In honor of “The Perfect Aerial Flight” partnership with our friends at Aerial Arts NYC, we spoke with Body & Pole aerial trainer and Aerial Arts NYC co-owner & instructor Josh Dean about his unique circus and dance background, and why combining aerial dance with circus training can be so very beneficial for anyone.
Tell us a little bit about yourself — what is your background in circus and dance?
I am a NYC based circus artist, award winning Burlesque performer, and aerial instructor, who has performed across the US, China, and the 7 seas. I am a co-owner of Aerial Arts NYC, and have been a staff member of Body & Pole since 2013. From early on, while growing up on a farm in Ohio, I knew that I wanted to be on the stage. I received a BFA from Ohio University in Dance, and then traveled to NYC to start my career. I have worked for regional theaters across the US, danced for legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp, and performed on Norwegian and Princess Cruise Lines.
As an aerialist and circus performer, I have worked with many NYC event planners and entertainment companies to create and perform solo and duo acts for nightclubs, weddings, holiday parties, and more. I try to combine my early training in dance with aerial and ground acrobatics to give a graceful cirque performance. My blend of theatricality, death defying skills, and artistry make me a unique and exciting aerial and circus performer.
I am known as the “Cirquelesque Sensation” for combining the art of burlesque with the clowning and acrobatics of circus. In 2019, I was crowned Mr. Exotic World in Las Vegas, which is my third title from the Burlesque Hall of Fame…aka the Olympics of Burlesque. As part of 2toFly, we won the title of Best Small Group, and together, we have traveled the world performing two person shows, and headlining burlesque festivals and variety shows.
I am currently the artistic director of 2 Ring Circus, a theatrical circus company. 2 Ring Circus has created 2 original shows that have toured the US, and our original production of “Cirque le Jazz” has toured throughout China. The company has helmed numerous productions as dance and circus choreographers, including “The Wizard of Oz” at Syracuse Stage, “Godspell” at Arkansas Repertory Theatre, and “Seussical” at CFRT. We have created circus choreography for productions at the LA Opera, Fulton Theatre, Geva Theatre Center, and Syracuse Ballet. I also choreographed the aerial and circus moments for “The Tempest” at Hartford Stage directed by Darko Tresnjak, “Carnival” at Goodspeed Opera House directed by Darko Tresnjak and choreographed by Peggy Hickey, and productions for the ARACA Project and Alabama Shakespeare Festival.
I currently teach regular aerial classes at Aerial Arts NYC and Body & Pole. Having studied teaching theory, and having held multiple personal training certifications, I use my knowledge of kinesiology and progressions to coach students to execute aerial acrobatics with finesse and ease. I bring my love of circus to students of all skills and body types. It does not matter if you are training for fun, fitness, or to learn a new skill, I will help guide you through your Aerial journey through technique, patience, and joy.
How long for and how did you start teaching at B&P?
I have taught at B&P since 2013. I have taken time off during that time to perform and create with 2 Ring Circus, but I always find myself back at the studio. My first introduction to the space was through AERA. In the summer of 2013 I started rehearsal for “Covered Sky”, and through that process I was asked to start teaching. I pretty much started there when the ground floor studio opened up.
When did you open Aerial Arts NYC, and what is your role there?
Aerial Arts NYC started in 2012 out of necessity. We had just lost the space that we were all teaching at, and the company that we were teaching for decided not to have our program at the new space. A few of the teachers, including myself, got together and decided to start our own circus school.
How is dance training different from circus training?
One of the big differences to me is that dance training starts with the ground and is centered on flow while circus training starts with an apparatus or skill and focuses on technique. That is not to say dance does not use technique and circus does not use flow. They both use all these elements, but I think the focuses are slightly different. If you look at classic circus, you can see the clean technique with not much focus on flow. One of the nice things about contemporary circus is that it often combines both. It is not just about the technique or the flow, but can connect both elements into a beautiful piece of poetry.
What are some of the best benefits of circus training?
I think conquering your fears is one of the best benefits. Most of us are scared of heights, being upside-down, and/or falling, but training in circus can help us conquer some of those fears. Also, it is such a fun way to stay in shape and get a workout. Not to mention it can create a great communal experience, which most of us are craving after a year of not having that connection.
Who is the ideal circus student?
Anyone that wants to do it will make a perfect circus student. There are so many circus skills, and I believe everyone can become good at one of them. At the very least, you will have a bunch of fun while you try.
What advice do you have for new circus/Aerial Arts NYC students?
Take it at your own speed. There is no pressure to get good quickly. These skills take time to build. Just enjoy the journey. I love the students that show up just for the fun, and some of them will take a level one/advanced beginner class for years. They find it to be a great workout without the pressure to do harder skills. We can get whatever we want from it, and have a bunch of fun. Like our respective websites say: “Get crazy strong & have flipping fun!” – AANYC & “When you spend time with us you will evolve.” – B&P.
To take advantage of The Perfect Aerial Flight, purchase your package here. Deal expires June 11, 2021.