High flying duo revolutionise circus arts

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The high-flying aerial straps act is every bit as dangerous as it looks, according to performers Reed Kelly and Jack Dawson.


The duo, known as the Two Fathoms, start their show by being winched metres into the air on a pair of looped straps, which they then use to perform eye-popping feats that require extreme strength and flexibility.

Even the names of standard moves on the apparatus are enough to inspire fear: there's the splits of course, but also the Superman Press-up, the Straddle Meat Hook, and Skin the Cat Dislocate.

As worrying as they sound, stunts such as these have been around a long time, and about five years ago Cirque du Soleil tasked Kelly and Dawson with reinventing a discipline that hadn't changed in years.

"They felt the genre of aerial straps had kind of stagnated and hadn't really changed much over the past couple of decades, so they were really looking to develop something new," according to Kelly.

The pair has since created moves and routines that have never been done before, even inspiring other performers with a series of online videos.

"There are other artists that are reaching out and saying, we're so inspired by you and we're innovating off the sequences that you've created," Kelly said.

"It's really nice to see that there has been an actual global shift on how people look at our niche of the circus industry."

Even simply being in the air together, the Two Fathoms are breaking new ground.

Aerial straps duos are usually male-female, and most are on the shorter side, but both Kelly and Dawson are six foot two.

A crucial part of developing their new moves has been making them as safe as possible, and the pair has so far avoided injury.

Part of that has been developing a language of cues to let each other know when they have to abort a part of their routine.

For all their impressive physical feats, their high-flying act ultimately revolves around trust.

"You're constantly holding each other's lives in your hands every day, the trust just develops quite naturally because without it, you don't have a product," said Kelly.

The Two Fathoms are performing in Melbourne at Bernie Deiter's Club Kabarett, season extended until November 6.

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