Dancing on air

Dance company sets its sights on the Stawamus Chief

Julia Taffe's dance floor is 600 feet up in the air.

Dangling off ropes attached to anchors on the face of the Stawamus Chief, Taffe and her dance company defy gravity. The team of six, all dressed in red, flow across the granite surface, jumping, leaping, and spinning.

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It creates the illusion of weightlessness, but it takes a lot of core strength, Taffe said. You turn a vertical surface into a floor.

With a background in dance, Taffe started climbing when she was 21 years old. Her love of the sport was brought to a new dimension after spotting an article in a climbing magazine. Shortly afterward Taffe travelled south across the border headed for the climbing Mecca, Yosemite National Park. But her visit wasn't for the climbing alone. Taffe joined the dance troupe that she'd read about, a company that performed on El Capitan. In 1993 she returned to Vancouver and set up the Aeriosa Dance Society.

I'm interested in the idea that the stone is not just for heroes and athletes, Taffe said. There is a place for art too.

While climbing and dance seem completely different they share a lot of common threads, Taffe said. In climbing, one follows the choreography of the rock. Movements are precise and fluid. You work with nature and just like on stage, focus on the moment, she said.

Taffe started her vertical shows as a solo dancer. In 1999 she completed her first piece on the Chief. Last week she was back with a team of six.

I felt lonely as the only dancer, Taffe said.

Finding people for her society was not an easy task, she admitted. Members need significant climbing skills just to reach their stage. In Squamish the dance society set up a dance route just left of the Pillar on the Stawamus Chief. The group documented their training while also experimenting with the idea of creating a performance on the Chief for next year.

Taffe is open to partnering with local musicians and artists for the show. Whatever the end product looks like Taffe wants it to be meaningful to the community.

The goal of this project was to see if we could transfer choreography developed for the side of a building and put it on the mountain, Taffe said.

To learn more about Aeriosa visit www.aeriosa.com or email Julia@aeriosa.com.

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