There were angels floating over South Beach on Saturday night. An upside down insomniac spirit fretting over his identity in the internet ether. Warriors soaring into the air. And lovers seeping, agonized, down a glass cliff face.
They were, of course, the aerial dancers of Project Bandaloop, bounding from the glass and metal face of the New World Symphony’s New World Center on Saturday night, dance in another dimension. In what was clearly the must-see event of Sleepless Night, thousands packed the park in front of the NWC’ towering wall, sitting through intermittent showers (apparently it was too much to ask for a rainless night!) and the Dana Leong Trio’s amorphous new age music, waiting eagerly for Bandaloop’s Bound(less), which started almost an hour late.
When yet another downpour seemed like it would stop the show, the crowd groaned and even yelled. All the way up front, where you got the direct view of the dancers’ launching straight over you, photographers jostled for space and people lay down on the concrete to look up at the sky. “I guess you’re ready for some dancing!” choreographer/artistic director Amelia Rudolph announced.
That’s dancing, not spectacle – though Bandaloop is both. Yes, when two men grapple and dive at each other in the air, you think ninjas and The Matrix, the atmosphere-laden music (also from Dana Leong, but much more effective as soundtrack) and swoopy moves are bit Cirque-ish. But Bandaloop doesn’t just do stunts. They dance in the air, using thrill and wonder and metaphor to amplify feeling. I remember when, in the early 90’s, choreographer and vertical dancing pioneer Elizabeth Streb told me “dancing just on the horizontal is just so boring.” Now see what that simple idea has wrought.
Three women in flowing white, angels in the drizzle, leapt and reached through the air, white fabric wings rippling in the wind. A man hung upside down, muttering about who and where he was in a way that should have resonated with the nonstop uploading crowd. “I google myself every day… who am I when the power goes out? Who are you?” A woman with red-streaked hair did an astonishing solo, swan diving and flipping outwards into space as if she’d turned the world and gravity sideways, until she stopped to balance precariously on a cross-bar of the metal grid that contained the towering glass cliff face, as if she was clinging to a skyscraper.
There was a romantic pas de deux, a man and woman swinging and reaching for each other, hands pulsing from their chests; she lowered into the abyss as her lover hung upside down and reached desperately downwards for her, and someone on the ground yelled “Don’t give up!” In the finale, all six dancers, in neon bright colors, vaulted and flipped and cavorted in the air, high above us and reaching far beyond.