Bandaloop dancers go vertical when they return to Middlebury this weekend

Ever seen vertical performance? BANDALOOP seamlessly weaves dynamic physicality, intricate choreography, and the art of climbing to turn the dance floor on its side. BANDALOOP returns to Middlebury to kick off the 25th anniversary season of the Mahaney Center for the Arts, with public performances at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16.
BANDALOOP first came to Middlebury to perform at the opening of the Davis Family Library and then-President Ron Liebowitz’ inauguration. It was awe-inspiring then and is sure to impress again. Head over to the arts center’s plaza off South Main Street / Route 30 next Saturday and look up, you won’t want to miss this!
“BANDALOOP made a huge impression on our community back in 2004, when we dedicated the college’s new library,” said Liza Sacheli, director of Mahaney Center for the Arts. “We couldn’t think of a better way to honor the Mahaney Center for the Arts’ 25th anniversary than to invite BANDALOOP back, a dozen years later, to celebrate again. The company is a great fit for Middlebury: they combine creativity, innovation, arts, global citizenship, and concern and appreciation of the environment.”
BANDALOOP has been bringing dance to new audiences, activating public and natural spaces, and re-imagining what dance can be since Amelia Rudolph (an avid dancer, climber and environmentalist) founded the company in 1991. The San Francisco Bay area company is not afraid to take their performances to new heights, including skyscrapers, bridges, billboards, historical sites, atriums and cliffs. Each year they create work for their biannual home season and for 15-30 touring performances around the world.
“It takes a tremendous amount of strength and effort to hold oneself up sideways to give the appearance that gravity is coming from the wall instead of the ground,” said dancer Jessica McKee, who’s been with BANDALOOP since 2005 and will perform in Middlebury. “Yet alongside the effort is an incredible sense of freedom — I feel as if I’m swimming through the air in slow-motion, pivoting and spiraling in ways that are otherwise attainable only in my dreams.”
Not only is this performance about changing perspectives, it’s about accessibility.
“BANDALOOP embodies accessibility of the arts,” explained BANDALOOP Executive Director Thomas Cavanagh, who has been with the company since 1998 and executive director since 2012. “You would think our work is unattainable given we are literally flying over your head above city streets, but actually by bringing authentic dance to the public, interweaving into their daily routines allows for a unique approachability. One reinterprets both art and architecture in this way and our presenters globally recognize the opportunity to expand their audiences in this holistic way. Through the courage of the presenter or in this case Middlebury College and the patron… we can make the unimaginable possible for a living intersection of a diverse urban audience.”
To date, BANDALOOP has performed in front of nearly a million people in over 17 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Americas and Asia. Reaching so many people is part of the company’s education and outreach mission, which they’ll also bring to Middlebury.
Middlebury alumnus Mark Stuver ’97.5 was a dancer in the company in 2004, and returns with BANDALOOP next Saturday, as artistic associate. He will give a talk about his career on Friday, Sept. 15, 12:15 p.m., in the Mahaney Center for the Arts dance theater. The presentation is free and open to the public.
“I was a student when the Mahaney Center was under construction,” Stuver remembered. “When I came back from my year abroad the dance facilities opened.” That’s when he changed his focus from geography and environmental studies to dance.
“As a dancer you hope to make it big, and join a company or become a choreographer,” the Los Angeles, resident continued. “To be able to come back to perform at Middlebury (in 2004 and now) is a real honor.”
With a background in rock climbing, Stuver helped BANDALOOP develop new choreography and techniques.
“Early on there was a question about crossing ropes,” he said. “As one of the few people with a climbing background, I said that I didn’t think that crossing ropes should cause any safety issues… which led to the development of a move called the ‘Matrix’ where two dancers do flips toward each other and intentionally cross ropes. Now we do tons of different choreography where the ropes tangle.”
Hear more about Stuver’s interdisciplinary work with BANDALOOP, writing and puppeteering next Friday.
Next Saturday’s performance will kick off the silver anniversary season of the Mahaney Center for the Arts, and without exception, it’s going to be another fantastic season. From music concerts to plays, films to art exhibits, the Mahaney Center serves as a hub of arts activity for both the college and the surrounding communities.
“We invite the whole community to celebrate with us at this kickoff — and all season long,” Sacheli encouraged. “We have an impressive season of world-class concerts, plays, exhibitions, films, and more.  Many people think the Mahaney Center for the Arts is just for college folks, but that’s not true. We are open for business! We have over 300 public arts events every year, and fully half of them are free. We hope that BANDALOOP will be just the thing to invite our community to reacquaint themselves with the arts at Middlebury.”
Got it? Good. Let’s all plan to get out to experience some more art this season. And we’ll start with next Saturday’s BANDALOOP performances. They’re free and oh, so, worth it.
To find out more about the arts scene at the Mahaney Center for the Arts visit middlebury.edu/arts.
— Elsie Lynn Parini contributed to this report.

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