Aeriosa performing new work at Dance in Vancouver showcase

Company will present excerpt from Second Nature

The 11th biennial Dance In Vancouver runs until Saturday, Nov. 25 at Scotiabank Dance Centre, 677 Davie St., Vancouver. Tickets: $32/$24 at ticketstonight.ca. Visit thedancecentre.ca for more info.

Up, down, left, right. It’s all relative when you’re twisting and turning high above the ground.

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Known for their high-flying vertical performances, Aeriosa Dance Society quite literally turns contemporary dance on its head. The company’s fearless performers combine the athleticism of rock climbing and the graceful movements of dance as they execute choreography while suspended in public spaces. The group has danced on the exterior wall of the Vancouver Public Library building downtown, on the face of the Stawamus Chief, and in the canopies of old-growth trees in Stanley Park.

For their upcoming performance, founder and artistic director Julia Taffe is bringing things inside. The company will stage an excerpt from their show Second Nature (premiering spring 2018) at Scotiabank Dance Centre on Saturday, Nov. 25 as part of the four-day Dance in Vancouver event. The studio piece is inspired by bamboo, both as a substance and a metaphor.

“(Julia Taffe) is exploring how bamboo is an important resource, like many other resources on the planet,” says Alyson Fretz, a North Shore resident and member of Aeriosa since 2015.

Aerial dancing indoors comes with its own unique challenges. Rather than being anchored to the roof of a skyscraper or a sturdy tree branch, the six performers will be anchored to the studio ceiling and paired off using a counterbalance rigging system.

“You’re not only responsible for your own rope and your own weight, you now have to think about your partner and their weight and where they are,” Fretz explains.

Harnessed on the other end of Fretz’s rope will be Lynn Valley-raised dancer Gina Alpen.

“When Gina and I take alternate turns jumping up and down, you’re completely weightless as the other person on your counterbalance system takes the weight up,” Fretz explains.

Alpen did her early training at North Shore Academy of Dancing and joined Aeriosa around the same time as Fretz.  

“You’re kind of at the mercy of what your partner’s doing and where that anchor point is,” Alpen says of the counterbalance rigging system.

While this show will more closely resemble a traditional dance performance compared to Aeriosa’s outdoor works, Alpen says it’s just as easy for the performers to get disoriented.

“Up and down is kind of relative, because you could be sideways, you could be horizontal to the floor, parallel to the floor, depending on how you’re working,” she says. “You get a little bit confused sometimes.”

For both Fretz and Alpen, being part of Aeriosa is an experience like no other.

“It’s so peaceful, it’s exhilarating, it can be very scary, but it can also just feel so wonderful,” Fretz says of dancing on high.

While Alpen is fond of the bird’s-eye view she gets while soaring through treetops, dangling off the side of a building appeals to her rebellious side.

“The wall is super fun and a bit more acrobatic and I always feel like I’m kind of breaking all the rules when I’m on the side of a wall. I feel like a bit of a badass.”

For those new to the dance world, Alpen says this Saturday’s excerpt from Second Nature will be a good introduction to the genre.

“It’s a fun show to bring people to if they’ve never seen contemporary dance before. It’s definitely unique.”

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