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Aerial dance holds year-end showcase

By James Scott, Contributing Writer
Every ten seconds there was another burst of applause, as UNH senior Christian Gray defied physics without a safety net. He gripped the sheathed rope, called a Spanish Web, contorting his body horizontal over the ground. The smoothness of his movements made the effort look effortless. The narrowing of his eyes told another story as he held his whole weight with his arms, sometimes with just one hand.
Gray was one of 18 students to perform in the Aerial Dance Showcase Wednesday evening. Pink and orange light from the sunset bled through the narrow windows of New Hampshire Hall’s Newman Dance Studio, noticeable even through the space’s fluorescent lighting. Some audience members sat cross-legged, while other’s stood packed towards the edges of the room: the $5 per ticket event had virtually sold out.
Gay Nardone, the director of dance at UNH, stood to the side, smiling encouragement to her dancers. She started the aerial program at UNH in 2003, and stakes UNH’s claim of being the first university in the country to have an aerial program. Despite her programs growing prestige, Nardone was clear that her program has a place for anybody who can set their mind to it.
“It’s not unusual for students to join the program who have no experience in dance,” said Nardone. “Typically our students have done some dance or gymnastics before college, but we have absolutely had students with no experience at all, and I am always impressed with them.”
Hannah Beck, a senior Dance Major in her fourth and final semester in the program, said she knew she wanted to be involved in the program from the moment she saw her first aerial performance her freshmen year. She enrolled herself in Nardone’s summer aerial dance camp, and the rest, she said, was history.
“When I first started, I couldn’t even do a single pull-up,” said Beck with a smile, her face a little red. “Then, last semester, I finally just ‘got it,’ and it was the most amazing thing in the world. Now I’ll be teaching at Gay’s camp this summer, and couldn’t be more excited for what comes next.”
Gray said he has known Nardone since he was in middle school, and that she and her aerial program were one of the main reasons why he chose UNH.
“I’ve been dancing my whole life,” Gray said. “Even with all of that experience, aerials are tough. It’s definitely a struggle; I’ve built muscles I didn’t even know existed.”
Gray said he is still figuring out what he’s going to do after he graduates in less than three weeks. He said that he knows that the intersection between his Neuroscience Major and Dance Minor might be a tricky one to find, but it does exist.
“Physical therapy just for aerialists is pretty big and only just starting up,” Gray said. “Even if that ends up not being for me, I still plan on dancing after I graduate. Hopefully I can get a gig performing on a cruise ship for a while. How couldn’t that be awesome?”

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