Project Ban­daloop heads to OCPAC for a grav­ity-de­fy­ing show that prom­ises to be its most am­bi­tious yet.

Los Angeles Times - - Arts & Books - Chloe Velt­man re­port­ing from oak­land cal­en­dar@latimes.com

On most days, the wall at 2201 Broad­way that over­looks a down­town park­ing lot on the corner of Grand Av­enue and Broad­way draws lit­tle at­ten­tion from passersby. But dur­ing the last cou­ple of months, peo­ple have stopped in their tracks to gaze up at the hun­dred-foot-tall, cream-col­ored fa­cade as dancers sus­pended from thin climb­ing ropes rap­pel down its sur­face in for­ma­tion, stop­ping ev­ery now and again to ex­e­cute slow-mo­tion pirou­ettes, som­er­saults and jetés in flouncy mesh un­der­skirts. The per­form­ers fly so high above the ground that on­look­ers have to crane their necks and shade their eyes to see them. Yet their fluid, grav­ity-de­fy­ing moves make them look like sea anemones danc­ing on the ocean floor.

The nor­mally in­nocu­ous wall has lately be­come the site of much ac­tiv­ity dur­ing re­hearsals of Project Ban­daloop, a Bay Area-based dance com­pany that seeks its in­spi­ra­tion from rock climb­ing to cre­ate per­for­mances on the sides of build­ings, cliff faces and other strato­spheric sur­faces around the globe. Dancers move across the ver­ti­cal space to recorded mu­sic. Rig­gers stand at the top of the build­ing, mak­ing sure the per­form­ers are safely strapped into their har­nesses and ropes.

Sit­ting in a low-slung deck chair in the park­ing lot be­low with a sound sys­tem at her feet, a mi­cro­phone in her right hand and a walkie-talkie in her left, artis­tic di­rec­tor Amelia Rudolph di­vides her time be­tween dis­cussing stag­ing de­tails with her de­sign and tech­ni­cal crew and is­su­ing di­rec­tions to the dancers and rig­gers above. “Can you hear me?” she says into the mi­cro­phone to a solo per­former sus­pended half­way up the wall. “Does it help if I add re­verb? Can you hear me now?”

To­ward the end of the month, the wall will be re­stored to its usual state of blank­ness when Project Ban­daloop tem­po­rar­ily trans­fers its op­er­a­tions to an­other sur­face of sim­i­larly epic di­men­sions — the pink­ish fa­cade of Segerstrom Hall at the Orange County Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter. There, for three free per­for­mances Thurs­day to Satur­day, the com­pany will per­form the world pre­miere of “IdEgo,” a piece com­mis­sioned by OCPAC to launch its new sea­son. Project Ban­daloop will also per­form a re­vised work from its reper­toire ti­tled “The Ninth Sec­ond.”

Chore­ographed by Rudolph, “IdEgo,” which draws its ti­tle from Sig­mund Freud’s de­scrip­tion of the hu­man psy­che, ex­am­ines the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the in­di­vid­ual and the com­mu­nity through the in­ter­play of ver­ti­cal dance, video, spo­ken and sung text, light­ing ef­fects, set de­sign and mu­sic. Rudolph, 46, has ex­plored sim­i­lar the­matic ter­rain in pre­vi­ous works, such as “The In­ti­macy of Spec­ta­cle,” a piece that Project Ban­daloop per­formed at the Mas­sachusetts Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art last sum­mer. But this new work is more am­bi­tiously the­atri­cal and tech­ni­cal in scope than any of its out­door work to date. The score, com­posed by elec­tro-jazz cel­list and trom­bon­ist Dana Leong, will be per­formed live, with the com­poser some­times play­ing his trom­bone from an ab­stract sculp­tured set piece at­tached to the wall. The mem­bers of the sixstrong dance com­pany will sing and speak — some­thing that Project Ban­daloop has never at­tempted be­fore on this scale — as well as in­ter­act with larger-thanlife live video pro­jec­tions of their faces and bod­ies mov­ing in space.

Al­though the com­pany some­times per­forms in con­ven­tional the­aters, Project Ban­daloop’s site­spe­cific out­put — the work for which it is best known — takes place in much larger out­door en­vi­ron­ments, many of them nat­u­ral. The en­sem­ble has made pieces on Yosemite’s El Cap­i­tan, a Nor­we­gian fjord, a rock face in the Ital­ian Dolomites and the wall of the Ed Sul­li­van Theater in New York (for a 2005 ap­pear­ance on David Let­ter­man’s show).

In­volv­ing a wall mea­sur­ing roughly 100 feet in breadth and height, “IdEgo” is no ex­cep­tion to the trend. But Rudolph hopes that the use of text and the video close­ups will give this new piece a pow­er­ful sense of close­ness. “Be­cause our work is of­ten pre­sented above peo­ple’s heads in the sky, it has a cer­tain grandeur about it,” Rudolph said. “With this pro­duc­tion, I want to get close to the dancers to gen­er­ate mo­ments of in­ti­macy. I want the au­di­ence to see the dancers as peo­ple, not just tiny bod­ies dan­gling from the top of a build­ing.”

The up­com­ing per­for­mances rep­re­sent Project Ban­daloop’s sec­ond visit to Orange County. The first came in 2007 as part of a dance fes­ti­val.

“It was ex­tra­or­di­nary to stand on the plaza and watch the dancers. They looked like they were fly­ing off the walls of Segerstrom Hall,” Judy Morr, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of OCPAC, said of Project Ban­daloop’s first ap­pear­ance. “As soon as I saw them per­form here two years ago, I knew we should com­mis­sion them to cre­ate a new work just for our wall.”

Project Ban­daloop’s out­put dif­fers greatly from OCPAC’s stan­dard fare. The or­ga­ni­za­tion typ­i­cally hosts such world-class clas­si­cal troupes as the Bol­shoi and Royal Dan­ish bal­let com­pa­nies on the prosce­nium stage of Segerstrom Hall’s 3,000-seat theater. Al­fresco aerial dance per­for­mances are well be­yond the pre­sent­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion’s usual purview. Nev­er­the­less, Morr hopes to at­tract an au­di­ence of about 5,000 to see the work each night, which, un­like most other shows at the cen­ter, will be free to the pub­lic. “We felt it was im­por­tant to have an event that cel­e­brated the plaza and the beauty of live per­for­mance out­doors,” Morr said.

Aerial dance has its roots in ex­per­i­ments un­der­taken by such renowned rock climbers as An­toine le Men­estrel in the late 1970s and early 1980s. To­day, the art form has a par­tic­u­larly strong fol­low­ing in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, ow­ing in part to the prox­im­ity of the Sier­ras and the per­va­sive spirit of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism. The re­gion is home to such com­pa­nies as Zac­cho Dance The­atre, Ca­pac­i­tor, As­cen­Dance and Flyaway Pro­duc­tions. Project Ban­daloop, which Rudolph founded in 1991 as an ex­ten­sion of her back­ground in clas­si­cal dance, in­ter­est in rit­ual (the chore­og­ra­pher stud­ied com­par­a­tive re­li­gion along­side dance at uni­ver­sity) and pas­sion for rock climb­ing, a sport that she took up in the Sier­ras in 1989, is among the most es­tab­lished aerial dance en­sem­bles in the world.

“The move­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­te­gra­tion of en­vi­ron­ment and our place in it as hu­man be­ings, scale of the work, and the fun­da­men­tal ques­tions posed by it, are pro­found,” said Diane Frank, a dance pro­fes­sor at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, of Project Ban­daloop. “This could not have un­folded any­where else but the West.”

OCPAC may not be as dra­matic a set­ting for Project Ban­daloop’s work as some of the nat­u­ral land­marks where the group has per­formed. But the dancers are look­ing for­ward to re­turn­ing to Orange County nonethe­less. “I’m ex­cited about that big, clean wall with its pale pink sur­face,” said Rachel Lin­coln, who has danced with Project Ban­daloop for 12 years and makes her home in Venice. “It’s an amaz­ing can­vas for what we’re do­ing. It’s an open stage.”


Cody Duty

Project Ban­daloop mem­bers flit down the Thanks­giv­ing Tower in Dal­las dur­ing an Au­gust show. The com­pany is best known for its site-spe­cific work.


Todd Laby

At­tached to climb­ing ropes, the dancers rap­pel down sur­faces while also ex­e­cut­ing ver­ti­cally chal­leng­ing moves.

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