Aerial dancing — off a building side — comes to the Three Rivers Arts Festival | Dance | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Aerial dancing — off a building side — comes to the Three Rivers Arts Festival

Blue Lapis Light world-premieres Stardust here

A Blue Lapis Light dancer
A Blue Lapis Light dancer

Seeing dance at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival is nothing new. Having to look 300 feet up the side of a building to see it is a first. Austin, Texas-based aerial dance company Blue Lapis Light’s stage for the world premiere of its work Stardust is the side of Downtown’s 31-story Fifth Avenue Place. The company gives two free evening performances of Stardust, June 2 and 3.   

One of the fastest growing genres of dance, aerial work, more specifically aerial silks, has been popping up everywhere. Dancing off buildings, however, is quite different, says Blue Lapis Light artistic director/choreographer Sally Jacques, by phone from Austin. The logistics and expense of rigging, rehearsing, permits, road closures and security can be quite high. 

Jacques, a native of England, says her interest in aerial dance began with her idea to have dancers perform on construction scaffolding. That led to adding nets, ropes and harnesses. She formed Blue Lapis Light in 2005 in order to create large-scale, site-specific aerial dance works with an element of social context. 

“Our works always have a component of the human journey and our connection to each other and nature,” says Jacques. 

The 30-minute Stardust, “in a very transcendent sort of way,” says Jacques, addresses the current climate of separatism with regard to cultural diversity. “Why are we focusing on conflict and not unity?” says Jacques. “We could do so much more for so many if we opened our hearts and had a little compassion.”  

Set to a range of music from Sigur Ros, Hans Zimmer and Brian Eno to operatic arias, the work in five sections will find four dancers flipping, somersaulting and leaping a la circus acrobats along the side of the building.

For its site-specific works, the troupe usually rehearses for three to four weeks on site. In Pittsburgh, the company will have only three days to rig and rehearse for its performances, the bulk of Stardust’s creation and prep work having been done on a studio mock-up of the site. It’s an element of added risk Jacques says she and her troupe are prepared for. 

“I am a site-work choreographer,” says Jacques. “I love being on buildings and being in nature.”

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