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Aerial Dance attracts students to UNH

By JACQUELINE MUNDRY, Contributing Writer

Aerial dance is a modern style in which dancers are suspended up to 30 feet off the ground from hanging equipment.

Although aerial dance has been in the United States since the 1970s, it is still uncommon for college campuses to offer lessons of this style. UNH is one of the five college campuses in the U.S. to offer an aerial dance program, according to Dance Teacher magazine.

Freshmen are not allowed to partake in aerial because professor Gay Nardone wants to be able to trust that the dancers can suspend themselves in the air safely.

Nardone was the pioneer of the aerial dance program at UNH. In 2003 she began teaching her first classes. The dancers in the aerial program have succeeded across the Northeast, with some dancers going to Boston to work and perform.

“Our dancers have gone out to their own little companies, their own schools, and working with other circus and dance companies,” Nardone said.

Earlier this month Dance Teacher magazine published a story about aerial dance called

“Higher Ground” which featured UNH senior Kayla Lennon, a dance major. Lennon has been a member of the Dance Company since she was a freshman, and has been doing aerial since the summer of 2012.

Though Lennon wasn’t able to begin aerial until 2012, she had seen it at her home studio, Steppin’ Out Dance Academy in Kingston, New Hampshire. Lennon teaches seven classes at Steppin’ Out while also working on six competitive dances of her own. She spends her summers at the studio teaching aerial to children ages 5 to 15. This coming summer, Lennon is going to have the opportunity to perform at Prescott Park in Portsmouth.

“It was definitely a huge factor on my decision to come here,” Lennon said about aerial.

She also discussed how other universities offer aerial, but UNH has more options within the dance.

“UNH has a very structured program,” Lennon said. Another unique part of UNH’s aerial program is that dancers can receive academic credit for aerial courses. Other universities do not offer this.

Lennon is very passionate about this form of dance.

“The way the fabric moves is very appealing to me; it’s one of the only types of dance that looks effortless,” Lennon said.

Though Lennon really enjoys the type of dance and the fabric on which she performs, it’s not all easy. Fabric burns similar to rug burns often take a toll on her body.

Lennon sees herself continuing to teach dance in the future while also performing when she can. UNH has given her and fellow aerialists in the program the opportunity to perform a lot more than they would be able to at other universities, up to 11 times a year according to Dance Teacher magazine.

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