Terrace Views

The Pioneers of Vertical Dance


Dancing on sides of skyscrapers and soaring from mountain tops is all in a day’s work for BANDALOOP. This dance company based out of Oakland, CA specializes in vertical dance: a new thought that takes dancers and puts them in completely extraordinary settings. Founder Amelia Rudolph took the time to chat about their upcoming debut to the Madison community on OPEN Weekend, September 12 and 13.

TV: We’re looking forward to BANDALOOP coming to Madison for the Wisconsin Union’s OPEN Weekend, have you been to Madison before? 

AR: I don’t know Madison well, but we’re very excited for the new environment and community to share the work that we do. We haven’t done a lot in the Midwest and we’re looking forward to coming!

TV: When you first started BANDALOOP, where did you see your vision going and how has that matched up with how it is today? 

AR: It’s funny because back when I started the company 23 years ago, I had a vision of bringing together two worlds. The first world is one made up of dance, grace and beauty and the second is made up of the outdoor athleticism. I didn’t know what would happen when they came together, but I had a sense that there was energy between the two. I knew I wanted a dance company but I didn’t know what that would look like. I had no idea that it would turn out the way it is today. We travel the world and it is an exciting way to bring people out into the streets, surround each other and be introduced to this outside the box kind of dance.

TV: What is the group dynamic like in BANDALOOP?

AR: Because we have unusual environments that we’re dealing with, there’s a lot of safety and risk management going on. What makes us different from other dance company is that we have to rely on each other and trust each other on a level that is just different. Like other dance companies there is a rotation of dancers that come in an out of the company, but once you get in to BANDALOOP it’s hard to leave because it’s so fun and such an unusual experience. You never know what each day will bring.

TV: Given that this is type of dance that people are so unfamiliar with, what kinds responses have you seen from audiences?

AR: Many people have assumptions of the work before they see it. A lot of people imagine and hope for a performance full of fireworks, trickery and elements of a circus—but that’s not us. We are a dance company who has transformed the environment and accessibility of concert form.

TR: Given that a lot of art is typically confined to the indoors, like in the Union’s case we have Wheelhouse art studios, dance studios and the Union Theater—what advice would you give to artists who are struggling to find a balance between using their art as a form of self expression and making their art part of the world’s conversation?

AR: I do think that all art is personal and there is a spark that is internal. If you’re making art you don’t care about it’s probably not going to be very good–It has to come from somewhere deep inside the artist. Even as a performer you’re much more interesting when you somehow bring your own spirit and self in whatever you’re doing. The finest performers are ones that dissolve their own ego and become the thing they’re doing.

It has to come with a dream and a vision. You can draw pictures in your own house in your own time and you never show any and that still matters. However, if you find something that has that spark, when other people see that they can relate, get inspired and will engage. Through that engagement you have the opportunity to affect other people, to inspire people, to offer people a vision of reality they didn’t expect. By doing that you can trigger in them a transformation. And that’s when art is doing its job.

TV: What’s something you love to see from an audience?

AR: I say turn off your cell phone and experience it directly. This idea of “sit back and relax and enjoy the show,” I don’t believe in that. I think you should stand up and engage. The more present you are, the more likely you’re going get something out of it–no matter what is it. So look forward and pay attention. Take a deep breath at the beginning of the show and let go of your day and your stresses so you can be focused and take in what’s happening because once that performance is over it’s never happening again, ever. It’s also so wonderful when we can sense when an audience is present, whether they like it or dislike it. When there’s an energy or alchemy between the audience and performers it changes the show. Help us be part of the performance simply by your attention, energy and engagement. We will dance better and more deeply for you. See how you can change Bandaloop simply by your presence.

We have the pleasure and the opportunity to engage with these dancers in a few weeks as part of the World Music Festival during OPEN Weekend. To see more of Amelia’s philosophy and creation of BANDALOOP, check out her TedTalk.

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