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Interview: Vertical dancers set sights on JejuPioneering dance troupe aim to celebrate space and bring dance to new audiences
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승인 2016.10.07  09:33:41
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▲ BANDALOOP performing at The Fringe Festival, Rochester, NY Photo by Kelli Marsh

Pioneering vertical dance troupe BANDALOOP have recently been to Jeju to scout out spots for a potential performance.

For those unfamiliar with vertical dance, it really is something that has to be seen to be believed.

While it can take in various types of dance in many different types of location, the headline-grabbing part is when the dancers perform while attached to a rope on the side of a vertical face.

In fact, BANDALOOP frequently performs on skyscrapers, cliffs, and bridges and have recently performed in places as diverse as Tianmen Mountain in China, Yosemite National Park in the US and the 16th century Golconda Fort in Hyderabad, India.

For those of us more used to seeing dance closer to ground level, BANDALOOP’s performances can be quite eye opening.

Of course, this is exactly what they are after and it is part of their mission to bring dance to new audiences.

BANDALOOP’s executive director, Thomas Cavanagh explained that when they see dance in an unfamiliar location, people previously not interested in dance often find “the ceiling is shattered, their perspective is opened and they are receptive to dance.”

Should BANDALOOP end up performing on Jeju, as well as potentially opening the eyes of the residents to dance, they would also try to bring awareness to the cultural and environmental importance of Jeju.

▲ Harboring travelers - Fort Mason Center, San Fransisco Photo by Joujon Roche

This fits in with the intrinsic values and goals of BANDALOOP. Thomas explained that “our goal is to celebrate space, to bring life to the heritage and environmental importance of both the urban and the environment where the urban and the rural can exchange”

As well as bringing awareness to certain locations, the locations themselves also bring a lot to a BANDALOOP performance.

When watching a video of one of their shows, the awe-inspiring dance and the spectacular environment seem to be in a constant battle for your attention.

Thomas acknowledges that “we have a duty to honor the place as a performer in addition to the dancer.”

▲ Dancing in Monterrey, Mexico Photo by Carlos Brava

This applies to both natural and urban dances and no matter what the location, BANDALOOP try to celebrate space.

In fact, Thomas points out, there is often an exchange between nature and the urban in their performances. Dance steps perfected on a remote mountain will be performed at urban locations in front of large audiences.

Sometimes they will even interspace urban performances with video recorded during a natural performance to exchange the value of the different types of landscape.

Of course, Jeju itself has many beautiful natural sites that could potentially lend themselves well to a performance on the island. Places being considered by the group include Sunrise Peak, the ICC, and Jeongbang Waterfall.

▲ Dancing in Monterrey, Mexico Photo by Carlos Brava

Despite their long history, a performance at Jeongbang would actually be a first for BANDALOOP as they have never before danced on a waterfall.

As well as the places themselves, Thomas was impressed by the culture of the island and thought that it fits in well with BANDALOOP’s intrinsic values.

“There is a respect for the mountains here, a respect for the human element, a compassion for people, an understanding of a traumatic past and a hope for a better future for all people and most importantly an attuned awareness for art and culture as a mechanism to solve and cope with the challenges of a shifting planet.”

Of course, many of the sites on Jeju, and the sites BANDALOOP have performed on previously are environmentally and/or culturally sensitive. Because of this BANDALOOP like to make sure they have the blessings of everyone involved before they put on a performance.

▲ BANDALOOP dancers performing in Dolomiti Photo by Atossa Soltani

They also speak about the importance of using local assets when putting on a performance. “We want to activate local assets. Not just in terms of our host and the success of the heritage council but local technicians. The stewards of these places. The gardener of this cliff knows the place better than I do.”

BANDALOOP adhere to the principles of the leave no trace movement, meaning that after a performance the environment will be in exactly the same condition as it was before.

This also stretches to, wherever possible, not closing down sites that they perform on. This has lead to performances being done on cathedrals while people inside worship and has also led to many looks of surprise from unsuspecting hikers who stumble across a BANDALOOP performance.

When it comes to the performances themselves, in an ideal world Thomas says that BANDALOOP would do three dances in each location.

This would include a pre-performance in a natural space to expose the concept of BANDALOOP, a full show on a building or other location for easy access and a post-performance show with a smaller team in another natural setting.

BANDALOOP are currently considering a performance on Jeju for early next year (2017).

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