July 9, 2019

Dancing on Air with Aerialist Molly Baechtold

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Molly floats through the air with the greatest of ease, dazzling crowds with her multi-apparatus aerial mastery.

by Joey Phoenix
Images by Creative Collective

A Boston-based performer and teacher of aerial arts, Molly appears to dance on the very air as she lifts herself high off the ground for her performances. Her movements are so fluid and effortless that anyone who watches her could be tricked into thinking she was born to it, that she has been blessed by dragons and ancient winged creatures, and that her path to the high places has been bird-like and breezy.

But to assume this would be a mistake. 

Molly first found her footing on the stage in a youth dance program which she refers to as “classic little kid dance recital style” with ballet, jazz, and tap. 

“I was a very shy kid growing up and, for whatever reason, when I was on a stage I wasn’t shy,” Molly said, “The stage was the only place where I felt I was my true self.” 

This feeling is what drove her to stay with dance and try out for the dance team while working on her undergraduate degree in Studio Art at the University of New Hampshire. She got in as a freshman and immediately started honing her professional dance skills in this setting. Yet, she initially had no aspirations to be anywhere than firmly planted on the ground. 

Her first interaction with aerial performing came when she visited UNH for the first time. “I saw the aerials and my first reaction was: ‘there’s no way I’m doing that,’” she recalled. “I just had negative interest in it.” 

Unfortunately, to have a good standing in the UNH dance program there was an unspoken rule that the members of the troupe be versatile across disciplines. Because it was unspoken, she could’ve avoided it completely, but the team probably wouldn’t have taken it well.

So instead of fighting the current, she just dove in. 

“At the start, I was quite bad at it,” Molly said. “I had never done gymnastics or anything where I was hanging off of a thing. I didn’t have any arm strength and really struggled through my first few years.” 

For anyone who doesn’t know what goes into the training, becoming an aerial performer is grueling work. New performers begin by learning wraps and poses mere inches off the ground until they gain strength, confidence, and courage. For the first two years, Molly begrudgingly learned these skills, little by little moving higher and higher off the ground. Little by little she got stronger, bolder, and began to feel more at home in the air. 

“From the start, it really feels like a lot of work, and a lot of things to remember, it’s like a language you don’t quite know yet,” Molly explained. “You have to stick it out long enough for some things to feel like muscle memory, and then you start to feel the dance-like flow to it, and instead of thinking about what you’re doing you can think about how you’re doing it.” 

Once she was able to move out of grueling mental effort into flow, Molly started to see what people enjoyed so much about doing it. She started to fall in love with the process and develop a passion for silks, and eventually grow her craft to include Lyra, Trapeze, and Cube into her performances. 

Her first-ever professional aerial performance was on New Year’s Eve in Boston in 2010, and she has been performing ever since, doing solo and partner gigs all over New England, New York, and various points around the country. As her craft has evolved, she’s held firm to her love of silks, challenging herself to create new choreography to enchant audiences. 

“Silks involve very intricate wrapping, and in order to get into a position you have to go through a series of these wraps,” she explained. “When you’re a beginner, your silks routine just looks like lots of wrapping, followed by a pose, then a bunch more wrapping, and then a pose.

“The challenge becomes trying to make a nice dance choreography out of the wrapping itself, which is a challenge that I really enjoy.” 

When Molly isn’t up in the air performing, working on new routines, teaching classes at Simply Circus in Newton, MA or at Boston University, or doing the behind the scenes correspondence and administrative work that being a professional performer entails, Molly finds herself watching other performers do what they love. She finds it inspirational. 

“I just love seeing people do things that they’re passionate about,” she said. 

You can see Molly perform around New England this summer. Here are some upcoming dates: 

“Every performing opportunity is different for me, new venues, new communities, new challenges,” she said. “I really thrive when every day is a little bit different.”

If you are interested in Aerial Arts, you can also take classes from Molly at Simply Circus in Newton, MA and at Boston University, which is also open to the public year-round. 

Joey Phoenix is a performance artist and the Managing Editor of Creative North Shore. Follow them on Twitter @jphoenixmedia. If you have an idea for a story, feature, or pictures of adorable llamas, feel free to send them a message at joeyphoenix@creativecollectivema.com