These Aerial Studios Take Austin’s Art Scene to New Heights
Three local aerial artists show us what it’s like to express their craft with silk, sling, trapeze and more
By Darcie Duttweiler
Photos by Phil Kline
Shot on location at at Laché Movement
Much like pole dancing, which caught on a decade or so ago as an alternative workout, in recent years aerial classes have also become a fun way to move your body instead of hitting the gym. However, unlike Montreal and Seattle, which are the homes to Cirque du Soleil and Acrobatic Conundrum respectively, Austin isn’t quite bursting at the seams with aerial exhibitions. In the capital city, there are a handful of studios and performance groups, but the art form is still relatively under the radar compared to the plethora of live music, dance and theatre shows Austinities enjoy year-round. These three aerial artists are hoping to change that.
The Community Builder
Laché Movement co-owner Sonnie Boyson admits she bounced around from friend group to friend group until she found herself involved with the Austin aerial community.
“I just have all these people that I know now, and we all work together to create fun things and be a part of things together,” Boyson says. “They shifted my whole perspective on humanity and how humans connect.”
It was that connection that drove Boyson to seek out pole dancing at first, before gradually taking lyra lessons, simply to find out what else her body could physically do. Eventually, she began teaching classes, while still working as an engineer at National Instruments, before being approached to become a co-owner at Laché Movement.
“Dmitri Gonzalez was starting a parkour studio and wanted to include aerials because there was such a demand for it. I am so in love with this community, so it was important for me to create that space for them,” Boyson says.
Now, she’s working full-time at Laché Movement, managing the gym while also teaching pole and lyra lessons to both kids and adults, as well as managing to find some spare time to still perform on several different apparatuses — including lyra, flying pole, cube, sling and infinity lyra (which looks like a figure eight) — with her own aerial company, Fly Unfeathered. Boyson’s goal is to not only entertain Austinites, but also educate her fellow performers on how to not be a starving artist and push the market to understand how much training and dedication goes into the art. Aerials can be quite expensive, so it’s challenging to perform an art that the city hasn’t quite realized the demand for yet.
“We’re getting all these new, young aerialists, but it’s hard to find those opportunities to perform, so we’re trying to find businesses who want to give that space. It’s the type of art our weird, fun city can support,” she explains.
In addition, Boyson also teaches others how to become better coaches and consults with people trying to open their own studios across the state. Before she left her job at National Instruments, she took an aptitude course to discover what her core principles were, and she discovered that was helping others in as many ways as she could in a healthy, supportive community.
“Opening a studio is such an amazing way to create an opportunity for as many people as possible to start their version of healing and improving lives through movement,” she says. “This is what I’m supposed to be doing — helping people and guiding this community so that they can then go create their communities.”
Being a writer opens up Tolly Moseley to more than just her body movements when it comes to performing. It’s that aspect of storytelling as an aerialist that most excites her after performing for more than 10 years on various apparatuses. She got her first taste of what mediums marry well with the art of aerial during a 2016 Rapt Aerial Dance show called “Bedpost Confessions,” which juxtaposed aerial silk performances with personal narratives being told on stage.
“It was so cool to be able to bring writers and aerialists in and put them in conversation in a show like that,” Moseley says. “It was unique in the aerial world to combine text and aerials at that time.”
Since then, Moseley has been finding other interesting ways to combine more art forms in her works. From actors to musicians and even to videographers, she’s constantly striving to push the envelope and create a whole new performance art centered around aerial routines. More recently during COVID, she worked with local actors, Erica Lies and Ted Meredith, as well as her musician husband Ross Carnes, and videographer Jared Sosa, to direct a video project called “How Are You?” where she twists and twirls to great heights while exploring those three little words that seemed to take on new weight in 2020.
“Most people think of aerial as this kind of a whimsical work, but I try to find collaborative entities that are not aerialists and bring them together to create an interesting experience for the audience,” Moseley explains. “Every aerialist wants to tell a story, but the audience members don’t know the story, so bringing in the spoken word or actors with the movement is really exciting.”
While she continues to teach and practice, Moseley is looking for her next big project, where she can introduce another medium: food. She’d love to create a dinner theatre focused on the relationship between pain and pleasure that the audience would experience while eating. She’d also love to incorporate more live music in her pieces and is itching to work with local band Golden Dawn Arkestra in the future.
As for the audience heading to an aerial performance, she recommends to “come in with an open heart and mind. Be present. Presence creates an energetic conversation between the performer and audience member.”
It comes as no surprise that Leila Noone loves to fly. As a child, the former level 10 competitive gymnast and three-time “American Ninja Warrior” finalist spent hours upon hours in the backyard, where her dad rigged a giant rope swing. She always loved being in the air and climbing on things, so it was a natural fit that she would discover the world of aerial arts and become so entrenched in its community.
Noone has been a gymnast since she was three years old, but it wasn’t until she took theatre classes in college that she became interested in performing. As a “circus artist” Noone is a trained acrobat, hand balancer, dancer, contortionist, aerialist, stunt woman and part of an acro duo. While she loves gymnastics and discovering new ways to move her body, aerial arts allow her to propel herself into something completely different: storytelling.
“I was a monkey since birth, but when I found this medium, it took my athleticism to a completely different level,” Noone explains.
Noone loves pushing the boundaries athletically and is known for her high-level tricks, such as balancing on her hands and shooting a bow and arrow with her feet. And many of her routines involve her being very, very high in the air. She’s performed an aerial rope number off a hot air balloon for the “The Aeronauts” premiere and also highlined across a canyon in Moab, Utah, while performing aerial silks 500 feet off the ground. “That’ll make your heart pound,” she chuckles.
But it’s her softer side that Noone currently is most looking forward to exploring with her performances, like her current show “Unspun Tales,” which is a serene aerial fairy tale where she performs four different apparatuses set to Celtic music.
“I’ve always been one to see how far I can go, but the flip side is compassion, empathy and vulnerability,” Noone explains. “And so, marrying that with my athleticism and then really tapping into my heart space is what I love about aerials. It’s not just physical, it’s therapeutic and it teaches you how to connect with humans through storytelling.”
Learn the Ropes
- Bat City Circus
Silks and sling, cube, trapeze, cyr wheel, and lyra
- Blue Lapis Light
Silks and harness
- Laché Movement
Pole fitness, lyra, silks, and parkour
- Sky Candy
Bungee, circus fitness, lyra, rope, silks, sling, pole, and trapeze