Years ago, after being a lifelong dancer, I fell in love with rock-climbing. You find yourself high on a cliff in these incredible places, next to peregrine falcons and swallows, far from everyone. Coming back down feels almost like you're an alien returning to Earth. Climbing has a mystical quality: It's intense and a bit scary. It makes you feel deeply alive.

When I started my dance company, BANDOLOOP, we performed in an art gallery. But while rock-climbing one day, I thought about dancing on the side of the mountain. What would that look like? What would it feel like? I was dying to know, so we developed a system for vertical dance: Performers wearing climbing harnesses rappel down the side of a cliff or a building on 11-millimeter ropes and dance in midair. The choreography is refined carefully; creating a five-minute piece takes about 15 to 20 hours of collaboration.

BANDOLOOP performed on our first building—an auditorium in Berkeley—in 1994. In '96, we danced on the Space Needle in Seattle. (It took our producer six months to get permission.) A year later, we did a piece on a skyscraper accompanied by the Houston Symphony, and 40,000 people came out to watch.

Climbing involves bravery and self-trust; that also comes into play with BANDOLOOP. People think what we do is crazy, but everyone has their own fears. Being honest with myself, being vulnerable with people—to me, those things are scarier than dancing on the side of a 400-foot skyscraper. I hope our work changes the audience's perspective, and inspires them to be brave, too.


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