New York City’s trapeze artist, dancer, and thrill-seeker Seanna Sharpe, can sway in the wind through her scarf-wrapped routines, or she can wiggle her way to a more comfortable position in handcuffs. If you’re familiar with her work, she might have floated across your ken during an evening commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan in July of 2011. If you’re unfamiliar with her most famous stunt, then you’re in for a treat.
On July 11, 2011 Seanna Sharpe did some incredible aerial acrobatics over the Williamsburg Bridge as part of a free performance from Circus NYC dubbed: Risk Life For Flight. It got some national attention, and all the Brooklyn residents loved her precarious airborne theatrics, but they definitely dug her. She paraded her malleability for all to see by contorting her handcuffs from the back to the front of her athletic body; it pissed off the arresting officer, and provided countless chuckles to her audience. There’s a certain audacity of spirit to every Adrenalist performer, and Sharpe encompasses the cavalier attitude you need to face death and still get a laugh.
After spending her childhood in Mexico, Sharpe came to America and studied aerial dance at Le Cirque Centre. According to her website, Seanna “fell in love with flight after an early affair with Peter Pan, and has ever since been climbing, flying, and falling—in style.” She trained with a multitude of aerial dancers, and then founded Le Cirque’s Adult Program in 2007. By 2008 she had danced and performed in 26 countries and headed to New York. She studied dance and other topics at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and trained 6 days a week at New York Circus Arts.
Her first solo show, “An Octopus of my Own highlights her broad range of artistic expression as she presented 27 portraits of cephalopods through painting, sculpture and, of course, performance. It was this last form that elevates her into the Adrenalist stratosphere. By 2010 she had graduated with the world’s first bachelor’s degree in Circustentialism (a combo of circus and existentialism).
In the year since she graduated, Sharpe has flown for Cirque Du Soleil, the Guggenheim, Beyoncé, SCOPE, OmniCircus, Artists Wanted, Shanghai Mermaid, the Trapeze Loft Cabaret, the Galapagos Art Space and many others. She is a daredevil artist you would be foolish to miss, and an Aderenalist who creates art with her swashbuckling performances high in the air without a safety net.
Fifty-four seconds into this clip, you can see Seanna isn’t a stranger to risk. She is an artist first and an aerialist second, but if you watch her rehearsals, you’ll notice the madcap performances are based on a disciplined routine that takes repetition. She’s just practicing more than 50 feet in the air, and if things go badly, she could become paralyzed—or worse.
A gonzo approach to the law is sometimes needed to overcome society’s queasiness at risking your life for performance. In Sharpe’s case, she was going to swing and perform 300 feet in the air atop the Williamsburg Bridge. There wasn’t a damn thing the police could do except watch, and wait for her to come down.
Keep your eyes open during your commute New Yorkers because she might be swinging hundreds of feet above you again soon.