Dancing In The Sky

On August 18th commotion erupted in downtown Dallas, TX, as six members of the Project Bandaloop dance troupe, secured by wires, danced on the side of the 50-story Thanksgiving Tower. The crowd may have been shocked by the performance, but for the dancers, it was just another day at work.

Founded by director and dancer Amelia Rudolph in 1991, San Francisco-based Project Bandaloop performs dances on a variety of surfaces (on buildings and other structures, in the air, on the ground, etc.) around the world.

Rachael Lincoln has been a member of the company since 1999. Here, she dishes about what it feels like to defy gravity on a regular basis and what it takes to train to dance in such unusual locations.

Dance Spirit: What was it like dancing on the Thanksgiving Tower in Dallas? 

Rachel Lincoln: Thanksgiving Tower in Dallas was fun because it's a tall, glass building with no obstructions (big signs, columns, etc.), and it was easier to focus on the execution of the dance rather than potential tripping or rope-wrap hazards. There is a particular excitement to dancing on skyscrapers—a single jump can last for 10 seconds!

DS: Is dancing on the side of a building scary? 

RL: We take the potential risk of our work very seriously. We travel with a professional team of riggers and have a culture of safety within the company that has never once failed. The diligence with which we uphold our systems and safety protocol has, over the years, allowed my mind to relax and trust the gear and our team.  I don't feel fear anymore. 

DS: What type of movement does Project Bandaloop do in the air?  Can all dance moves performed onstage be translated onto the side of a building?

RL: While we often make choreography on the ground and translate it onto the [side of a] wall, there are definite physical limitations to being in a harness.  Of course, we gain the ability to work with gravity in a very different way, but we are unable to do certain things, like turn around our central axis.

Although there are specific "moves" that we do in the air (things that have developed their own Bandaloop vocabulary, such as "Peregrine", "Spinning Coma", "Bat" etc.) we try to avoid simply doing tricks in the air. Particularly when an audience is able to see subtlety, we create work that contains small gestures and intimate partnering as well as the spectacular flips. We treat a vertical surface much like a stage—depending on the size of the wall and the position of the audience, we have to adjust the scale of our choreography.

What type of training do you need to be a dancer in Project Bandaloop?

RL: All of the performers in the company are trained professional dancers. Each member has a unique background that often involves athletic release technique and a sport such as climbing, gymnastics, surfing, or diving.  Once in the company, it is not uncommon for a dancer (if not already a fan) to spend more time rock climbing. In addition to various dance forms, most of us also practice yoga and/or Pilates.

DS: What are some most memorable places you've danced with the company?

RL: For me, the most notable experiences include: dancing on the side of a water tower in Soweto, South Africa; on a historic post office in Macao, China; in the Dolomite Mountains, over the Fjords in Norway, at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., and in the Himalayas.

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