Aerial show Swings Asunder explores self identity

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Dancers from "Swings Asunder" emerge from pods that hang from the ceiling, symbolizing birth.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Eight dancers spin in and around a suspended hoop, flying 30 feet in the air as a bed frame rises from a stage. Each individual struggling to achieve gender fluidity.

UT alumnus Justin Sherburn and director, writer and choreographer Nathan Brumbaugh created Swings Asunder, an aerial movement and dance show that focuses on gender stereotypes, sex and self-worth. The show runs from June 20 through July 4 at the Long Center.

"The intention is to look at ourselves as creative beings," Brumbaugh said. "We're presented as male or female because we're born in a specific way. But it's important to look at the fluidity rather than boundaries of gender."

Sherburn, who recently received Austin's Critic's Table 2015 Excellence in Composition Award, composed the show’s original score. He collaborated with Brumbaugh, a world-traveled dancer, and pulled from their own experiences with finding their identity.    

"It's about figuring out what we want stylistically and balancing what he wants to do and what I can do,” Sherburn said. "We sat and listened to Spotify and picked rhythms that are interesting. It's telling a story and a narrative with music."

The show features eight of performance group Sky Candy’s Austin-based aerialists and dancers. Each performer originally specialized in either aerial acrobatics or ground-floor dance, but Brumbaugh said he pushed his team to explore both.

Dancers from "Swings Asunder" perform acrobatic tricks on a cube-shaped frame suspended from the ceiling. Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

“We all have different body shapes and style of movement. I see how everyone moves and how it connects with my ideas, and we create a body together," Brumbaugh said. "I usually choreograph without music because it's about having trust and a sacred space for performing.”

Amy Myers, one of the show’s dancers, has been dancing for 34 years. Her previous experience was in ballet and modern dancing with local bands, but she had only done aerial acrobatics once before.

“I saw the bar in the air and knew I needed to get up there but didn’t know how,” Myers said. “But it’s amazing because it’s now difficult to tell the difference between the ground dancers and aerial dancers.”

Myers said the show addresses what it means to be masculine and feminine and how to push those stereotypes away. She said she has loved the process and hopes the show inspires people to accept themselves.

There’s a universal connection in the show, and there’s also some lighter moments where we get a few laughs,” Myers said.

Sherburn said he usually doesn’t suggest people go to his shows, but he believes Swings Asunder is especially important.

“Oftentimes, symphony’s have so much talent, but it’s a piece that was written 150–200 years ago, but this show is timely, and it’s fun show,” Sherburn said. “Everyone is good at what they do, but it’s also relevant which is rare.”

Brumbaugh said, when people don’t feel connected, they turn to music, film, books and search for something more. He feels the show’s focus on identity is especially important for people in their 20s to see because of the pressures they face.

"When I was in my early 20s, the pressure to fit in was extreme, which allows for feeling that we're not good enough," Nathan said. "[The show] is an important reminder to stay true to oneself, especially when we're claiming identity. If we stay true and are aware of our qualities, it can inspire others to do the same."