Rise & Shine
A powerful dance team is captivating audiences with a unique fusion of dance, acrobatics, theatre and fashion.
Written byPauline Adamek
Hand over fist, Brett Womack is rapidly ascending 20 feet into the air, scaling a long, flowing and deep crimson-colored cloth hung on a pivoting shackle. Next he deftly loops the fabric around his ankles and immediately goes into a split while hanging upside down. “It’s the best feeling in the world, to stretch it out,” he shouts down from his perch.
The ante is upped from there. Next, Brett’s aerialist partner, Rachel Bowman, grips his wrists and dangles from his arms. And this is just the warm-up before they launch into their gravity-defying silks act, set to the up-tempo dance track “Cracks” by the Freestylers.
The performance art duo, known as Womack and Bowman, fuses breathtaking aerial performances with contemporary dance, ground acrobatics, multi-media and fashion. They met when Brett was working at the Ford Amphitheatre with LA-based circus company Troupe Vertigo. The pretty blonde smiles at the memory: “I got a real crush, and I ‘Facebooked’ him.”
Someone asked her to recommend another aerial artist for a gig, and she immediately thought of Brett. “We both did solos, and then the client asked us if we could do a little bit of partnering. We’d never done any partnering …” Brett interjects. “Well, we’d done it with other people but …” Rachel completes his sentence: “… other people but not together.”
They launched into an improvised set, and a partnership was born.
Rachel, who is from Australia, began her career as a ballet dancer with Opera Australia Ballet Company and The Australian Ballet. Next she trained as an aerialist at the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne. Blond, tall and limber, Brett began his career at an early age in San Francisco before gaining aerial, acrobatics and dance training from Circus Center, AcroSports and the San Francisco Ballet.
As you might imagine, a tremendous amount of trust is required. “You just have to do it—you don’t even think about it,” says Rachel. As for communication, “Usually you can communicate without talking,” says Brett. “We use ESP,” Rachel adds.
A narrative of intimacy and passion underpins their performance. During their electric, five-minute aerial perform-ance at the North Holly- wood studio where they practice their act and teach classes, there’s a lot of unspoken tension, aggression and heat between the pair—who emphasize that they are not a romantic couple.
Confides Brett, “We’re best friends, so we share everything. We feel we can express 100% without feeling awkward at all.”
Rachel confirms this, adding, “We’re both very passionate, so we have these exploits outside, and then we project them onto each other. Before we go on, we talk about our latest love disasters, and then I’ll use Brett as the projection. It seems to work.”