Dreya Weber looks like she could tackle anything, on the ground or in the air.
The aerialist is fitter than everyone you know, and she hasn’t let age slow her down. What’s got her a bit unnerved these days? Social media, she says with a laugh.
Weber is braving the digital space to promote “The Aerialist,” a project near and dear to her creative heart. Weber stars as Jane, an older dancer trying to keep her body, and her beloved dance troupe, together in trying times.
A new director threatens the goodwill forged after years of performing together. Meanwhile, a sneaky reporter (Morgan Bradley) is prying into Jane’s past in a way that represents a fresh new threat to the star’s future.
Weber’s ex-husband, Ned Farr, wrote and direct the film, but there’s plenty of her creative DNA in the finished print.
“We talked about story structure and events,” she says, leaving her to flesh out the stage dynamics and language details. Farr leaned on her the most for the physical scenes, where she and her co-stars took to the air as part of the show within a show. Weber’s years in the air helped both her and the crew.
“You don’t make independent films for money,” she says. “I have an aerial rig in my backyard. I invited the entire cast to take free workshops from me … we couldn’t afford [aerial] rehearsals.”
Weber previously choreographed some of the biggest tours in music, think Pink, Cher, Britney Spears and more. The sense of camaraderie and blue-collar effort showcased in “The Aerialist” matches what she’s seen over the years.
The dancers she met along the way “are often very young and often pretty inexperienced in terms of the business,” she says. “There’s no union, there’s no one who looks out for them.”
Weber heard a scary anecdote from a dancer who said the show’s director made them work out eight hours a day, nonstop, and “there’s literally no water in the room,” she recalls.
Weber calls this show business subset a bit of a “meat grinder.“
“You don’t make more money the more skill you get,” she says, adding that many performers today are making roughly what dancers earned in the early 2000s.
Those fortunate enough to dance for Cher, a former Weber client, are lucky.
“She’s known for being one of the best-paying artists,” says Weber, who chuckles when recalling she teamed with the superstar on Cher’s “first farewell tour.”
Weber may look intimidating, but she loathes confrontations in real life. As an actress, that’s another story.
“It takes a lot to get the hair on the back of my neck to rise. As an actor I love the confrontation scenes … facing off with someone who’s a bully, who’s mistreating people … in life, the articulateness to address bad behaviors doesn’t come so readily.”
Weber has spent years coming up with innovative dance moves that challenger her stars, her fellow dancers and herself.
“I love tossing apparatus together that seems unlikely,” she says. “What happens when you put this kind of element with this?” For “The Aerialist,” that mean blending fabric and bungee elements together in fresh ways.
“I hadn’t seen that before,” says Weber, adding the combination allowed for a pulsing sensation for her fellow aerialists. The veteran dancer loves being in the air, but it’s even better when her fellow stars take flight.
“I love the joy of watching people learning to do it,” she says. “When women learn aerial arts, seeing the spotty confidence [give way] to having more strength in their upper body, it’s wonderful to see.”
Weber is in her 50s, much like her “Aerialist” character. She credits her youthful vigor to long walks, mindful eating and, curiously enough, spending so much time in the air.
“I think I’ve been so physically healthy because I’m upside down so much … it sounds funny,” she admits. “All of the spinal decompression of inverting has given me longevity.”