Event Entertainment Ideas and Blog

Quality + unique corporate entertainment

Bach Goes Cajun

Sean Grissom is a cute, charismatic, tweedy, talkative and talented cellist who takes the already engrossing cello and kicks it up a notch with Cajun tweaking. Many classical musicians will just come to your event, play and leave with nary a word. Sean Grissom will charm everyone at your event from your antsy 4-year-old niece to your overworked, bored businessman.

Internationally known as “the Cajun Cellist,” Sean has performed his unique brand of Country, Cajun, Classical , Swing, and Rock music from the streets and subways of New York City to the concert halls of Europe and the Far East.  “O’Cello” – his hit one-man show – runs the gamut of musical tastes and vaudeville humor.

Witness his genius here.

Sean can also make his cello FANDANGO!

No stranger to the Kennedy Center, Sean has performed as part of the Open House, as well as hosting a ‘Holiday Vaudeville’ show on the Millenium Stage for the past 6 years, and has been a Visiting Artist.

Sean has produced and released eight recordings – his latest being a 20th Anniversary Edition of his first recording “From The Street”.  He has published over 10 original compositions under his “Solo Cello Encore Series”, and an improvisation book “What! For Cello?”.  He is also a popular lecturer, teacher, and clinician.

He holds a B.F.A. degree in Fine Arts from Pratt Institute, a Masters in Music Performance from Hunter College (he studied with Channing Robbins of the Juilliard School), as well as an A.A.S degree in Graphics and Advertising from the Parsons School of Design, and completed the Teacher Training program in the ‘Suzuki Approach’ at the School for Strings.

Sean is so appropriate for almost any event, from the most staid of settings to the shock and awe stage. He would be perfect with a quartet or quintet of musicians or on his own, wooing the crowd with his words. So why not let him regale your guests and make even the most cynical ones crack a smile at his unassuming charm?

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For more information about Sean Grissom, contact BONGARBIZ at info@bongarbiz.com or (914) 734-1177.

PAINTED LADIES

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Monet & Van Gogh Backs

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Dancing Picasso and Monet

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Breakdancing Phenom MiRi Park Spins the World Right Round

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(Photo: Martha Cooper)

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MiRi Park has a BFA in modern dance, but she never took a single hip hop class at her university. She also has a BA in journalism and an MA in American Studies. So how did she end up teaching hip hop dance at Steinhardt School of Education’s dance program, winning the role of Alexi Darling in Broadway blockbuster musical “Rent,” winning the Air Guitar Championship, and becoming one of the world’s premier b-girls (for those not in the know: women who breakdance)?

Has your first love always been dance?
I started dancing seriously at 10 years old. Having grown up feeling like I never fit in anywhere, it was the first time I ruled the roost and felt completely in my own skin and present. It was an escape for me — I put on makeup and a costume and went onstage, and all the insecurity went away. I sought out dance and music, this place I could go to and not worry about my looks or skin color. I felt like if I could relate to other people regarding music that we could dance to. I went to college and really fully immersed myself in understanding modern dance.

How did you get into hip hop dance, which is now your primary medium?
When I came to New York, I still didn’t quite fit in in dance. Even with a dance major background, there was still something missing. I felt this separation and distance. DanceSpirit magazine asked me to write this article about b girls, and I met this guy named Breakeasy (a.k.a. Richard Santiago) and he’s been my mentor. I went to his practice sessions at McCarren Park in Williamsburg. Hip hop is really this culture where you’re expected to be an individual, and not to bite anybody’s style. This is totally where I belong.

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Breaking is just one element of the total culture that is hip hop. Tell those not in the know about the different elements of hip hop culture that are vitally connected to breakdancing.
Hip-hop culture propagated that there are 5 styles. There is funk style popping and lock and breaking, emceeing and rapping, turntabling and deejaying, writing and graffiti, and then some people would say how you rock it, a lifestyle thing. It’s basically just a mindset in which you structure your life. Everything I do has something to do with the dance aspect of things. My closest friends are my b-girlfriends. My network is based on hip hop.

What other kinds of dance do you do, African, salsa, etc.?
African, salsa, yes, also house dancing, voguing, whacking.

What are voguing and whacking?
Voguing is related to what Madonna does in her “Vogue” video, represented in the Paris is Burning documentary, and done by Benny Ninja and Willy Ninja, who created new extreme poses for voguing. Whacking is about living this fabulous identity of a screen siren. It’s a little bit dancier with less posing, and is a west coast style. You can see it in the movie Break In.

What is your life like these days? Jetting from location to location performing?
I just got hired for the Broadway show “Rent” as Alexi Darling. I will also be teaching as the dance captain for anyone who joins the tour. It will be 14 weeks. I also teach hip hop dance at NYU and am the program coordinator for the oral history MA program at Columbia. I did an oral history of b-girls in 1990 and my thesis advisor started the oral history program at Columbia.

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(Photo: Martha Cooper)

How is it teaching at NYU?
I have been teaching for three years now, and the students say they never thought they could do these dances, had no reference for hip hop before, and even though they don’t think they’ll major in it, it makes them have a lot of fun and will always do them at parties. I expect people to take a chance and have fun while they’re doing it.

What can you teach or perform at corporate events?
We can bring a spectacular show with my all female group Fox Force Five. We can also bring b-boys, as we know and work with a crew.

At corporate events, party dancing is the best activity. It is a stepping stone for someone who doesn’t have any background in hip hop dance. Pop culturally, it is the easiest reference, and it came out of a social context. We are not facing the mirror in a line, but facing into a circle, then breaking down into groups and exploring different types of dances, including ones they want to bring in that they’ve ever done in their lives, at parties. Then we do a combination of what they bring and what I teach them. Hip hop dance is the art of improv manifested to particular music. They get to improv within a structure. It happens time and time again that I’ve seen the quietest people light up and completely participate in ways you would’ve never expected.

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(Photo: Martha Cooper)

It’s unusual to see female breakdancers, much less an Asian female breakdancer.
I grew up in a small community suburb listening to hip hop in the ’90s. I thought it was something to consume, but didn’t understand the culture or why I connected so deeply with it. It turns out when my dad immigrated to this country, he was also extremely connected to Motown culture and had a huge record collection.

When I was learning breaking at McCarren, it was predominantly male, Spanish and black with a sprinkling of Asians in 2001, all different ages, all different backgrounds. At those practices was the first time I felt completely in my skin. It’s no secret there’s a stereotype of Asian women so it was kind of a benefit at this point, not a bad thing to be an Asian female. There’s a weird thing of Japanese people coming over to New York learning to dance. Academically, that’s the kind of thing I find really interesting because there’s still a lot of discussion about why these things started and became so popular. I started my masters because why I was so interested in these forms. I grew up in upper middle class suburbs but thrived in an art that is traditionally working class and black.

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(Photo: Daragh McDonagh)

How was it performing your winning air guitar routine on Conan?
I poked fun at the Hello Kitty type, demure Asian female. It happened to strike a chord, no pun intended. It was quite interesting to be able to do comedy with a message even if people didn’t understand it. That’s what I appreciate about comedy, is that the things that are truly the funniest are also the most intellectual. I actually started taking improv in the fall. I incorporate it and laugh at myself. When you’re doing these dances, you feel ridiculous if you’ve never done them before, so you have to laugh at yourself.

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(Photo: Daragh McDonagh)

What’s valuable about learning hip hop dance?
Even though I grew up dancing, I didn’t grow up tumbling. By the time I was a senior I was known as the one who was afraid to go upside down. I’d had a few bad experiences growing up and had a total mental block. I didn’t start professionally breaking until a year into the experience. I was performing in modern pieces, going back to school, had a severe injury in school, and was hampered by those things. When I was injured, I had to ask, does this mean I’m still a dancer and an artist, even when I can’t walk? More than an actual skill, you just learn a new way to learn your life, which is more valuable than anything else, learning to approach something. I was raised Korean Zen Buddhist, deep in the understanding of meditation and dancing my whole life. You learn to beyond survive and not have any fear.

What’s next for hip hop dance?
House dancing is an evolution of top-rocking that you do before you hit the floor in a breaking sequence. Tap, modern dance, lyrical – those are the next step in street dance culture.

Below is a video of MiRi’s b-girls performing at Lincoln Center in the We B-Girlz Battle.

highlights from We B*GIrlz Battle at Lincoln Center in 2006

For more information about MiRi Park, contact BONGARBIZ at info@bongarbiz.com or (914) 734-1177.

A Modern Bouffon Who Teaches, Directs and Enlightens

You might know the Red Bastard. If you don’t, this video won’t give you the entire feeling of how fun it is to have him poke fun at you in person when you’re a member of the live audience, but it gives you an idea for how great the Red Bastard is and how much fun you WOULD have if he were performing for you!

You should really watch this, even if it means your boss stops and stares and guffaws at your screen. For my favorite part, skip to 2:42.

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So you know the Red Bastard. But you might not know Eric Davis, the man behind the Red Bastard.

Eric Davis is a multi-talented clown and a bouffon.

What the heck is that French-sounding word, you ask?

A bouffon is a character developed by Jacque Lecoq, a French actor and mime who trained Geoffrey Rush, Isla Fisher and many a clown, for starters.

The bouffon actually goes beyond the common conception of a clowning buffoon, superseding such mere tomfoolery by transferring the attention from “Let’s mock the clown and, by exposing his vulnerabilities, expose humanity’s flaws,” to “Let’s poke fun at you as an audience member and draw attention to your flaws and your humanity and the fact that you are present here as part of this dialogue.”

In the process, the bouffon makes you laugh so hard that you keep asking for more attention from him.

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Eric Davis is one of the best known bouffons in the world. One of Eric’s personas, the Red Bastard, is delightful in contrarian, surprising ways: ridiculously, ruddily misshapen, yet incredibly visually appealing in his complete bizarreness; mocking and exposing of your flaws and vulnerabilities, yet completely accessible and even lovable; stodgy-looking yet incredibly dexterous and light on his feet when he hops and mimes.

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Eric is also, as aforementioned, an experienced clown and actor in non-bouffon form, who has acted in various plays and co-founded The New York Clown Theatre Festival.

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Eric is also an experienced teacher and director. He is available for corporate workshops in teamwork and communication, private and public events, and development for artists.

Eric’s goal, whether teaching corporate CEOs or full-time artists, is to “seek the ability for people to be present and to connect with the audience, the people they are working with, and themselves, and for them to find a true fearless joy in a high state of play.”

And though it may surprise you, this handsome man is below all those layers of white face paint and those red lumpy body bumps. When you hire him as a teacher or director or see him walking home from the grocery store juggling apples, he’ll most likely be showing up looking like this.

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Eric is our Grade A Geek of the Week. He’s a creative genius and a credit to what the performing arts community can produce when it gives freedom of thought and exploration to a intuitively talented, hardworking, intellectual actor and clown who really thinks through his process and applies his theory to his performance. We hope you’ll read our interview with him below.

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You’re a teacher and a director as well as a performer. What do you do in those capacities — clowning workshops, movement lessons, improvisation, etc.? Does that work in a corporate environment?
I do corporate workshops with teamwork and communication. I work with CEOs and corporations and crews for all kinds of things using improv as a metaphor for working together, and I do development for artists. I also teach clown and bouffon and movement.

Tell us about your different personas, from the Red Bastard to clowning.
Over the last two years, I’ve been doing more bouffon. I have been doing more of the Red Bastard character recently and developing a show for that. I also have a clown show. Between the two of them, the clown has more range than the bouffon. There’s much more vulnerability.

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Why have you done more of the Red Bastard lately?
The responses were just so much more powerful that even as a bizarre thing, it’s more marketable.

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Tell us about this little-known character, the bouffon, in your words.
The bouffon style came out of the exploration of the Lecoq school, in trying to find somebody who could mock anything. Initially, they were looking at the medieval age for models for that, people who were outcasts from the city and then would have the chance at the Feast of Fools carnival to turn that around and make a mockery of the audience. It’s someone who’s a bit of a demigod, not even of this earth necessarily, a strange mysterious creature who is watching us. I think more of him as that sort of thing, a collective unconscious, kind of poking at their fears and dreams.

I think there’s a reason that there are not a lot of bouffons, which is probably that it’s not done well often. If you see really fantastic clowns, it’s great, and if it’s bad, it’s the worst ever, and bouffons are the same. Clowns are light, but the bouffon brings criticism to the stage and a sense of grotesqueness. For me, everything has to be on top of a sort of jubilation or pleasure. Before you be mean, you have to be charming. Status and ambitions are good themes.  The character is based on plays on themes of elitisim, status and ambitions. That’s something that people can almost always relate to in all different fields.

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How did you start down the road to the dangerous, Bond-like world of international clowning?
It’s strange. One day I was looking at my resume and I said, “I have to stop calling myself an actor because my work is clown and bouffon work; I’m going to start calling myself a clown.” It was really scary for me to happen at that point.

I started doing a lot of improvisation at this place called Comedy Sports in Kansas City. I think a lot of the beginnings of the base of my career were in improvisation of comedy. It was the golden age of that era and I worked with really talented people. I did that for 8 years and then I had a couple of influential teachers at the University of Kansas, one of them a movement teacher I’m doing a loving parody of. One day in class he asked if there was something a style we wanted to cover that we hadn’t done yet. We heard that they had done this clown at a school in Paris. He said, “Well, the thing about the clown is, if the people don’t like you, they don’t like you.” We created a clown show of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with the John Brown theater company and we did this show in Kansas City and then we packed it all in in a U-Haul and moved to New York.

How did you come to found the New York Clown Theatre Festival?
A guy named Devon had proposed to them to do it. He contacted me and Audrey Crabtree. We’ve done it for three years now and have decided to do it every other year, so the next one is in 2010.

This is an opportunity to promote clowning and and it’s interesting because we see a lot of different types of clown there, a broad range that is not just for the circus. These are clowns who are making theater pieces. This is a hazy, interesting line to try to figure out. It’s maybe more intimate and has a longer arc.

It’s a month of shows, usually around 30 different shows from all over the world, and we have a night of cabaret pieces.

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Tell us about working with Cirque du Soleil and how that informed the work you do now.
Working with Cirque was a great experience. They treated me really well. I was on one of their touring shows called Quidam. I was in two clown pieces by David Shiner, who’s going to be installing a vaudeville show here in New York. I was working in the circus at a grand scale and it was great getting to go to China and Korea. It was weird not to be doing your own work as a clown but these numbers are very very similar in terms of my sensibility and David’s.

One of them was where I’m a director and we’re filming a movie, an old time melodrama, setting up really clear  intentions so that the audience members understand what they’re supposed to do, handing it over to them, and then noticing the deviations of how they do it, and then making fun of and with it.

The other act is me me going out on a date driving this car and trying to get a kiss from this girl in the audience and not getting what I want.

The script is sixty percent and the rest is improv and the audience.

You say you use European and Native American clowning philosophies. I thought the Native American part was an inside joke, but it seems like that’s for real.
The work we try to do in the teaching of clown is to be able to hear and really experience who you really are, how you feel, what you think and how you feel, not to filter it out because of what society wants you to feel. This is who I am, how I feel, acknowledge that and give it a space onstage. So most indigenous tribes or societies have some sort of clown figure in them and it’s usually an important figure, who has a high status within that society and in many tribes in North America, they had just as much power as the chief. It was a system of checks and balances. Clowns were tradition keepers who kept people in line in some sense.

So when Pachinko left the Lecoq School, he started to explore Native American philosophies and combine them with Lecoq. He created this system called Clown through Mask. You make six masks which you wear once and then you’re done with them. This is not exactly Comedia dell’Arte masks, but instead quite unusual shapes. It’s very much an experience of how you deal with pleasure and loss and experience. With these six masks, there are twelve aspects of your personality and the native idea for the clown is to be able to face all directions at once and laugh with the ridiculousness at yourself. And I really like this method. Everyone has their own methods. I really like this because it’s an opportunity in each of these explorations for no particular answer or expectations, delving into your imagination.

Send in the Goofs

Send in the Clowns! Serious times call for silly measures, the kind of guffaw out loud laughs you let out as a kid bedazzled by slapstick humor. Our very latest Geeks of the Week are A+ students in the art of silliness, but act more like the bad kids in the back row encouraging you to play hooky. Armed with wicked hijinks, these merry pranksters interlace their performances with whoopee cushions and tacks for the teacher’s chair.

Lucky you, you can catch the NY Goofs this week at the Flea Theater in Hotel Bananas, a collection of “eccentric dance, musical entrees, bad magic, feats of tossing and manipulation (juggling), Godly and unGodly characters, and a lot of very physical comedy.” Need raucous laughter this weekend? Click on the flyer below!

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The NY Goofs are a supergroup of the world’s best clowns whose brilliantly choreographed shows show the true nature of clowning as a skilled theatrical art. Unpredictable, absurdist and skilled in the ways of athletic physical comedy, this is the kind of humor that makes you carry away not just short-lived laughs but an affection for the creativity, beauty and power of theater and the people who make it.

Started in May 1998 by Dick Monday and Tiffany Riley, both former faculty members of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, the NY Goofs were created as a community for clowns and physical comedians to develop and hone material while working and growing together as an ensemble.

The talented group soon went on to perform at Carnegie Hall. In the summer of 1999, the NY Goofs started the Ultimate Clown School, with faculty members including Larry Pisoni, the founder of the fabled San Francisco Pickle Circus, teaching character development, Hovey Burgess, often called the godfather of circus, teaching essential skills and history, Jay Stewart teaching makeup and classic clowning, Evelyn Tuths teaching bouffon lessons, and a rotating faculty.

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The NY Goofs have since performed at The Kennedy Center, The Museum of Natural History, The River to River Festival, The Flea Theater, The Out of the Loop Festival, The International Children’s Festival, The Little Orchestra Society, Milwaukee’s Summerfest and Lincoln Center’s Reel to Real.

Monday was the Director of the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Clown College, where Riley taught and choreographed as a faculty member. Monday and Riley have also toured with the Big Apple Circus as featured clowns, and Monday has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Rosie O’Donnell Show and in Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown.

Riley is a member of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit, and has launched a therapeutic clown program with Children’s Medical Center of Dallas.

The NY Goofs are available to teach workshops for adult and children and to perform at festivals and corporate and private parties. They can crack the glass ceiling of boring company retreats by providing carefully structured yet fantastically creative corporate team building events.

The Bongar Challenge at Downtown Clown

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Olivia Lehrman, Kevin C. Carr at Downtown Clown
? 2009 Jim R. Moore / All Rights Reserved

On Monday, July 20, speed miming, rapid-fire juggling, fleet-footed unicycling and breakneck acrobatics will take their place as new sports in the pantheon of the Clown Olympics.

If a clown competing in THE BONGAR CHALLENGE doesn’t get his or her routine under three minutes, host Michael Bongar’s stooges will yank the poor rube from the glorious bath of the spotlight so that another aspiring ingénue can take the stage.

Contestants are challenged to present material new to the Downtown Clown Revue that is funny, honest and simple, and most importantly, clocks in at THREE MINUTES OR LESS.

SPREAD THE WORD: THE BONGAR CHALLENGE will reward its most brilliant ruddy-nosed winner with a $200 prize and the chance to audition for a spot on late night television.

The showcase will feature much more than floppy oversized shoes and Rudolph noses. Audience members can expect to laugh and maybe even be enlightened by modern clowns keen on hip irony, impressive acrobatics, juggling, magic and unicycling, singing and instrumentation, and inappropriate behavior of all kinds, packaged in short attention span-sized bundles of three minutes each.

This Olympian event will be judged by a very serious panel of the clown elite that dwells high up in the clouds of Clown Olympus, including:

Dick Monday, former director of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Clown College

Scott O’Donnell, general manager of the Big Apple Circus and former performer with Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus

Eric Davis, a.k.a. the Red Bastard, clown and performer with Cirque du Soleil

Mark Gindick
, winner of the Golden Nose award for Best Clown and currently starring with the Big Apple Circus.

THE BONGAR CHALLENGE
Monday, July 20
8:00 p.m.
The Kraine Theatre
85 East 4th Street
Between The Bowery & 2nd Avenue

To sign up for THE BONGAR CHALLENGE, email info@newyorkdowntownclown.com.

For more information about BONGARBIZ, please visit http://www.MichaelBongar.com or contact Michael Bongar at (914) 734-1177 or Michael@BongarBiz.com.

A Beauty Who Makes You Climb the Walls

Welcome to our first post of  GEEK OF THE WEEK.

Here we post Acts and Artists who we feel have a special talent and seriousness that makes them great to work with.

And yes, we’ll explain why this Geek is different than any other. So keep reading, if you’d like, an interview she did with our assistant Dakota Kim. Make sure to see all the pictures and watch the video.

GEEK OF THE WEEK is KAREN, Gorgeous Wall and Air Dancer

Beautiful Dancer and Creative Force KAREN

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Because she’s not only a beautiful wall-climber, she’s a dancer and choreographer with a captivating grace and artistry. She has not only founded her own aerial dance company, but she has danced with Pilobolus, been featured in De La Guarda, and danced at the Academy Awards – while climbing 20 story buildings and bungee-jumping with grace almost double that. And she takes her team of a dozen dancers with her.

She can do product launches, industrials, trade shows, and wow-pow print. She can make dance floor wow at large parties, direct after dinner shows for meetings and her work offers great appeal for international audiences.

KAREN IS A CREATIVE FORCE FANTASTIC TO WATCH AND EVEN BETTER TO WORK WITH. AND SHE HAS THE HONOR NOW OF BEING OUR FIRST GEEK OF THE WEEK.

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How would you describe what you do?
It’s a visceral, innovative combination of dance and aerial performance, performing for both corporate and concert venues throughout the world. Our performances range from grand aerial dancing on the outside of 40 foot skyscrapers to intimate, character-driven theatrical venues….and everything in between!

What’s one of your favorite acts you’ve done?
We just returned from Johannesburg, South Africa where we flipped, soared, and spun among the audience.  We interact with the audience, and that is always fun.  Breaking down the 4th wall to have truly a unique experience.

Did you learn dance and aerial separately?

After I left De La Guarda, I moved to San Fran to begin my own company, developed show and pieces for free and brought the show here to New York, with my skill and the marriage between the two art forms. I like to think of what I do as dance that just happens to be in the air….

What do you love most about performing?
The pure being in the moment. Nothing else matters except what is being experienced. A full immersion — that’s when life happens.

Some more info for you!:
GROUNDED Aerial Mission statement:
Why we exist- to actualize a client’s visions with excitement, uniqueness, and expertise while bringing it into a reality.
We achieve this by:  collaboration, choosing from our massive (NYC) talent pool, and pure creative ingenuity with both choreography choices and rigging possibilities.

Where can GROUNDED Aerial be utilized?

•    Product Launches
•    Fundraisers and charity events
•    Fashion shows
•    Corporate meetings (kickoffs, opening nights, presentations, recognition events)
•    Musical concerts (all genres)
•    Grand openings
•    Award shows
•    Exhibitions
•    Entertainment Galas and Parties
•    Sports marketing
In other words- an instant, innovative, and fresh uniqueness will be associated with any type of  event.  And we’ll be sure to work directly with your vision to focus and develop your particular purpose.

What makes them different?
•    Tailored performances to the client’s vision and/or use of our extensive varying pieces in our performance repitoire
•     Collaborative process with the clients: incorporate the companies  marketing strategy
•    work with the marketing department to blend aspects of their branding
•    bring a higher level of artistry to the event…real dancer/artists- not only entertainers
•    true characters in each performance with plot and through line
•    visceral audience interaction and participatory experiences

Why is this of value to your organization?
We celebrate who you are, and literally bring it to a higher level.  Whether you are celebrating with a party or launching a new product, GROUNDED Aerial will collaborate with and guide you to actualize your vision and produce an unforgettable event.

•    Increase revenue (ticket sales) for the event (due to aerial excitement!)
•    Make your product more memorable
•    Entertainment for impressing important clients
•    Give an “underground” fresh feeling to your product
•    Peak interest of curious investors
•    Raise awareness of your product
•    Have a lasting impression with your clients
•    Literally “taking it to the next level”
•    totally unique, tailored experience