Amelia Rudolph has been making dancers scale skyscrapers for more than 20 years, but with her latest piece "Harboring" she's minimizing the vertical in favor of the horizontal.
This week, Rudolph's vertical dance company Bandaloop will traverse 520 horizontal feet at Fort Mason's Festival Pavilion in the world premiere of "Harboring."
"'Harboring' is more intimate than many of our other works," says Rudolph, whose troupe has performed in fjords, on skyscrapers and on mountains across the globe. "It is much closer to the audience. They can see the dancers' eyes and expressions, and they'll always be within 50 feet of the dancers."
The show, "a site-reactive multi-dimensional dance" with limited seating, requests the audience to follow the dancers as they move through and around the large pavilion, which is being outfitted with interactive set pieces including shipping containers and a swinging frame.
Presented in partnership with Fort Mason, and taking inspiration from its location and history, "Harboring" is a work infused with memory, nostalgia, ancestry, arrivals and departures, Rudolph says.
"I'm an abstract choreographer," adds Rudolph. "But I dream. I hope the audience gets drawn in to what is a non-linear narrative that is full of otherworldly, semi-stories that are dreamlike. And the music, which is rich and evocative, supports what for me is a bit like magical realism."
Anyone who takes a dance company and turns it on its side isn't opposed to big projects. Rudolph commissioned three composers — Gideon Freudmann, Mark Orton and Jesse Olsen Bay — as well as art director Jack Carpenter.
Watching Bandaloop dancers twirl, twist and float through the air is both mesmerizing and a little scary. As dancers swing like pendulums, a velocity rush transmits to viewers, who may forget for a minute that the dancers actually are attached to a framework of some sort.
"I try to appreciate the constraints," says Rudolph. "Constraints focus the creativity, so our rigging is very simple."
Bandaloop uses professional climbing rigging, and Rudolph imagines her team can probably rig just about any structure in the world.
Perhaps the biggest surprise upon viewing Bandaloop's work is its surreal and awe-inspiring combination of flight and dance.
"People who have never seen my work often presume that it is acrobatic or more gymnastic than it is," says Rudolph. "But all of my dancers are highly trained contemporary or post-modern dancers. Someone once told me Bandaloop was a 'celebration of capabilities.' I think the grandeur of big buildings triggers that. We'll be on skyscrapers in September."IF YOU GO
Presented by Bandaloop
Where: Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, Marina Boulvard and Buchanan Street, S.F.
When: 8:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday and Sunday, 2 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $20 to $35
Note: Thursday's performance wll be followed by a reception; $100 VIP tickets include show, reserved parking, private backstage tour and post-show party.