By Tara Bennett
Jamie Ray has spent most of the past year and a half upside down, hanging from rafters on silk fabric, spinning and twirling from the ceiling. Rather than get dizzy, she gets a rush as an aerialist, bending her body into contorted positions midair.
“It’s a huge rush,” she said. “It’s not just the height and the stuff like that, but the drops and the really dynamic stuff you can do with the silks. You get a huge adrenaline rush. Like after a performance it feels like I’ve had a drink or something. It’s a floaty feeling.”
In the next few weeks, she’ll be performing as the featured aerialist at the upcoming Pop! Smart Show, a variety show featuring artists from different spectrums. This will be Ray’s second appearance at Pop! where she will do more creative free-style play.
“We wanted it to not be choreographed, so it was more of an impromptu playing with your skills kind of thing in the theme of the show,” said Ray. “As the show will get bigger so will our routines.”
For Ray, performing at events such as Pop! and Art Melt is another chance to show off her considerable chops, but it’s not the applause that draws her.
“It’s really not about me, so much as getting to do something that you love so much and getting to do it with great group of friends and your team and getting all of these great people together that are just behind you,” said Ray. “For me that’s more of the satisfaction I get out of a performance than anything else.”
Discovering aerial arts was a gradual thing for Ray, who mainly participated in cheerleading and theatre growing up. As a child, Ray loved climbing and was drawn to the circus and acrobatics. She discovered aerial arts through the acclaimed show Cirque du Soleil. As the art form became more mainstream, Ray became immersed in the techniques and took classes every time she could, ranging from a studio in Denham Springs, to training in Las Vegas.
“When the opportunities became available, I just jumped on them,” said Ray.
The growing passion doesn’t seem to be dying soon. Performing predominately on silks, Ray is expanding her skills into other aerial arts such as trapeze art and has plans to create a Baton Rouge Body Council, which will focus on all forms of body art. Currently, Ray teaches the art form herself in her home studio, breeding more airborne dancers. In the fall, Ray plans on offering beginner aerial classes after taking a break during the summer. She is also the founder of AirSeekers, a Baton Rouge collective of aerial artists who perform at various events in the city. Ray came up with the idea for AirSeekers to give people an opportunity to find their grace and talent in the air.
“I just think that some people just really need to get up there and find themselves,” she said. “That’s what happened to me.”
Ray reassures that anyone can try out aerials without being at a certain fitness level.
“I think there is a place in aerial for everyone, I think the only quality you need is the desire to try it,” said Ray. “Aerial is for all fitness levels. It’s for anyone who wants to try.”
Though she was attracted into becoming an aerialist by the acclaimed Cirque du Soleil, Ray chooses to stick to the local scene.
“I’m having a really good time just doing it here in Baton Rouge,” she said. “I love Baton Rouge, I love my community…This city has definitely grown on me.”