Aerial dancing has brought a new dimension to this Tulsan’s career.
Native Kansan Maria Tate Reed grew up participating in musical theater. She moved to Tulsa two years ago, shortly after discovering aerial dance.
You could say Maria Tate Reed’s dance career is up in the air — but not in the usual way.
Reed is a dancer, choreographer and aerial instructor at Portico Dans Theatre, a contemporary dance
company in Tulsa.
She discovered aerial dance a few years ago at a class in Chicago. It is a form of modern dance that is performed in the air, instead of on the ground. From the first moment she was “hooked up to a harness and shot across the room,” she has never looked back.
“Once you’ve tasted flight you will never be satisfied with your feet on the ground again," she says, paraphrasing Leonardo da Vinci.
Reed, who has danced in cities across the U.S. and the world, grew up pursuing musical theater in her hometown, Leavenworth, Kan., and in the Kansas City area.
She always knew she wanted to perform, but it wasn’t until college that she narrowed her study to dance, which led to her current multi-faceted career.
She moved from Chicago to Tulsa two years ago when her husband got a job at The University of Tulsa.
“We are in a very cool stage in Tulsa right now for dance. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be here,” Reed says, referring to not only the dance community, but also the broader artistic environment in Tulsa.
She loves to collaborate and has worked with organizations from Tulsa Ballet to Youth Services of Tulsa to spread the word about aerial dance.
What does aerial dance involve? Stage technicians hang fabrics, called “silks,” or other materials from the ceiling to create a vertical dance floor. (Think Cirque du Soleil.)
Employing a number of techniques, including the foot lock, dancers stabilize themselves 20-35 feet in the air. At this height they perform acrobatic poses, spins, and controlled falls and catches.
Although Reed admits there is a “beast” in her that loves to perform, when she talks about teaching, she lights up.
“Teaching transcends the everyday,” she says. “Being (a) part of the process of people’s self discovery, of becoming a more complete person on the journey of life … there is no greater feeling.”
Reed says Tulsa's response to aerial dance classes has been huge. It can be intimidating, but with proper equipment, preparation and technique, she says anyone can do it. In fact, she urges everyone to try it.
“Once students get up there and get their first foot lock, they are ecstatic," she says. "They are strong and beautiful, and they are defying gravity for a few seconds.”
She says guiding people through that is “one of the most rewarding experiences (I have) ever had.”
Reed has high hopes for the future of aerial dance in Tulsa. She intends to continue to collaborate with the dance and art community, including the yoga community.
Class fees help finance the dance company, as well as maintain and replace equipment. Reed also dreams of a scholarship program for kids. She believes the confidence and purpose learned from aerial is invaluable, especially for children.
“I want everyone to have the opportunity to learn to fly,” she says.
Reed is spreading this invigorating message: “Get out there and conquer something that will inspire you and make you feel like you can do anything.”
Three secrets to success as an aerial instructor from Maria Tate Reed:
- Maintain a positive attitude for the benefit of yourself and your students.
- Be patient and helpful as students are learning new skills.
- Be prepared. Properly prepare equipment to ensure safety and also be ready to answer questions and support students when they are struggling.