Professional aerialist Tanya Brno will take to the sky as a veteran performer at the 12th annual festival of variety and burlesque acts.

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Tanya Brno spends much of her life upside down. She’s hung from the rafters on rope and fabric, spun and twirled from swings and poles.

But rather than get dizzy, she gets a rush. Brno, 34, is a professional aerialist, paid to bend her body into contorted positions midair.

“It’s just a great feeling being up there and being able to express yourself and create different shapes,” she said.


Moisture Festival

Through April 12, various venues (

In the next few weeks, she’ll be one of the many aerialists performing at the 12th annual Moisture Festival, a sort of Lollapalooza for variety and burlesque performers, featuring magicians, clowns, burlesque dancers and trapeze artists. The festival features local performers like Lily Verlaine, Miss Indigo Blue, and artists from the Teatro ZinZanni troupe, as well as far-flung visitors like Shayna Swanson from Chicago and Benedikt Negro, a German performer currently starring in Cirque du Soleil’s “O.”

For Brno, who is performing in the festival for the seventh year, it’s another chance to show off her considerable chops. A nine-year veteran of the art form, she performs weekly for clubbers at Q on Capitol Hill. And for the past three years, she’s performed for diners at the Pink Door, just above their tables as they sip wine and eat pasta. (“I’ve bumped into the table and knocked a few menus off.”).

Though Brno was accepted into the acclaimed Cirque du Soleil, she chooses to stick to the local scene. “My home is here, I can have a life and still make my income,” she said. While she’s “good enough” to be a part of a touring company, she said, “I don’t want to feel like a vagabond.”

A former ballerina who came to Seattle from San Diego to study on scholarship at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School, Brno discovered aerial arts when she was going to school at the University of Washington. After seeing an ad for classes at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in West Seattle, she thought, “I need to do that.”

“I have a movement background,” she said, but aerial arts presented a challenge. “You have to build up strength to do it safely,” she said. “It combines my prior training into a new skill.”

Now, the student has become the master; Brno teaches the art form herself at Versatile Arts in Greenwood and the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts in Georgetown, breeding more whirling, airborne dervishes.

“It’s a community that’s really growing. It started off as a very small community and was very exclusive — you were born into a circus family, or you were in Cirque du Soleil,” she said. “Now, it’s more of a recreational thing. Lots of people are practicing it. It’s a new form of fitness for some people.”

While Brno is usually in the “varieté” side of the festival, this year she’ll be performing on the burlesque side, too, on April 2 and April 5 at the Broadway Performance Hall.

“I wanted to be part of the burlesque shows,” she said. “It’s a more polished presentation. It’s 18 and over, so you get to be an adult, whereas the variety show caters to all ages. I like to be glamorous and sparkly.” (She recently joined the burlesque troupe Atomic Bombshells).

As for the future, she’s looking forward to hanging upside down in more unusual locations — including the Duwamish Revealed festival at the Duwamish Waterway this summer. “For that, I’m going to be hanging inside of this paper ball from a crane over the river,” she said.

Cranes, rivers and giant paper balls? For Brno, it’s just another dizzying day at the office.