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The DanceView Times, Washington, D.C. edition

Flying into the Unknown

Crossing, Stories of Gravity and Transformation
Project Bandaloop
Eisenhower Theater
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, D.C.
November 21, 2003

Reviewed by Clare Croft
copyright © 2003 by Clare Croft

Until Friday, I was an aerial dance virgin. After Friday, I am an aerial dance enthusiast. On the West Coast, there are many dancers and choreographers experimenting with hanging from ropes, but for the East Coast, Project Bandaloop’s Crossing, Stories of Gravity and Transformation was a welcome change of pace. Artistic Director Amelia Rudolph’s piece part performance, part documentary featured dancers in the air and on the ground. Projections from footage shot in the Sierra Nevadas, where the company enacted eighteen days of site-specific work, appeared on a giant trampoline that covered the back of the stage. Another trampoline covered the stage’s left wings. The piece as a whole suffered from a lack of cohesion, but when the choreography was beautiful, as it was when the dancers took to the air, it was a revolutionary experience.

Aerial partnering offers a new way to represent the inner, emotional connections between people. In an early duet, one woman first hung amidst projections of mountain streams, then was joined by another woman dancing on the floor. The second woman manipulated the suspended dancer, finally pulling herself onto the woman’s back; the two swinging together in an embrace. The moment struck me as a visualization of the trust required to love another person, jumping into the arms of someone who is not in full control of his or herself. The two women were both vulnerable, but vulnerable together.

Venturing into the unknown, albeit with another person or in nature, was a continuing theme throughout the evening. The work began as a group of dancers tentatively reached their arms and legs into a pool of amber light at the tip of the stage. As dancers snaked into the light, others held them back, allowing the adventurer to go farther into the light, yet ensuring he or she would not fall. At the piece’s end (a moment I thought had come at least four times before it actually did), the group returned to the stage’s apron to play in the same light, but were able to bask in the glow, relaxing against each other.

As an audience member I found it difficult to relax throughout the show because the aerial dance did not always fuse well with the more traditional modern choreography on the ground. I constantly had to make choices of where to look onstage, finding myself incapable of taking in the spectacle as a whole. And, when there was no aerial dance, only dancers on the ground, the movement seemed flat and unfocused. The wandering quality that might have been appropriate in the mountains did not translate well to the stage. Only in the athletic, yet floating duets for the company’s two men did the dancing on the ground ever approach the level of excitement generated by the aerial dance

Other elements of the stage and sound design grated as the hour and fifteen-minute work wore on. The music, a primarily electric score by Zachary Carrettin in collaboration with Raymond Granlund grew tinny and repetitive, sounding far too much like a New Age relaxation tape. The score was at its best in a section that featured soft plucking of a guitar that aptly paralleled the corresponding choreography, a subdued duet where a woman on the ground tenderly touched her suspended partner’s feet.

The projections, a video by Greg Bernstein, did not do justice to their content. Granted, no pictures of nature can replicate the beauty of the real thing, but the quality of the images, possibly because a trampoline does not double well as a movie screen, was a bit lackluster. The projections also complicated the visual cohesion. Especially when dancers hung in front of the pictures while others danced on the ground below, it was hard to decide what was meant to be foreground and what was meant as background.

Despite the problems with Crossing, it’s a work well worth seeing, especially for audiences not accustomed to aerial dance. Watching this form for the first time, excited by its possibilities, I kept wondering, might this have been how audiences felt when they first watched Taglioni stand en pointe?

First: photo by John Mireles
Second:  Bach Wall, Theater Artaud, San Francisco. Photo: Greg Bernstein

Originally published:
Volume 1, Number 9
November 24, 2003

Copyright ©2003 by Clare Croft




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Clare Croft
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The Autumn DanceView is out:

New York City Ballet's Spring 2003 season reviewed by Gia Kourlas

An interview with the Kirov Ballet's Daria Pavlenko by Marc Haegeman

Reviews of San Francisco Ballet (by Rita Felciano) and Paris Opera Ballet (by Carol Pardo)

The ballet tradition at the Metropolitan Opera (by Elaine Machleder)

Reports from London (Jane Simpson) and the Bay Area (Rita Felciano).

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last updated on November 24, 2003