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Five People to Watch at the International Aerial Dance Festival 2014

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You see aerial dance in circuses and burlesque shows, at gymnastics meets and even on the formal dance stage -- but it wasn't always so. And as Nancy Smith of Boulder's Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance will attest, aerial dance has not only grown in stature in this country, but it's part of an international community that could become the next big thing in performance.

Each year, Smith invites the best of the best in the field to Colorado for the Aerial Dance Festival, two weeks of instruction, networking and public shows. "You won't be able to see these performances anywhere else," she says. "This group of artists might be blocked together in performances only one time."

We asked Smith for her list of the fest's heaviest hitters; following is a rundown of the top five.

See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Nancy Smith of Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance

Ana Prada

Columbian aerial dancer Ana Prada comes to Boulder with an international pedigree that includes stints with Cirque du Soleil and other cirque-style companies and a second career as a traveling yoga and Pilates instructor. She'll be teaching and performing on aerial silk trapeze and lyra, a suspended, trapeze-like hoop during the festival.

Continue reading for more stars of the Aerial Dance Festival.

Karen Fuhrman

New York aerialist Karen Fuhrman has performed and/or choreographed for both Pilobolus and MOMIX, as well as Cavalia, the equestrian cirque that happens to be bringing its big white tent to Denver later this month. She's also performed on television and the stage. Fuhrman started out as a student at the Aerial Dance Festival many years ago; now she's a star performer and instructor at the fest, teaching bungie and rope and harness technique.

Rebecca Starr

Orlando dancer/instructor Starr wields her background in circus arts and gymnastics to bring a brand-new emphasis to the Aerial Dance Fest in its sixteenth year: pole acrobatics and contortion. The flexible athlete's transformative pole work has been seen for more than ten years in the touring show Cirque Dreams; she also performs as part of the aerial hoop duo Lyralicious.

Continue reading for more stars of the Aerial Dance Festival.

Sam Tribble

Gymnast Sam Tribble brings unsurpassed control and acrobatic skill to the fest, where he'll specialize in training on the traveling rings and cyr wheel. "Sam's performance is worth the price alone," Smith says of the fitness master, who enjoys practicing his skills at Muscle Beach when he isn't coaching young gymnasts and teaching the joy of spinning through space within the circumference of the wheel. "His work is just gorgeous; he works with such a sense of balance and grace and strength and musicality."

Gisela Bostjancic

Coming to the Aerial Dance Festival from her hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Gisela Bostjancic, whose specialty is the aerial harness, is still a student -- but not for long. She's also the 2014 recipient of the fest's Glenn P. Davis Scholarship, which honors the late Davis, an early member of Frequent Flyers whose idea it was to stage a festival in a time when aerial dance was still in its infancy. Bostjancic, notes Smith, represents the future of the fast-growing dance genre.

The Aerial Dance Festival's international roster of instructors will shine onstage this weekend for the jewel of the fest, the Aerial Dance Festival 2014 Showcase Performances, today through Sunday at the Dairy Center for the Arts. Come back on August 15 for the Cabaret Showcase, an event new to the fest that puts professional-level students onstage for a night of sometimes off-the-wall performances. Get more information and reserve tickets online.

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