The side of Moss Arts Center was transformed into a performing arts stage on Friday, Sept. 17, and Saturday, Sept. 18. BANDALOOP, innovators of vertical dance, took to the skies as they glided across the glass windows of the arts center. The dancers performed elegant flips and emotive spins in front of a crowd of over 1,200 students, parents, community members and faculty on Friday according to Katie Gehrt, the director of marketing and communication at the Moss Arts Center.
“Having something outside with the building as a dance floor — I have to see,” said Marise Robbins-Forbes, Virginia Tech’s director of development and an avid spectator. “I have never seen anything like it before.”
Margaret Lawrence, the director of programming at the Moss Arts Center, felt similarly as she looked up at the lithe dancers above.
“This has just been a dream,” Lawrence said. “Having BANDALOOP here was something that started two years ago, way before the (COVID-19) pandemic … I think it’s beautiful because it makes you rethink what dance can be, but it also makes you see a building in a different way.”
According to their website, an integral part of BANDALOOP is education and outreach. True to this mission, the dancers hosted a lecture on Sept. 15 where they performed some of their dances and answered questions about how they were able to do these miraculous flights. The performers also taught a small group of Virginia Tech students on Sept. 16, hooking them up to harnesses of their own and letting them practice some of the techniques on a smaller, lower scale in the back of the Moss Arts Center.
“I hope that we can continue, you know, at the Moss Arts Center and Virginia Tech in general, to grow that atmosphere that arts are important too,” Gehrt said, smiling at the crowd of people on the arts center lawn.
After floating down from the 32-foot tall glass side of the arts center, Rose Huey, a dancer and education manager for BANDALOOP, stood clad in a denim robe with flecks of golden glitter around their eyes. She spoke about the preparation that went into her team’s graceful flights.
“This was really fun because of the long windows and the little triangle ledge,” Huey said. “It’s a beautiful glass building but it has these metal ridges that you can grab and crawl onto which makes it extra fun. So we’ve really been enjoying adapting our choreography to this place … Every building feels different.”
BANDALOOP performed excerpts of their piece “Field,” which is part of a multi-year project known as “Loom.” “Loom” explores the ancestral, spiritual and ecological impacts of textiles, according to Melecio Estrella, a dancer and the artistic director of BANDALOOP. Its nimble dances demonstrate different themes involving textiles, ranging from the therapeutic action of making cloth, to inherited clothing from our ancestors and even to the detrimental ecological footprint of mass-produced clothing. Estrella hopes to bring awareness to this last issue through BANDALOOP’s performances.
“When we suspend our nylon ropes up and down the building, it becomes a warp like a weaving loom and the dancers weave side to side,” Estrella said, gesturing at the ropes. “We think of that as fabric, ephemeral art fabric that we weave while we dance.”