I've never bounced off a vertical cliff in Yosemite National Park. I've never done cartwheels on a castle wall in India or walked like Spider-Man down a building, held by harness and rigging, with my head pointed toward the ground. But after talking with Amelia Rudolph, artistic director of the gravity-defying dance company Bandaloop, I'm ready to try.
For almost 25 years, this Oakland, California-based troupe has performed its "vertical dance" on skyscrapers, bridges, billboards, historic sites and cliffs, as well as inside museums, convention halls and theaters. A lifelong dancer, Rudolph took up rock climbing in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in 1989. Three years later, she created Bandaloop.
"I founded the company when I was falling in love with being in the mountains, with being vertical," she says. She was drawn to explore this "unusual relationship we have with gravity."
Last time I saw Bandaloop, its dancers were hanging off N.C. State's old Gregg Museum of Art & Design. Soon, they'll come to the university's revamped Talley Student Union, beginning in its atrium before progressing into the renovated Stewart Theatre. The program includes "Harboring," a piece Rudolph created for San Francisco's Fort Mason, with music mainly by film composer Mark Orton.
Set between the two World Wars, the dance centers on the ocean and "celebrates and evokes the life of travel and the harbor and the docks," Rudolph says. "It's about lovers reaching across time and space for each other."
Closer to concert dance than other Bandaloop pieces, "Harboring" is marked by low-flying action as dancers swing, hover and engage in rope-play above the stage. The goal, Rudolph says, is to transform the floor.
"The last scene has dancers literally floating across the stage," she says.
But you can get a more vertiginous taste of Bandaloop during a free outdoor bonus performance (Saturday, Sept. 19, 5:30 p.m.), where the company will dance off Raleigh's new Aloft hotel, near N.C. State's Memorial Belltower, as a part of SPARKcon. Rudolph wants to get unsuspecting people in public spaces to stop and look.
High- or low-flying, it doesn't matter to me as long as flying is involved. This could be because my father was a steady-eyed military pilot. While I fear crashing, I've always relished his kind of adventure—the chance to escape gravity.
"You really soar into space," Rudolph says. "That is an incredible feeling of emancipation."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Fly on the wall"