More than 20 years ago Aeriosa artistic director Julia Taffe began creating dance on cliffs and in other BC landscapes as a way of sharing her passion for mountain culture and spending time in nature, with her dance peers and audiences. Exploring dance outside of the studio or theatre and bringing dance into public parks is a way that Aeriosa can contribute to the evolution of dance practice and address the socio-economic barriers that may stand between dancers and potential audiences. Working outdoors along with offering free shows and open rehearsals allows people of all ages and cultures to engage with dance in longer-term, less formal ways that reach wider audiences.
Aeriosa has undertaken artistic residencies at Tofino Botanical Gardens, UBC Botanical Gardens, and VanDusen Botanical Garden, creating and producing site-specific tree canopy shows. The choreography is always nature-centred with dancers performing in soft soled slippers or bare-foot in the forested groves. Collaboration with local live musicians adds a special layer to these events.
Parks & Green Spaces
Aeriosa has created performances and videos in many beautiful outdoor locations including Stanley Park (Vancouver), Saxe Point Park (Esquimalt), Pacific Rim National Park Reserve Long Beach Unit (Kwisitis), Big Beach Park (Ucluelet), North Chesterman Beach (Tofino), Banff National Park (Banff Centre), Stawamus Chief Provincial Park (Squamish), Garibaldi Provincial Park (Whistler), and Exhibition Park & Hanlon Creek Park (Guelph).
Tofino Tree Festival
The Tofino Tree Festival is a new annual event organized by Aeriosa in partnership with local community groups. There will be free public performances and nature-centred events celebrating and sharing local knowledge about the cultural and environmental importance of our West Coast trees, forests and the ecosystems they are part of. Visit the Tofino Tree Festival website for more information.
Photo credit: Courtesy of PNG
Aeriosa performances are suitable for outdoor events and festivals. Aeriosa has co-produced several shows in partnership with Stanley Park and Esquimalt Parks & Recreation. Thousands of people have enjoyed the performances while relaxing on a blanket gazing up at dancers in the trees. Elements of theatre and circus have been woven into some of Aeriosa municipal park productions.
In all park and garden locations, expert and local knowledge of the trees guides the vertical dance artistic and technical decisions. The company takes time to reside in the location and create a performance specific to that environment. The height and proximity of one tree to another, or the way the stem sweeps or how branches protrude, create elements that make the choreography. Rigging methods are respectful and ensure the health and preservation of the park trees, vegetation, and animal life.
Aeriosa welcomes invitations to collaborate and choreograph vertical dance in botanical gardens and parks around the world.
“Tourists looked rightfully awed when they stumbled upon Aeriosa’s treetop performances in Stanley Park….it was one of those Vancouver experiences where nature art and world culture meshed in surprising ways.”
Photo credit: Elizabeth Rose Astwood
Select Recent Works, available to be adapted through site-specific residencies
Thunderbird Sharing Ceremony
The ‘Thunderbird Sharing Ceremony’ collaboration between Spakwus Slulem and Aeriosa presents traditional Squamish Sea Going Canoe Family Songs and Dances alongside Aeriosa vertical dance. This cross-cultural performance generously offers a way for Aeriosa artists to respectfully acknowledge the Northwest Coast First Nations Sea-Going Canoe Protocol for identifying oneself and requesting permission to be received into other people’s territory. Highlights in the show include the moment when a Spakwus Slulem Thunderbird dancer takes flight and when Aeriosa dancers are sung safely down to the ground during the ‘Women’s Paddle Song’ to take part in ‘Gathering of Eagles’ traditional social dance. Since 2011, Aeriosa and Spakwus Slulem have enjoyed creating and performing together at Library Square, Canada Place, Vancouver Convention Centre, The Dance Centre, and Stanley Park.
Photo credit: Tim Matheson
Birds Land is a nature-based, outdoor site-work, originally created for the west shore of Vancouver Island in the Clayoquot Biosphere Reserve region. Julia Taffe’s vertical and grounded choreography is inspired by avian movement patterns and behaviours. The original performances were staged in separate parts at two locations. The first part unfolded in the gardens, with Orchid Ensemble musicians leading the audience down the forest path to watch the dancers in the trees, then proceeding to the central garden where the show continued on an elevated ‘nest’ stage designed of driftwood and boughs. The next part continued at North Chesterman Beach in Tofino, with the dancers traveling dynamically up, down and between two 50m tall, Sitka Spruce trees, then descending and ‘flocking’ away from the audience, dancing down a long stretch of sandy beach into the distance.
Photo credit: Elizabeth Rose Astwood