Aerial modern dance is a subgenre of contemporary dance first recognized in the United States in the 1970s. The choreography includes an apparatus that is often attached to the ceiling, allowing the performers to explore the space in three dimensions. The ability to include both vertical and horizontal motion paths allows for innovation in choreography and movement. Air dance is of two types.
In an upright dance, the dancer is suspended in a harness from a rope or cable and explores the difference in gravity, weightlessness, and the varied possibilities of movement offered by being suspended. In the second type, the dancer or acrobat intertwines the use of the floor or wall with his aerial apparatus. The first uses the power and expression of altered state dance to convey contemporary ideas. In the second, the dancer uses the dance as a way to show that their work is less trick-based than circus art, and in some cases hopes that abandoning the circus will make their work more modern and artistic.
One of the first choreographers to use what we now call aerial dance was Trisha Brown. She called her dances (1968–1971) “pieces of equipment”. Please watch a video reproduction of one of her early works. These are not “dancing” figures, but by placing pedestrians on the side wall, Brown illustrates the choreography of everyday movement. In particular, she was the first choreographer to lift the dancers into the air. She staged several plays from the ground, some of which included projection and multimedia, using air surfaces and walls in new ways.