A large part of my thesis exploration will consist of taking as many dance classes as I can, from as many dance studios in San Francisco. Not only is this a great excuse to do something I love throughout my thesis process (not to mention keep me in shape!) but it also serves to give me better idea of what the dance community of San Francisco has to offer to the adult non-professional dancer. When I was gathering information about the many great dance experiences San Francisco has to offer, one group stood out as being uniquely thrilling and something that I had to try. Enter Project Bandaloop: founded in 1991 by artistic director Amelia Rudolf with the aim of bringing together ‘dancers, climbers, musicians and visual artists to redefine dance and performance space’. A small company consisting of six dancers and a supporting technical team, in my opinion, the group is beyond successful. With just a simple viewing of the video reel they provide on their home page, you are instantly captivated by flying bodies that seem to defy gravity and float through the air. The fact that this movement is synchronized and set to music is even more fascinating and creates a truly inspired audience experience.
Besides performances that take them all over the world, I was thrilled to find out that Project Bandaloop offers classes and workshops to anyone who is curious about trying this motion. I signed up for the Weekly Adult Vertical Dance Class, which is a two-hour class that meets once a week for ten weeks. Last week I completed my third week of training and I am absolutely loving it. It is true that the work in the harness takes a lot of strength and some getting used to. The first week I was filled with excitement and adrenaline and found myself taking pretty naturally to idea of being up in the air and upside down (In the spirit of full disclosure: growing up I had experience as a gymnast, a diver and had also worked in harnesses for a stage performance). The second week I found myself having a bit more fatigue and realized that I would need to closely monitor things like hydration and the food I ate before coming to class. The third week I could feel myself getting stronger and begun to think beyond just moving in the harnesses, but actually learning new movement.
What has really struck me is how wonderful and patient the instructors are as well as being able to interact with my fellow students. The first week, as part of our warm up we did an exercise across the floor where we had to move like an ameba with two other students, never loosing contact. Even though I dance every week as a teacher of my own class, I found myself being very stiff at first. Having gone from sitting at a computer all day where I communicate through email and instant messenger, the idea of actually touching someone else seemed oddly foreign. But as we began the exercise I relaxed, embraced and really enjoyed the physical interaction. It presented a kind of revelation, or maybe just a reminder, that human contact is so important and that dance provides a safe and meaningful way to connect with others.
There are all different levels of students in the class and the instructors make sure that everyone is moving at a pace they are comfortable with. Everyone in the class is just happy to be there and are enjoying the experience of being challenged and learning a new skill. I’m looking forward to the rest of my 7 weeks, not only to see how strong I can get, but to see how far I can get in exploring this new type of movement.