By KEVIN GRIFFIN (Vancouver Sun)
I was looking at it but couldn’t really believe what I was seeing: high up above me, about four stories high to be exact, a woman was dancing in ballet shoes en pointe. As unbelievable as it was, she was dancing on the side of the building. Yes, the side. The only part of her body touching the flat concrete wall was the tippy tip of her pointe shoe. It was amazing.
I was on the ground looking up. To be specific, I was lying on my back on a white tarp looking up at the inaugural performance of Aeriosa‘s Being. The five dancers were hanging by mountain climbing gear from the top of the seven-story Scotiabank Dance Centre. Some of the audience members were on folding chairs looking up. I was one of the ones lying horizontal which turned out to be parallel to the dancers. A crowd also gathered on Granville Street to stare at the show taking place high above their heads.
It was one of the most innovative dance performances I’ve seen in a long time. I’d go again in a flash. If you can get a ticket for tonight’s performance or Saturday, try. I doubt you’ll see anything like it any time soon in the city.
As I watched the performers dancing – and as I tried to ignore my own sense of empathic vertigo triggered by seeing people moving so high above me – I realized that gravity and momentarily suspending gravity was an integral part of the work. At times, the wires supporting the dancers disappeared in the darkness and I had the odd sensation of watching dancers floating in mid-air. Just magical.
Although the idea of dancing several stories in the air might sound like a Cirque du Soleil performance, it wasn’t. Yes, it had moments of flash and very high production values. But it was better, much more subtle and totally site specific. The story it told was of Aeriosa’s development as a dance group that moved from the earth to the sky as the performance itself moved from inside the dance centre to the outside.
The outdoor performance took place on the north-facing side of the building – right above that odd rectangular space used as a parking lot between the dance centre and the Howard Johnson.
As I looked up and watching the dancers leaping off into space and performing graceful arcs and jumps, it made me think of the creativity of company artistic director Julia Taffe and crew she’s assembled. Today at work I looked at the sides of towers downtown and wondered: wouldn’t it be great if they were used as dancing surfaces?
Being is a fitting tribute to the 10th anniversary of the Scotiabank Dance Centre.
Tickets to the final performances are tonight and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. are available from Tickets Tonight.