Aerial silks from the perspective of a captivating performer

Anastasia Sauvage was one of my aerial silks level 2 teachers at Aerial Artique when I lived in San Francisco. When Anastasia performs, whether in a show or just demonstrating in class, it is impossible to take your eyes off her. She has a cheeky and captivating performance style that I love and wanted to try to capture in my portrait of her.

Inverted diamond‘ acrylic on canvas portrait of Anastasia Sauvage

Inspiration

Anastasia has amazing flexibility, stunning extension and a graceful way of dancing with the silks. However, that is only part of what makes her performances so captivating. For me, it is the eye contact and intention behind each movement that draws me in to whatever mood or feeling she is trying to convey.

You can see this in her demo reel, but I think it is particularly evident when she interacts with the audience about 45 seconds in.

The classes that I took from Anastasia were so much fun! I think that she put in a lot of effort to provide the most engaging tricks for her students to learn. In conjunction she did a great job at judging the level of difficulty that could be safely achieved by each class. The dynamic between her and Thai Lam was so enjoyable to be around and it was easy to get caught up in their infectious enthusiasm. Thai is one of the previous featured aerial artists on The Art of Flying.

Side by side comparison of ‘Inverted diamond‘ and the reference photograph by RJ Muna

Q&A with Anastasia:

What made you decide to try aerial?
The first time I saw aerial acrobatics, I was 16. I was at a concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. In awe and wonderment, I witnessed humans descending from the ceiling on giant pieces of fabric. They seemed to free fall, appearing as if they would plummet to their deaths – yet to be caught by a leg at the end of the yardage. What sorcery was this? Could this be achieved by mere mortals?
I kept this in the back corners of my mind for several years, until I attended another concert put on by some of my favorite musical artists at the time. They had a resident aerial performer that traveled and performed with them all over the world. At that moment, I realized this is what I needed to do. Coolest job ever? Yes.
How does performing make you feel?
Performing is the absolute essence of my being. It gives me something to look forward to, something to work on, something to pour my heart into. It makes me nervous, excited, and proud to share a piece of myself with the audience. It’s a very strong form of vulnerability that challenges me in a multitude of ways, and keeps evolving with every stage I step on.
What are your favourite type of aerial performances?
My favorite types of aerial performances are the ones that leave me speechless. Present. Inspired. Eager to get back to my creation station. I find a lot of this quality in contemporary circus acts, but have seen it in the great Cirque acts, too. I love acts with soul. Sure, exceptional technique and epic feats of strength are incredible. However, non-traditional, pedestrian movement is stunning.
What is your favourite venue/event type to perform at?
This all depends on what kind of act I’m performing. I’ve been on stage in front of 16,000 people, which was mind blowing. I’ve been in small black box theaters in front of friends and community, which is a very special experience as well. I like high-powered, dynamic acts for large crowds, and subtly powerful, soul-art acts for small, familiar crowds.
What do you hope to convey during your performances?
I hope to pay forward the gift that I’ve received from exceptional performances. I want people to feel a spectrum of emotion. I want them to go out into the world and give their gift of creativity, in whatever form that may be.
What made you interested in teaching aerial?
Teaching aerial was an offer my first coach gave me. Upon witnessing my commitment and dedication, he put me through his teacher training program. My interest sprouted from two different sources. Selflessly excited to share the technique of the art, and selfishly excited to spend more time hacking away at the technique of the art.
What are your favourite aspects of teaching?
My love for teaching has many facets. Teaching has made made my awareness for technique explode. The theory of mastery is true where one learns a subject much more deeply after teaching it.
I love my students. Their weekly enthusiasm and curiosity inspires mine. It’s an absolute gift to watch them learn and understand. I look forward to seeing their shining faces every week!
I also love spending more hours a day with my art. I’m constantly challenged in ways that grow me as a person as well as an artist.
What do you hope your students will get out of your classes?
I hope my students can unlock their own artistry and share their beauty. I hope my students get exactly what they need. Some days that might be epic gratification of finally achieving a move they’ve been working on for weeks. Other days that might be struggle and frustration. I believe in the importance of the contrast of training days, and taking lessons from the challenges in order to fully soak in the glory of success. There’s nothing more powerful than perseverance and not giving up.

Reference Image

All of the images that Anastasia sent me for this portrait were absolutely stunning, with beautiful lines and amazing shapes. I couldn’t resist this one of Anastasia doing an inverted split with a backbend from belay. Her long legs and pointed toes create a lovely diamond shape with the red silk. I also love the composition of the photograph and especially the silk pooling onto the floor below Anastasia.

Photographer RJ Muna

Progress photos of ‘Inverted diamond’

Creative Process

I decided on a brown, red and gold colour scheme for this portrait. The colour scheme was inspired by the bright red silk in the reference photograph. The background was kept simple with vertical colour bands so that the shape of the figure is the focus. I added gold highlights in an attempt to capture the beautiful lighting in the reference photograph

‘Inverted diamond’ on my coffee table with a tea set and potted plant

If you know of a captivating performer like Anastasia I would love to hear from you. It could even be inspiration for my next piece.

If you would like to have a captivating aerialist in your home, you can purchase prints of ‘Inverted diamond‘ in my online store.

Prints of ‘Inverted diamond‘ available in my online store