| Members of Cycropia's first crew
Originally, Renée Miller auditioned as
a singer, but soon found herself dancing through the air. Miller
invited her friends, Pamela Maye and Eric Rupert to see the
show. Along with Kevin Mullaney, these three friends brought
Davidson back to teach a workshop and founded Cycropia Aerial
Dance Conspiracy. Cycropia's first performance, a fund-raiser
called Beg and Breakfast, was a treat for the eye and
the taste buds. Dancers showcased both their new-found skills
on the trapeze and their culinary talents. With the money raised
at the Beg and Breakfast the troupe sent Maye and Rupert
to Seattle for Joan Skinner and Robert Davidson's Skinner Releasing
and Flying workshop. Since that time many of our members have
made the pilgrimage to Seattle for this annual workshop.
Rehearsing for Flights of Fancy
beneath the arching beams of Turner Hall
The new flyers found a comfortable nest in the
old Turner Hall on Butler Street, just blocks from the State
Capitol in downtown Madison. Swinging from Turner Hall's curved
wooden beams, they staged their first production, Hanging
by a Thread, in 1991.
Dancer and choreographer Pamela Maye, brought
power, creative inspiration and poetry to the collective. Pamela's
tragic death in an automobile accident in October of that same
year almost brought Cycropia to an end; but with time and healing,
a new incarnation of Cycropia began.
Cycropia has had a hard time maintaining a technical
staffthough not through any fault of its own. Drawn by
the power of flight, lighting board and sound, technicians tend
to slip out of their supportive roles and are soon seen dancing
with the troupe. Kenneth Loud, Patrick Crean and Robert Summerbell,
all members of the technical crew of Hanging by a Thread,
soon became key dancers and members of the collective. By 1993,
Cycropia was back in full swing. Its second full-scale production,
Flights of Fancy, took to the air under the artistic
direction of Gretchen Renner.
Cycropia prospered and grew, teaching classes
and staging Dreams of Flying in 1994, Caution
in 1995 and Nocturne in 1996. Cycropia branched out literally,
bringing the magic of human flight into natural surroundings
with Trapeze in the Treez at Madison's Orton and Olin
Parks in 1995 and Nocturne Taliesen at Frank Lloyd Wright's
Taliesen in Spring Green, Wisconsin in 1996.
Later in 1996, Cycropia suffered another major
loss in when Turner Hall was torn down. We became Madison's
homeless dance company, wistfully hanging our trapezes in garages,
barns and trees in search of a new home.
In 1997 the troupe began to rent space at The
Lighthouse Theater. Cycropia has been blessed with many multi-talented
members including professional carpenters. During the construction
and renovation of The Lighthouse, they helped erect a fire wall,
designed, constructed and finished a sprung wood floor and supervised
other members who swarmed in to help build and paint bleachers,
carry sheet rock and hang the curtains and lighting equipment
Cycropia lent to the new theater.
Angela Richardson and Julia Weldon
at the South Madison Neighborhood Center
Also in 1997, David Smith, director of the South
Madison Neighborhood Center, now the Dane County Boys and Girls
Club, offered us the use of their gym during off peak hours.
Our deepest gratitude goes out to David Smith and current director,
Juan Jose Lopez, for this rehearsal space. At the Neighborhood
Center, we have taught classes for community children, performed
free shows and made donations toward center renovations. We
have continued to use the gym for rehearsals up to the present
Patrick Crean and Rebecca Bock
performing United by a Dream by Kenneth Loud
at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesen. Photo: Andy Kraushaar
Our partial homelessness in 1997 had made it impossible
to produce a full-length show, but in 1998, under the artistic
direction of Renee Miller and with generous support from Wisconsin's
Sesquicentennial Fund, Cycropia was able to launch it's first
Wisconsin tour, Aerial Chautauqua. The season opened
at The Lighthouse Theater and the show traveled to Madison's
Orton Park, Milwaukee's Lake Park and closed at Frank Lloyd
Wright's Taliesen in Spring Green.
Unfortunately, soon after Aerial Chautauqua, the
hourly rate at the Lighthouse Theater rose and we were no longer
able to afford to rehearse, teach and perform in that space.
So 1999 was another year of transition, regrouping, and smaller
In 1999, the artistic director of Frequent
Flyers Productions, Nancy Smith founded the Aerial Dance
Festival in Boulder, Colorado. Yearly, the festival brings together
aerial dancers from across the United States and around the
world. Cycropia members have car-pooled to Colorado for the
festival since its inception.
|Swinging at the State Street Center
In 2000 and 2001 we were able to find additional
space to teach and rehearse in the third floor dance studio
at the State Street Center, and Bob Queen, director of the Orton
Park festival, invited us to perform. Cycropia produced Potluck
in the Park in 2000 and Lift in 2001 for the Orton
Park Festival under the artistic direction of Jennifer Ruef.
The troupe rounded out the year with a New Year's Eve performance
at the Coronado Theatre in Rockford.
See our calendar for upcoming