You probably remember Heather Ahern as one of the founding members of the legendary Providence-based Groundwerx Dance Theatre. She was also one of the dedicated volunteers who built AS220 at it’s Empire Street location back in the early 90s. Literally “built” – check out the photo of her sitting in a dumpster full of some of the rubble that was hauled out during construction! Between now and then, Heather went back to school, taught dance in California and West Virginia, and got married. She’s back in Providence now – living at AS220! – with a new dance company, Aerplaye, who will have their debut performances at the RISD Auditorium on September 28th (8pm) and 29th (2pm). For more information, visit
What have you been up to since the days of Groundwerx Dance Theatre?

I left the area to go to grad school and retool. I really felt like I needed to put in some new information and be a student again for a while. I went to Cal State Long Beach, earned my MFA, taught as an adjunct in their MFA acting program, and also taught at Long Beach City College’s Dance Program. From there, I ended up running a dance program at West Virginia University for 4 years, and then I left to move out west with my husband Phil.What inspired you to found Aerplaye?

First of all, Phil and I decided to move back here after visiting last Fall. We’ve had a lot of heart to heart discussions about where my passion lies. I came to the realization that I’m most happy, and feel most alive, when I’m in the studio, creating work and moving.

How is this new company different?

Groundwerx was very much a collective, and sometimes collaborative. Aerplaye, at this point, is representative of my work. The last several years have been about finding my voice.

dumpAre there any differences in the new crop of dancers that you’re working with compared to those of the Groundwerx heyday?

One of my dancers, Kathy Gordon Smith, worked with Groundwerx previously. Our current cast is multi-generational, which I am very excited about. While we do have some twenty-somethings in the group, dance is not just for people in their 20’s. I think the variety of experiences we all bring to the table, makes the group more dimensional and interesting.

What are the hoop skirts all about?

The hoop skirts have been through several different iterations at this point. The structures are made of steel, are free-standing, are three feet tall, four and a half feet wide at the bottom, and can be worn or manipulated by the dancers. To me, they represent so many different things.  They are societally imposed mores, shelters, anchors, things that hinder, things that empower. They are different things to different characters in the dance. And they are different things to the same dancer at different times.What can people look forward to seeing at Return?

I would have to say an incredible variety in terms of the style and feel of the work, from one dance to the next, and some stellar performances. This is a very strong committed group of performers. The music is also incredibly diverse as well.

What’s next for you and Aerplaye?

I’m currently doing research for a full length topical work – I am keeping the subject matter under wraps as of right now, but I am very excited about it.