Forget Art Fair on the Square, the Aerialists are the Real Show

Madison+ UX broke new ground—er, air—this year when it welcomed two aerial dancers from Madison Circus Space to perform as part of its beloved “local flavor” spot on Friday afternoon. Jess and Jess Aerial Dance presented a show of beauty, strength and inspiration as they flew through The Playhouse Theater high above the heads of wowed UXers.

“So many conferences feel disconnected from the city they are in – attendees move from one hotel conference room to the next without really getting to experience the city,” says Pamela Pavliscak, founder of Change Sciences and one of the Madison+ UX 2014 speakers. “The Madison conferences do a great job of nudging participants to explore Madison, and this is one of those ways. Plus, who doesn’t love circus performances?”

Jess and Jess began dancing together in 2010 in an aerial silks class and soon joined Cycropia Aerial Dance as students in the flyers program. They began performing at regional festivals in the fall of 2012 and continue to regularly delight audiences in the Midwest area with their unique blend of grace and acrobatics.

To make sure the Overture Center was strong enough to accommodate aerial dance safely, the Jesses did their own rigging, discussing load requirements for equipment and sharing information with the Overture Center staff on the type of gear they would be using in the space.

The aerial dancers were introduced by the talented Heather Gregoire, a UX Designer at Trek Bicycle by day and artist by night. Gregoire prefaced her amazing dual hoop dancing performance with an insightful discussion about the role of “flow” in both her professional life and in her passion for dancing. She explained that flow occurs when one is so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. “The experience of flow,” she says, “creates focus, a merging of action and awareness, and a sense of personal control or agency of a situation. As people doing UX, knowing this recipe for happiness could help us out.”

Where does flow come from? How do we get there? “It’s a balance of skills and challenges,” Gregoire says, “where skill level is high and the challenge is high. It’s not passive relaxing times that bring true happiness. We reach plateaus when skill and challenge fall out of balance. We must find our flow channel.”

The conditions for achieving flow she says are, “knowing what to do, knowing how to do it, knowing how well you are doing, knowing where to go, encountering high perceived challenges with high perceived skills, and, finally, freedom from distractions. The more you can experience flow in your own life,” says Gregoire, “the more you can build it for others.”

If you’re interested in learning more, Madison Circus Space offers clubs and workshops in the flow arts, the aerial arts, German wheel, unicycle, trapeze arts, gymnastics and juggling.