Imagine dancing in the sky. Envision yourself swirling, spinning, swinging — suspended in air by ribbons of silk. Sheer and colorful, their long tails whisk beneath your movements as you transition from one elegant pose into the next.
That is a day on the job for Baton Rouge silks aerialist Jennie Guillot.
A dancer from age 5 — versed in ballet, hip-hop and jazz, among other styles — she now uses her training as a foundation for pushing the physical and creative bounds of her aerial work.
Currently, she and members of her troupe, Lagniappe Aerial, perform every Friday and Saturday at 1913, 336 Third St., in downtown Baton Rouge. The troupe also will perform at Hi-Ho Lounge, 2239 St. Claude Ave. in New Orleans as part of the Circus Darling cabaret show Feb. 25.
Guillot discovered aerials while studying at LSU and took three courses on the subject as an undergraduate student. She began teaching classes of her own at LSU and elsewhere after she graduated in spring 2013.
“Aerials is a great way to strengthen and create control over your body,” Guillot said. “At first, it can be disorienting to learn to be upside down and remember trick sequences.”
But, she said, following through teaches mental discipline as well as physical dexterity. Aerial trick sequences always begin with a choreographed climb up the silks, transition through a series of drops, slides, flips and poses and end with a final drop back to the floor.
Guillot teaches her own signature trick sequence, which LSU has coined the “Sleeping Beauty Sequence,” to students regularly. She also recently founded and is the artistic director of Baton Rouge’s own Lagniappe Aerial. The troupe consists of five core members who perform aerial acts set to a theme and choreographed to music.
The routines are crafted to showcase the aerialists’ strength, flexibility and grace. Specialized performances take the troupe about a month to create.
“I always start with the theme,” Guillot said. “From there, I find music that goes with the theme that I’m inspired by, then I write down a choreography sequence I’m comfortable with, and then I always go back and add at least one new move.”
The troupe is part of a growing trend in Baton Rouge, where aerial workshops are becoming popular as an exercise regimen and can be found at an increasingly number of places. Open Barre, Fleur de Leaf, Teaze Fitness and AirSeekers offer beginning and advanced courses in various aerial techniques.
Also available are aerial hoop classes, in which a metal hula-hoop is suspended from the ceiling to use in stretches and poses and aerial yoga classes.
These classes are meant to teach body awareness through a new physical skill, develop flexibility and increase strength and balance.
“With aerials you prove yourself everyday,” Lagniappe Aerial performer Gretchen Rothermel said. “You continue to build your way up.”