The BANDALOOP vertical dance ensemble takes dance to new heights, with climbing and flying prowess simulated in a dance performed on unconventional surfaces. The world premiere of their new dance piece, “FIELD,” takes place this weekend on the vertical facade of the 725 Ponce building, overlooking the Eastside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine. The event is presented by Flux Projects, an organization that creates temporary public works of art throughout the city. Anne Dennington, Executive Director of Flux Projects, and Melecio Estrella, Artistic Director of Bandaloop, joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes to talk about the daring vertical dance performance and what it takes to be successful.
BANDALOOP was founded in 1991 by dancer Amelia Rudolph, who grew up and trained in Chicago. “In the late 80s and early 90s she started to take rock climbing very seriously; she was a competitive climber, ”said Estrella. “She realized, when she was climbing in the mountains of California near Yosemite, that rock climbing could enlighten her in dancing, and that her dancing could actually enlighten her on climbing.”
“The question, the investigation of what happens when you mix the two art forms, is a question we still answer 30 years later,” Estrella continued. “It evolved from the mountain to then settle in urban spaces and the integrated environment. So we dance all over the world on buildings, bridges; Yet we dance on cliffs, trees – just about any vertical surface that can work with our climbing gear, we’re ready to explore.
Safety, of course, is crucial for these dancers, and their harnesses require elasticity and flexibility to allow a dancer’s full range of motion while still being securely strapped in. “Over the years we’ve learned to really use what really, essentially, is a climbing harness, and how we can work with it and dance in a way that frees it, where we can almost forget about the harness. Estrella said. “We are working with a harness designer, who designs a dance harness specifically made for BANDALOOP. Attesting to the talent of these dancers, the accuracy of their direction and the quality of their special equipment, Estrella said the troupe had never had a serious incident in their 30 years of work.
The choice of location, the facade of 725 Ponce, was chosen by Flux when the chief developer of the new building, Jim Erwin, researched Flux Dennington’s executive director for ideas for public art they could bring to the project. . She had recently met Estrella and the executive director of BANDALOOP, Thomas Cavanagh, and working with them instantly made her wishlist. According to Dennington, the developers felt the same, and all three teams got down to work preparing for this daring dance feat that would enliven the walls of 725 Ponce.
The piece created by BANDALOOP, “FIELD”, highlights the global textile industry. Estrella shared the inspiration for “FIELD” in the story of her Filipino grandmother, who learned to crochet while detained in a WWII concentration camp during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. “She was crocheting these elaborate bedspreads, and because she couldn’t get any more yarn, she would untangle them and start over, and that was during the months leading up to her eventual execution… As a fiber artist myself, someone who loves to knit, it really hit me, “said Estrella.” The act of making fabric has been, for generations, a calming act, an act of healing… There is something very sacred in the fabric for me. “
He continued, “Juxtapose that with the environmental devastation that is happening right now in the textile industry, the globalized fashion industry and fast fashion; it’s a lively mix. Estrella consulted a sustainability expert, Catherine Bottrill, who works with the fashion industry on an environmental impact analysis. Information about fashion’s damage to the natural world inspired the message and gestures of “FIELD”, which is part of a multi-event project called “LOOM” where the dancers of BANDALOOP create works of art in fiber woven onto the buildings where they perform, keeping the message visible after the dance is over.
BANDALOOP’s “FIELD” is free and open to the public and will be played October 1-3 at 725 Ponce De Leon Ave. More information is available at https://fluxprojects.org/productions/field/.