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Dance review: Project Bandaloop on the wall at OCPAC

October 1, 2010 | 10:36 am

In aerial dance, the floor is a vertical wall, more than 100 feet high. The performers are harnessed to ropes.

And though this fundamental gravitational shift makes much of traditional dance useless, there are other amazing possibilities. What dancer doesn’t want to defy gravity?

This is the lofty domain of choreographer Amelia Rudolph and her respected Bay Area company Project Bandaloop, which returned to the outdoor plaza of the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Thursday night for the premiere of the center-commissioned work, “IdEgo” (through Saturday).

The performances are free –- a vestige of the center’s short-lived Fall for Dance Festival and its campaign to reach new audiences. The 46,000-square-foot plaza was packed. Center officials counted as many as 5,000 viewers of diverse ages and ethnicities, their beach blankets and folding chairs placed in neat, tight rows. There were “oohs” and “aahs” like at a fireworks finale.

In “IdEgo,” Rudolph veers away from pure feats, taking conceptual elements from the dance-theatre playbook and throwing them up on the wall. Not everything sticks so naturally. Some of the opening-night choppiness will improve with repetition, but the work sprawls thin. It is a complicated piece in an inherently complex, equipment-dependent genre. The choreographer coordinates her six dancers’ movements with Austin Forbord’s massive digital projections and live music by Dana Leong and his contemporary-rock-jazz ensemble. Getting into the spirit of things, Leong even perches for a time three-quarters up the sheer wall, on a sculptural ledge, to serenade on the trombone.

Bandaloop2 “IdEgo” is a bit Psychology 101, with a little Sesame Street thrown in, rather than angst-filled Freudian drama. It flits across topics, with both light-hearted and serious intentions. Each dancer provides monologues (recorded and spoken live), referring to dreams and fears, and acknowledging the divide between self-perception and the viewpoints others have of us. 

The projections are crisp and well-centered. Dancer Mark Stuver, in white boxer shorts, confronts his massively gaping mouth, ready to eat him.  He howls at the moon. Dancers flip and roll on top of their own closeup images. Less successful is Leong’s original composition, which meanders in its own sphere, serving as audio background, rather than providing connecting tissue.

Book-ended around this confessional part are sections of impressive group symmetry. Dancers Melecio Estrella, Damara Vita Ganley, Rachael Lincoln, Anje Lockhart, Roel Seeber and Stuver perform the slow-motion flips, outward leaps and soaring runs with exuberance and grace. Still, many in the crowd exited at intermission.

However, the dances performed after the break -- “The Ninth Second” (2009) and the company signature piece “Caprice” (2004) -- are devoted to the brain-bending feats that seem to be fueling an aerial-dance boomlet currently. From the viewer’s vantage, all presumptions about gravity are thrown askew and so the mind doesn’t quite believe what the eyes are telling it. The dancers' weightlessness continuously surprises and when gestures are well-synchronized, as they are with Zachary Carrettin’s boyant recorded music for “Caprice” one’s heart lifts skyward too.

-- Laura Bleiberg

Project Bandaloop. Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, (714) 556-2787, 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Free.


Project Bandaloop takes dance to new heights — literally

Photos: Project Bandaloop at OCPAC. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times.