History Of AntiGravity
*Information provided by AntiGravity Executives, Christopher Harrison [Founder] & Alex Schlempp.
What began in 1990 as a gymnastics/dance company is now an international entertainment brand. Its evolution is unique. It is a success story of passion, creativity, flexibility, and resilience.
AntiGravity originally found its wings with strong, expressive roots in entertainment and dance. Its early formative years were defined by extreme sports performances. On November 3, 1990, under the direction of world-class competitive athlete & Broadway dancer, Christopher Harrison, Olympic-caliber acrobatic performers in New York City united to honor the Marathon athletes that had run earlier that day, to provide them with an “inspiring upbeat performance”. AntiGravity was born and New York City now had its first cutting-edge acrobatic performance troupe, comprised of athletic dancers, world-class gymnasts, most of Olympic caliber. These elite athletes finally had a place to evolve their passion into a new art form, even after their competitive years were over. The late-great Scott Salmon of Radio City Music Hall discovered the company and offered an ongoing production contract to the team. The Metropolitan Opera followed suit. Broadway shows hired the team to augment their choruses. Suddenly, AntiGravity seemed to be everywhere.
International ad campaigns ensued, most notably campaigns by Samsung and Raymond Weil. In the pre-Photoshop days of the early 1990’s, photographer Lois Greenfield was becoming known for her ability to capture a dancer in mid-air. With the gymnastic ability of Mr. Harrison’s team, and Greenfield’s artistic eye, their collaborative efforts produced jaw-dropping images of gravity-defying synchronicity. Raymond Weil’s international campaign, “Precision Movements”, more than doubled the annual revenues of the watch company. AntiGravity was then profiled in numerous magazines: the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the covers of International Gymnast, Dance Spirit, Shape, FHM, GQ and more. Photographers from Bruce Weber to Lois Greenfield to Tom Bianchi to Howard Schatz put them into art books and annual calendars.
Traveling around the country in a myriad of productions, AntiGravity soon became the experts in corporate and live productions, paving the way for acrobatics to emerge in new sectors. Since no one else knew the nuances of aerial production, AntiGravity seized this emerging niche market. No longer were they just hired performers and special event managers, now they were producers and creative directors. From corporate theater to fashion shows, from lavish parties to staged happenings to Broadway’s benefit productions, the AntiGravity production team charted a fresh course for acrobatics to flourish. If pharmaceutical company executives needed to convey specific messaging about a pre-FDA approval drug, they would turn to AntiGravity’s two creative principals to create that messaging.
Simultaneously, in the nineties, the government of Quebec invested in circus as its main export, resulting in Cirque as a new style that swept the US marketplace. With this emergence came new aerial dance technology. AntiGravity was quick to adopt and redefine many of these techniques, giving AntiGravity new wings to fly. The company evolved to become an aerial acrobatics performance troupe, creating new environments for dance exploration, new avenues for athletic maximization, and an entirely new genre for performance and entertainment. Around this time, the opportunity arose to create an original aerial style spectacle show in New York City. Fascinated with the seedy burlesque scene (unexplored in the early nineties), Mr. Harrison created Circus Diva, the world’s first sexy circus. The show sold out at the Roseland Ballroom to standing room only. Cirque du Soleil picked up on the idea and soon Zumanity was born. Many AntiGravity performers were offered contracts in Las Vegas.
The big budget corporate sector was booming and became the testing ground for AntiGravity to create new aerial acts. Gymnastic rings became aerial straps. Spanish web (rope) became aerial silks – later redefined by AntiGravity to become the AntiGravity® Hammock. Trampolining became bungee flipdancing, and the traditional trapeze was reshaped to become a cube or a ring or a “human” chandelier. High speed winches and chain hoists lifted performers into the air while catwalks were built for descending from the rafters. A new dimension was discovered for dance in the air. Aerials became the new must-have for any production. Circuses didn’t understand one-off production schedules, or the special event genre. AntiGravity, with its own unique brand of “athletistry” became the one stop shop. In addition to the special events and corporate market, AntiGravity became the Aerial Designers of choice for Broadway productions, even contributing to garner a Tony® Award in 2003.
In 2000, Alexander Schlempp (former performer with the company turned Broadway production manager) was brought on as General Manager with the intent of becoming a partner. His savvy business skills, multicultural background, fluency in multiple languages, and keen understanding of the entertainment industry helped guide the company through its next phase of growth.
AntiGravity Growth and Success
The next 2-3 years led AntiGravity to skyrocketing acclaim. Christopher and Alex renovated a 3-story brownstone on Manhattan’s Midtown Westside, one block from the Javits center. This became the AntiGravity Skyloft, complete with 2 giant roof decks (for the trampolines), mirrored dance studio with rigging points and skylights- a photographers dream! The midtown location and in house parking made the studio perfect for celebrities prepping for NY award show performances. Britney Spears, P. Diddy, Usher and numerous celebrities chose the AntiGravity Skyloft as their rehearsal hangout. These relationships led to artistic collaborations for numerous award shows, including the VMA’s, the Grammy’s and rock tours.
During this time, AntiGravity also welcomed a very talented new performer to the team, Daniel Stover. As a four time national champion gymnast, Daniel contributed valuable insight during the development of AntiGravity’s acro-aerial department. Also, Daniel’s innate talent for design, knowledge of rigging technologies and engineering abilities, immediately made him a crucial part of the AntiGravity team. Daniel continued performing with AntiGravity and toured all over the world, while also taking on production/creative responsibilities.
Then in 2001, Christopher discovered a fiberglass sprung jumping boot online, called Powerskips. This uniquely designed boot (originally made in Germany) was meant for running. AntiGravity, however, recognized its greater potential. Christopher ordered a pair, tweaked the design, and learned to flip and dance on them, creating a wholly new movement vocabulary and acrobatic genre. The AntiGravity® Boots were an instant hit and soon became the most sought after must-have act in the entertainment sector. From the opening of the Macy’s Day Parade to the Broadway stage, from numerous TV award shows, to rock concerts with all the top acts of the day and even in the 2002 Olympics Closing Ceremonies, AntiGravity had a unique act that was associated with the edgy brand. Soon Disney and Universal created Boots Teams and a new athletic art form began to flourish.
AntiGravity Shows and Productions
The AntiGravity brand continued to expand, thriving off of various successful production ventured and media projects. Producers from media giant Clear Channel discovered AntiGravity, saw potential, and initiated several creative projects. Michael Jackson met the company at a joint appearance at the Radio Music Awards and negotiations began for a Las Vegas show together. Two weeks into the process, with one TV cross-branding exercise completed, Mr. Jackson’s ranch was raided, bringing a permanent halt to the project. However, soon after, AntiGravity approved the proposal for its first, full-length theatrical production. The original production, AntiGravity’s Crash Test Dummies, opened at New Victory Theater in Times Square. Mr. Harrison chose a creative team and artists from NY’s underground to work with Team AntiGravity in order to give the nonverbal show a unique edge. AntiGravity’s Crash Test Dummies was unique as it was already conceived with a whole line of merchandising and ancillary products based on its cartoon, super-hero like characters. The show sold-out its limited run almost immediately, and the critics raved across the board. Rights were negotiated for TV, Film, comic strip and a Las Vegas production. Everything seemed in order for AntiGravity to get a burst of new air. The final version of the contracts went across the wires on Sept. 10, 2001.
To celebrate the success of Crash Test Dummies, Mr. Harrison had planned to take his company to Club Med, Paradise Island. They boarded an American Airlines airplane from JFK at 7am on Sept. 11th, 2001. By the time they landed, the world had changed. An ever-resilient Team AntiGravity sprung into action, deciding to react to the tragedy with artistic expression. In the midst of overwhelming turmoil, AntiGravity created AntiGravity: An American Band. Utilizing chose pop music with lyrics that reflected the mood and created a Jukebox Musical style show, complete with aerials and fire. Upon returning to NY, the show’s concept was immediately picked up by the Nederlander organization and produced during the Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah.
Then, AntiGravity was discovered by the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics Organizing Committee. The AntiGravity athletes were hired to perform at several occasions during the 2002 Olympics, including nightly in their Olympics Medals Plaza. AntiGravity aerialists descended from the rafters outside in the cold on long white billowing silks, then performed an acrobatic dance number signifying winter sports for a crowd of thousands every night. Samsung also hired the team to work 6 shows a day at the Olympic Athletes Pavilion, in addition to performances of their show AntiGravity: An American Band for international audiences. During one of the shows, Kenny Ortega and his associates who were choreographing the Closing Ceremonies saw the performance and inquired about the AntiGravity Boots on ice. Daniel was quick to engineer a sort of “traction cleat” for the bottoms of the boots, allowing performers to jump and flip on ice! The team performed to Moby and became the final flourish of the ceremonies, following the rock band KISS. Commentators remarked on what an amazing presence AntiGravity had during the Games. AntiGravity had represented New York immediately following 9/11 at the Olympic Winter Games in the Olympic Stadium at Mr. Harrison’s alma mater, where he once cheered for the football team. The experience was one of deep bonding and incredible memories for everyone involved.
The inevitable post 9/11 economic environment proved challenging for all. Corporate entertainment budgets had all but disappeared and the music industry was in turmoil. P. Diddy, preparing for a come-back, decided to make a big splash on the MTV Video Music Awards and to use AntiGravity as part of his spectacle. Mr. Combs (aka Puffy) was a regular at the AntiGravity Skyloft for rehearsals. He had seen the AntiGravity® Boots Team in action and decided to leverage every nuance of AntiGravity’s best. The performance at Radio City Music Hall, aside from P. Diddy, also featuring Usher, Busta Rhymes and Farrell, got a standing ovation from the music industry – led by none other than Michael Jackson. The cameras caught the action and history was made. AntiGravity’s reputation for excellence was sealed. Puffy was over the moon with joy. His brand had been revived. The piece aired on MTV over 50 times that year. It was used for the Making of the Band reality series, and was part of MTV’s “Best of 2002” segment.
With the outstanding success of the MTV Video Music Awards, other artists wanted the performance team. Gwen Stefani and No Doubt hired AntiGravity for the Grammy awards, Nelly, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Pitbull, Pink, Daddy Yankee and other famous pop artists brought in AntiGravity for their innovate stage techniques. Designer Mark Jacobs hired AntiGravity to produce numerous major events for his brand. Disney hired Mr. Harrison and his team to choreograph for numerous international projects and also for its feature film “Enchanted”, which ultimately landed Team AntiGravity a lucrative slot during The Academy Awards. Daniel also relocated to Orlando, Florida while working on various projects with the theme parks, and established another rehearsal location that AntiGravity could use for aerial stunt-work. In 2007, AntiGravity embarked on a national tour of its highlights, with Daniel serving as the new Creative Director. The AntiGravity Tour had no problem filling performing arts centers to near capacity across the United States, from Miami to Honolulu. This tour was especially successful as it was reasonably priced for presenters, and drew coveted new audiences (the 16-29 year old demo) into these theatres. These particular audiences were attracted to and familiar with AntiGravity’s energizing, pop-culture, MTV-style charisma.
Then in 2009, AntiGravity’s performance troupe landed the most prestigious opportunity of the decade. AntiGravity was the only non-musical guest star invited to perform at President Obama’s Inaugural Ball, The Neighborhood Ball. The President, First Lady, the other performers (including Beyonce, Jay Z, Mary J. Blige, Will.I.Am, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, and Sting) and the audience gasped, held a collective breath, and applauded wildly as AntiGravity nailed their performances without a flaw.
Daniel’s leadership and creative insight proved invaluable, especially in the aerial and theatrical realms. Consequently, Daniel was given control over the corporate performance aspects of the AntiGravity. By 2009, company founders, Alex and Christopher, decided to make Mr. Stover the third partner in the AntiGravity company. This allowed Mr. Harrison to refocus, uncover new market prospects, and spend more attention on expanding the AntiGravity brand into fitness. Since the inception of the AntiGravity® Hammock, Christopher had been simultaneously working on a fitness program since 2007, which combined Yoga and exercise routines. Its main purpose at the time was a method to decompress the spines of his athletes and keep them healthy, until AntiGravity athletes caught the eye of yet another nontraditional outlet for branding and distribution, Crunch Fitness – the revered fitness industry phenomenon that launched Spinning, Zumba, Pole Fitness, and TRX. Crunch recognized the exceptional power of the sexy athletes and the wide-ranging appeal of AntiGravity’s entertainment style. The program was fully developed and renamed AntiGravity® Yoga, and was officially launched in January of 2008. Within months, AntiGravity® Yoga was the hottest new fitness craze across the United States. Christopher was invited to present the program to the ladies of “The View” and as a result the program was introduced to a global audience via all media outlets. AGY is now an international fitness franchise with licenses in more than 12 countries, creating opportunities for countless instructors and with a following in the 100,000s. Suspension Fitness, the genre that AntiGravity created is now the fourth biggest trend in a $16BN fitness industry.
Current Projects and Projections
Having secured brand recognition throughout North America, AntiGravity’s managing partners recently decided to focus on further escalating their notoriety in the international marketplace. Brazil, with its booming economy and strong affinity for movement and the performing arts, was chosen as the destination for AntiGravity’s next tour. Pushing its own limits in aerial acrobatic performances, creative director, Daniel Stover, adapted the 2007 Tour, and in 2010 the company toured six Brazilian capitals to sold out houses. Consistently pursued by the media, AntiGravity was written up in over 30 articles and appeared in over 10 TV programs during their 3-week tour in Brazil.
Other current projects include Restorative Yoga, a new meditative version of AntiGravity® Yoga, which is presently Mr. Harrison’s main focus. Mr. Schlempp is assisting him in New York, while also managing AntiGravity’s corporate division. Daniel Stover operates the AntiGravity Theatre in Kissimmee, Florida, which serves as the company’s rehearsal facility and aerial school. AntiGravity NTF’s current endeavors include multiple theme park shows at Walt Diney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, FL.
Company Facts & Information
AntiGravity Company Philosophy:
Inspired by the dream of flight, and created through the collaboration of dancers, athletes and acrobats, AntiGravity has pioneered innovative Fitness Programs and is respected internationally as a premier Aerial Performance & Entertainment Brand. AntiGravity’s unique “athletic performance” style, is the translation of extreme sports skills into performance art. This integration of art, sports & science has inspired countless world tours, awards shows, and full-length productions, and has evolved into innovative fitness programs like AntiGravity® Yoga.
AntiGravity’s performance credentials include: Pink’s performance at the Grammy’s Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, Obama’s Inaugural Ball, Good Morning America, Radio Music Awards with Michael Jackson, 2012 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at New York Fashion Week, and countless other movies, award shows, & magazines! (see more below)
“To defy gravity as a means of artistic expression while inspiring fitness in others” — an entertainment brand that fuses sports, theater and pop culture.
★The AntiGravity National Training Facility is an all-inclusive training facility, providing all levels of instruction for Aerial, Fitness, Extreme Acro-Sports and Dance disciplines, each taught by AntiGravity Professionals.
★ Particular attention is focused on safety and technical principles for each instructional discipline, in order to build a strong foundation and to develop correct technique.
★ All instructors and participants must agree to respect each other and the facility, learn to work as a team, demonstrate admirable work ethic, encourage self-confidence and utilize creative freedom.
★ Instructors will provide instruction reflecting the AntiGravity Brand’s unique style of “sports theatre performance,” while also upholding fitness industry standards & educational practices.
★ Each student is guaranteed a safe, insightful, enjoyable experience.
★ AntiGravity’s Logo is inspired by Michaelangelo’s famous Vitruvian Man, which symbolizes “harmonizing the relation between parts of body looking for perfection that would manifest itself in beauty.”
★ By age 24, Daniel Stover (AntiGravity Orlando owner & director) was already a 3 time All American pole vaulter, 4 time All American gymnast, 3 time NCAA national champion in floor exercise & vault, and member of a 2 time national champion competitive collegiate cheer squad. (He can also do an awesome Double Pirouette!)
★ AntiGravity has participated in live performances during 2 Olympic Games, first at the Winter Olympics 2002 in Salt Lake City, then at the Summer Olympics in Athens in 2004.
AntiGravity is recognized internationally for innovative fitness that uses inversion to decompress vertebrae, aid with mental depression, increase circulation.
★ The AntiGravity Company was established 24 years ago in 1990 by athlete & Broadway dancer, Christopher Harrison, in NYC. (Read our full history at AntiGravityFitness.com
★ AntiGravity alumni can be spotted in the following movies: Footloose (Christopher Harrison), Disney’s Enchanted, Step-Up 4, Burlesque (Shannon Beach).
ANTIGRAVITY ORLANDO: National Training Facility
The AntiGravity National Training Facility, functions as AntiGravity’s official Aerial-Acrobatic School & Rehearsal Facility, reflecting AntiGravity’s signature “athletic-performance” style & technique-based learning. An assortment of Aerial, Fitness, Extreme Acro-Sports & Dance classes are available at all levels of instruction, beginner through professional levels. Highly-trained instructors provide a safe, inspirational environment for all students to reach their potential & accomplish their goals! The multi-purpose facility also serves as a Performance Venue, providing countless performing opportunities to students!
Our facility offers an incredible variety of specialized aerial acrobatic equipment and custom rigging…
Students learn to spread their wings in our Instructional Areas, complete with mirrored walls, safety mats & an impressive assortment of aerial apparatuses (see list below). Vaulted ceilings over 40 feet high and several high-speed AntiGravity Aerial Motors allow for unlimited possibilities! The facility also features a complete dance studio, and Fitness Department, including Pilates & Circuit-Training equipment. The venue also features theater seating for 175 guests and a full-sized stage with custom-built fly systems- providing our students & professionals plenty of aerial toys to learn & perform on!
Aerial Rigging & Fly Systems:
- 12+ High-Speed Aerial Motor Points (AntiGravity Certified Motors)
- 5-10 Static Aerial Points
- 5 Counterweight Aerial Points
- “Peter Pan” Style Fly-by-Wire Track
- “Circle Flight” Fly System
- One-of-a-Kind Wall Running Track (suspended 40 ft high around the perimeter)
- 2 “Big Bungee” Rigs
- Silk (aka Aerial Fabric, Tissue, Chiffon)
- Hammock (aka Silk Loop, Sling)
- Lyra (aka Aerial Hoop)
- Harness (Single-point bird harness & Double-point harness)
- Aerial Cube
- Spanish Web (aka Corde Lisse, Rope)
- Frame (aka Aerial Window)
- Aerial Net
- Dancing Bungee
- Trapeze (Static & Swinging)
- Counterweighted Aerial Dance
- Spansets (aka Aerial Loops)
- Tippy-Hoop (aka Tilty-Lyra)
- Cloud Swing
- Hand-Loop (aka Wrist-Loop, Ankle-Lock)
- Carousel (aka Aerial Chandelier Trio)
Custom Staging & Specialized Equipment:
- Olympic-Style Trampoline & “Trampoline Wall” Set-Up
- Cyr & German Wheels
- AntiGravity Boots (Jumping stilts)
- Trampoline Staircase (One-of-a-Kind! Built using several mini-tramps)
- Aerial Swinging Chinese Pole
- Free-Standing Spinning Poles
- Motorized Turn-Table (Used for Hand Balancing & Contortion)
- Cubeology (Acrobatic apparatus comprised of Chinese Poles that form a cube shape)
- Gravatron (Ground-based spinning apparatus)
‘AntiGravity Factory’ In-House Acrobatic Show
AntiGravity Orlando: Off Your Screen and in Person
If you’ve seen high flying choreography and stunts in one of your favorite musical performances or movies, than you’ve probably seen what we do. AntiGravity is the high-impact aerial and acrobatic troupe that’s taken the stage on major award shows like the Grammys and MTV Video Music Awards, also appearing in movies such as Disney’s “Enchanted” and many more. Soon, we’ll be opening our theater and unveiling brand new performances to crowds in Orlando, giving visitors from all over the world the opportunity to experience AntiGravity in person!
With appearances on some of the most watched programs in the world, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with what we do. Our work on these shows and productions will give you a great idea of what’s to come when we open our doors and unveil a brand new act this fall in Orlando.
AntiGravity has been thrilled to work with many of the most popular music artists in the world, providing their sounds with thrilling backdrops, extreme acrobatics and visually stimulating choreography. One of our highlights includes working in Pink’s show-stopping number at the 2010 Grammy Awards, where she captivated audiences. Pink used an AntiGravity sling and performers to complete a high-wire act all while singing and using choreography from one of our directors in what was easily one of the most memorable Grammy performances of all time.
Another one of our major acts was alongside P Diddy and Usher at the MTV Video Music Awards, where some of our talented artists provided high flying aerials and choreography to energize the crowd.
In addition to working with Pink and P Diddy, our high flying stunts have made their way into performances for nearly all of the major awards shows in the past decade, including the Academy Awards, the Grammys, the Latin Music Awards, the BET Awards and the Billboard Awards, among others. Over the years, we’ve worked with artists such as Kanye West, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, No Doubt and many more to give their music an unmatched visual accompany.
Memorable On-Screen Moments
Aside from performing with music artists, AntiGravity has also provided memorable choreography for movies, shows and television specials. In 2007’s Enchanted, we worked on choreography, dancing and stunts in one of the film’s unforgettable scenes, as Amy Adams’ performance of “That’s How You Know.” Some of the world’s biggest platforms of performances have had AntiGravity take part in the lineup, including the Olympics and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
For years, AntiGravity has backed up some of the biggest musical acts in the world, but now music will be a complement to the amazing skill and talent of AntiGravity’s artists. Our new theater in Orlando will be home to one of the most unique, high energy and affordable attractions around. Artists from all over the world will combine to bring the best in choreography, gymnastics, trapeze and much more, giving you a front row seat to some of the amazing skill that’s been showcased in endless on-screen performances.
Don’t miss out on your chance to see an amazing blend of skillful artists and athletes from all over the world, in an unforgettable high energy performance. Explore our website for more information on tickets, scheduling and the total experience of AntiGravity Orlando!