Grace Ramsey loves telling the story of how she picked up circus arts.
She says, "I'm pretty sure [people] expect me to say I was kidnapped and taken to some place in the Yukon when I was 4 years old, and they bent me in half for 10 years, and then I was released into the world as some sort of talented circus cyborg, which is what I totally thought the process was."
The real story, though is hilarious in its own way. At the start of her time as a student at Rocky Mountain College of Arts and Design, Ramsey simply was seeking a way to stay in shape.
"I was looking for a ballet class or something to try, and I pulled up to a place called Aerial Dance Over Denver," she says. "I signed up, came in for my first class, and realized I had signed up for circus acrobatics classes, and I stayed." She's been doing circus arts for the past seven years.
Now 25, Ramsey is a diverse performer. She does aerial hoop routines with Aerial Dream Works, a Cirque du Soleil-like team that performs at The Mansion. She also trains on aerial silks, twin sheets of fabric; aerial hammock, a loop of suspended fabric, standard in shows by pop star P!nk; lollipop lyra, a rotating hoop on a pole that resembles a Quidditch post; and contortion.
Aerial Dream Works is run by Kristy Powell, a veteran of Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba show. Ramsey met Powell at a workshop in Boulder, ultimately joining up with the team three years ago.
Shortly after, Elizabeth Fluharty also joined the team. Six years ago, Fluharty got into partner acrobatics with some rock climbing friends. Eventually, the hobby turned into a teaching gig, then into a few small performances. Dave Hale, her acrobatics partner, introduced her to Powell shortly after ADW's inception — the group wanted to add partner acrobatics. A few shows later, she was a regular.
Over the past two years, Fluharty has been learning aerial silks, which she now performs with ADW.
"I'd always been interested in it, from a climbing aspect," she says. "It's a really fun, beautiful, graceful way to feel strong."