Which Way Is Up? Dance Troupe Challenges Laws of Physics

A dance troupe is taking to the skies of Vermont's Addison County, turning the walls of a building into "floors" for its performances.

"We really have to take gravity and imagine it on its side, so that we're attracted to the wall and not down towards the ground where everyone else is," explained dancer Mark Stuver, a member of the Oakland, California-based group called Bandaloop.

Bandaloop is now in Vermont for a series of weekend performances marking a quarter century of Middlebury College's campus arts center.

"If you're ever going to have a sense of wonder watching a performance, this is one where it's going to happen for you," said Liza Sacheli of the Mahaney Center for the Arts at Middlebury College. "And if you're someone who's never seen a dance performance ever in your life, I think you'll still be fascinated by this."

Bandaloop's work tests audiences' ability to tell which way is up, marrying rock climbing and contemporary dance. Its dancers use incredible core strength and mastery of harnesses to appear to float as they breeze across the side of buildings' walls, spinning, flipping, and floating gracefully.

The dancers' rehearsals this week have been turning heads.

"It's just a perspective-bending performance," observed Middlebury College senior Annie Beliveau, who watched some of Wednesday's rehearsal on the side of the Mahaney Center.

Every single gesture, even something practical like adjusting the length of a slack rope hanging off the side of the building, is an intentional dance movement, Stuver explained.

"It's about embracing necessity," he told necn. "There's no way to hide it. People are going to see that I'm [adjusting my rope], so you have to embrace it; let it be part of the movement you're sharing with people. And they get to also be involved in the process."

Bandaloop is giving three performances on Saturday, Sept. 16, that are free and open to the public. They are scheduled for 1, 2 and 3 p.m. and are on the back plaza of the Mahaney Center for the Arts at Middlebury College, on Route 30.

The performances last for approximately 10-15 minutes, Stuver noted, and will be different from one another, so visitors may want to check out multiple performances.

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