Remember when you were five and things like backbends and headstands didn’t seem so outlandish? Nowadays, most of us are lucky if we can touch our toes. So witnessing the likes of the local acrobatic dance troupe Siren Society twirl, bend and basically contort their bodies into human pretzels—all while suspended in the air—makes you question if they may have had a few extra bones removed.
But the members of Siren Society are not blessed freaks of nature. All nine members of the troupe are trained gymnasts, yogis, dancers, and even past cheerleaders. They work hard to play hard, up there twirling around from the rafters.
Led by Lina Herrada, stage name “Frankie Stein,” who acts not only as the troupe’s manager but also a key aerialist and dancer, the collection of performers includes aerialists, a belly dancer, contortionists, a singer, a body painter and their own personal DJ.
The Siren Society enlists a variety of talent. But since its rebirth a couple of months back—the troupe was formerly known as Midnight Minx—Herrada had to acquire some fresh faces, with only four original members hanging around (pun intended) for the new line-up.
“A few of the girls decided they didn’t want to do it anymore,” says Herrada on the reasoning behind the name change. But luckily, Herrada, who moonlights, or more accurately, daylights, as an aerialist instructor at High Sierra Gymnastics on Woodland Ave., was able to find more qualifiers. “A lot of the [current] girls are my students from the gym,” she says. It’s an opportunity that allows Herrada and her students to take their work and hobby out of the gymnasium floodlights and into the limelight.
The Siren Society can frequently be found at Studio on 4th, Cargo in CommRow, and Bodega Night Club. They try to put on a show every three months since they need to hang from the ceiling and all. It’s a task that can be tricky not only for rehearsal purposes, but also for lack of appropriate venue
“I go scope out the location before a show,” Herrada says. Explaining that the venue needs to have high, exposed ceiling beams allowing for them to attach their equipment—the lyra (a large hoop), the silks and the occasional hammock. And of course, they must be sturdy, an aspect Herrada says they test for by playing on beforehand.
Safety is an aspect the troupe has to consider not just in the equipment sense. “I make sure we won’t be in a packed room with no security,” she says. “Often, we’re performing where people are drinking, and they tend to get to the point where they think it’s fun to push you on the lyra.”
But as the saying goes, if you build it, they will come. Cargo had beams installed specifically for them, according to Herrada. And the last major performance the troupe did—“Summer Solstice,” in which they choreographed an acrobatic dance show to coincide with the passing of the seasons—came close to selling out.
“People are always just like, ‘Oh my god, how did you do that?’” Herrada says of the general crowd reaction.
The answer? Not to remove a few ribs—just plain ol’ dedication. “I’ve been doing aerial arts two and a half years,” says Herrada, who practices daily with the help of the aerial silk she had personally installed in her high ceilinged home. “Practice. It’s mostly balance and strength … and patience.”