Erin Bennet photo

Erin Bennet photo

Island Aerial Acrobatics will be back at Orcas Center in 2019

A beloved island program will be back for another year.

Island Aerial Acrobatics founder Maria Bullock and staff of Orcas Center have reached an agreement that will allow silks classes to continue for 2019.

“It feels fantastic to know that the program will continue and keep effecting so many island lives,” said Bullock. “I am grateful to the wonderful Island Aerial Acrobatics team that has emerged this year and all the support we give each other.”

The future of the program, which has offered sessions in hoops and silks from late fall to April for the past nine years, was unclear after the center announced it would be increasing the rental fee for next year and that the regular rehearsal space might not be available. The center is the only location able to host the classes because of ceiling height, hanging capabilities and heat.

The newly signed 2019 contract includes the same cost in rent as previous years ($5400) but has a shorter season of January to April in order to accommodate the center’s in-house production schedule. A free recital will be presented at the conclusion of the season.

Orcas Center has offered to be an umbrella organization for Island Aerial so that it is eligible for grant money and all donations can be tax deductible.

“It will be very helpful for us,” said Bullock.

She originally taught herself aerial acrobatics and started classes because her kids were interested in learning the skill. It began as just a few offerings but has grown each year and now boasts 120 students ages one and older. Bullock’s daughter Naya, now 13, is one of the program’s advanced students.

In previous years, Orcas Center produced the silks’ biennial production but declined this year due to financial reasons. Bullock decided to put on the show herself, and volunteers began fundraising with an online silent and bake sale. A total of $6,000 was raised.

“We really couldn’t do it without the community’s care and support. It fueled us to keep going,” she said. “We felt very recognized for what we are doing.”

On March 30 and 31, Bullock’s students presented “Connected” on the center’s main stage to sold-out audiences. The pieces revolved around humans’ obsession with cyberspace and the importance of reconnecting with nature.

“It’s been done so many times so how do you make it different?” said Bullock.

She chose to base each performance on one of the following: fire, water, earth, mineral, animal, senses, spirit, celestial and love. In choreographing the routines, Bullock chose a theme that would meet the needs of each class and its students. What she loves most is facilitating growth and inner strength within her students.

“It’s not about the movement. It’s about the person,” she said.

Many parents are in tears after the performances and thank Bullock for the classes’ positive impact.

“Parents will say, ‘I can’t believe my daughter could do that. I see her happy, engaged and confident and it’s from the experience of this,’” she said.

“Connected” is the last show that Bullock will direct, and while she will still teach on a scaled-back basis, next year the entire program will be led by a partnership of instructors and volunteers, including Hailey Averna, Stephie Mac, Jennifer Wood and Jamie Donatuto.

“It’s too big for me to do it myself,” she said. “I’m excited to have my team … It makes me feel good that the program affects so many people. We all want to have a positive imprint on the world.”


Erin Bennet photo

Erin Bennet photo

Erin Bennet photo

Erin Bennet photo