AiRealistic Presents ‘Breaking Surface,’ An Evening of Flying Dance-Acrobatics

“Breaking Surface” is an acrobatic aerial dance theater work staged in and over a thirty-by-twenty five foot shallow pool of water. Conceived and choreographed by Gwyneth Larsen and William Mulholland, it tells a story of love, relationships and the boundaries we create, using airy, sensual, elegant imagery, dance, flight and acrobatics. It will be presented March 19 to 23, 2013 at Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue (at E. 10th Street) by AiRealistic, an aerial theater company that was “born out of a love of physical expression and an incessant urge to take wing.” It is performed by an ensemble of seven dancer/performers.

“Breaking Surface” ushers the audience into the world of a man whose imagination is so active that his ideas can’t physically stay on the pages of his book. A muse enamored with possibility leads him to a watery adventure that builds on that moment of agony- or delight- when we have committed ourselves to the unknown but have yet to take the first step. The muse and the man explore the nature of love relationships as one of two complex worlds coming together. He dances with a weighted chair and the pages of his book flicker and drift away, to be reborn as a fleet of miniature paper boats. This flotilla consolidates into a single vessel that disgorges the entire cast in a shipwreck, whereupon the man discovers a new world where gravity has been overthrown.

Breaking Surface in workshop performance at Brooklyn Lyceum, 2011: William Mulholland (up) and Gwyneth Larsen (down). Photo by Gonzalo Brea.

Throughout, the exploration of movement is deeply linked with the idea that man’s imagination cannot be physically explained on the ground. It peeks into a playful world of childhood fantasy, where human bodies defy gravitational laws. Three women wake slowly to explore the boundaries of flight: whirling, spinning and drumming the water in a ferocious, sensual dance. The evening culminates in a “group fly,” a playful, sensual, flighted dance. Music includes water sounds and instrumental music by Trevor Exter, John Morgan Kimock and John E Oyzon.

The production will be presented March 19 to 23 after a two-week workshop at Theater for the New City to rehearse and calibrate its complex rigging, technical effects and stunts. An earlier, half-hour version of the piece was mounted as a work-in-progress in June, 2011 in the downstairs theater at the Brooklyn Lyceum. Alexandra Cheney wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The procession of scenes depicts two people searching for something – not necessarily each other – and the dynamics of coming to terms with not finding what you may be looking for. Mulholland uses his gymnastic prowess to soar over and glide around a chair, which is weighted down with 80 pounds of theater weights. Three women then descend into the space, strapped into…harnesses, which allows the women to dance and perform aerial tricks simultaneously….When it was all over, the dancers and aerialists stood in the makeshift pool dripping wet, breathing heavily-and soaking in the cheers from the crowd.”

Breaking Surface in workshop performance at Brooklyn Lyceum, 2011: LR: Brooke Miyasaki, Gwyneth Larsen and Brook Notary. Photo by Whitney Browne.

Gwyneth Larsen and William Mulholland met as performers in the Off-broadway hit show De La Guarda. Jointly and independently, they subsequently performed with “Fuerza Bruta,” the Metropolitan Opera and Cirque du Soleil. Their nine year romantic partnership informs the narrative of “Breaking Surface.” In 2004, with six other like-minded, aerially-inclined artists, they formed AiRealistic (, a group of actors, dancers, gymnasts and designers who have, over time, created their own flying style. The troupe provides site-specific aerial choreography and casting, aerial set and rigging design and installation, consultation, rigging technicians and safety specialists.

It has created custom events for clients including Cirque Du Soleil, The Beijing Olympics, The World Stunt Awards, Dancing With the Stars, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Bregenz Opera Festival, Toyota and Disney. AiRealistic has “flown” celebrities including Justin Timberlake, Kelly Ripa, Vanessa Williams, David Blaine, Sasha Cohen and Gary Coleman. The seven ensemble members of “Breaking Surface” have variously appeared in productions of AiRealistic and “Fuerza Bruta!,” The Metropolitan Opera, Alvin Ailey, De La Guarda, Pilobilus and other American and European dance companies.

“Breaking Surface” is collaboratively choreographed by Gwyneth Larsen and William Mulholland. Short sections are choreographed by Brook Notary, a member of the ensemble.

Gwyneth Larsen (Co-creator, Co-choreographer/Director) is a director, aerial choreographer, dancer, stunt-woman, and co-founder of AiRealistic. She began her career with the internationally acclaimed folk music and dance company The Vanaver Caravan and trained in many forms of movement including: Ballet, Modern, Swing, Percussive dance, various martial arts, Trapeze, and Rock Climbing. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a focus in Greek Mythology and Modern Dance. Her professional resume includes De La Guarda, “Fuerza Bruta!,” the Metropolitan Opera and Cirque Du Soliel-Special Events. She has created works for numerous clients, most notably the critically acclaimed Creation Live at the Crystal Cathedral, where she directed a thirty person aerial cast in heights up to 100 feet above the audience. Her parents, mythologists Drs. Stephen and Robin Larsen, nurtured her thirst for travel, a profound love of story and myth, and a deep respect for nature. In “Breaking Surface” she integrates her physical passions with the intellectual and spiritual world of her youth.

William Mulholland (Co-creator, Co-choreographer/Director) is a director, aerial choreographer, versatile performer, founder of Bridge Acrobatics and co-founder of AiRealistic. He is currently performing at The Metropolitan Opera in multiple productions. He has appeared with Pilobolus, De La Guarda, “Fuerza Bruta!,” Cirque Du Soleil and the Hollywood Stunt industry. He trained as a gymnast at the Olympic Training Center and became a member of the US National Team. He was an All-American and team captain at the University of Nebraska. He has worked with many high-level gymnasts, circus performers and dancers. In helping these artists meld and expand their skill sets, he formed Bridge Acrobatics, an Acro-Dance school operating in Embody Studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. ( Over the years, he has cultivated storytelling through physical expression in many arenas. “Breaking Surface” is a continuation of his combining of dance-acrobatics and flying to create a new voice, one that blends childhood dreams of superpowers with the ability to define one’s own reality through deep imagining.

The piece is performed by ensemble members Dusty Giamanco, Angelica Kushi, Rebecca Magazine, Brook Notary, Aidan Oshea, Benjamin E. Oyzon and Cody Schreger.

Costumes, props, design and fabrication are by Martina Feichtinger. Set pieces and design are by Chris Berlin. Technical and Rigging Design are by David Pakenham and Merlin Larsen. Lighting Design is by Ali Lucas. Music is by Trevor Exter and John Kimock (both forming the band XVSK) and John E Oyzon. Production Manager is Ana Constantino. Development assistance comes from Brooke Miyasaki.

“Breaking Surface” will be presented March 19, 20 and 21 at 7:00 PM and March 22 an 23 at 8:00 PM at Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, at Tenth Street, NYC. Tickets are “Pay what you can” for the opening, Tuesday, March 19. From March 20 to 23, tickets are $25 general admission and $40 premium seating and are available through smarttix (212-868-4444 or

Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.