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Aerial dance scrapped

Logistical issues thwarted arts council’s commissioned Olympic performance piece



A one-of-a-kind commissioned performance for the Olympics that involved aerial dancers, spectacular imagery and an original soundtrack has been cancelled.

"Inspired by Place," the performance that has been referred to by members of the arts community as Whistler's "signature" artistic piece for the 2010 Games, absorbed $110,000 in funding before it was cancelled.

In the fall of 2007, Whistler Arts Council commissioned the Aeriosa Dance Society to produce their first-ever commissioned work. Aeriosa's artistic director, Julia Taffe, choreographed the "Inspired by Place" performance alongside aboriginal choreographer Michelle Olson and hired a troupe of four professional dancers for the interdisciplinary performance. It was designed to reflect Whistler's unique landscape, inhabitants and spirit using aerial and grounded dance accompanied by an original score of music and projected images as a backdrop.

The dancers rehearsed the piece in indoor climbing centres and their studio in Vancouver, and headed to Whistler at the end of February to practice the performance in Mountain Square.

But last fall, before they came to Whistler to workshop the performance in front of the public, they hit a major stumbling block.

"They spent the year sort of putting this vision together," explained Doti Niedermayer, executive director of WAC. "One of the first things that happened along the way was that it was determined that they could not dance off the Carleton Lodge."

Carleton Lodge is the only building in the village that is tall enough and has a solid surface for the dancers to perform on.

"A lot of their aerial dance is off eight-storey, 10-storey buildings - they dance off the Squamish Chief," Niedermayer said. "So they need a certain amount of height to actually make any impact whatsoever."

In October, WAC discovered that they weren't allowed to use the Carleton building for the performance. They would have to get permission from all of the individual owners in the building, and liability insurance was an issue.

"It was just very complex," Niedermayer said.

The team went back to the drawing table and Aeriosa emerged with a backup plan: they suggested using a 25-foot truss structure instead.

"I think really... if I look back now, the turning point came when it went off the Carleton Lodge, because there was no way to get that high again," Niedermayer reflected.

At the time, both WAC and Aeriosa were confident that the 25-foot truss structure would be just as effective. It wasn't until they actually saw the workshops that everyone realized the final product wasn't matching the original vision.

"...It was really low and, in a lot of ways, it was very underwhelming. It was not what I expected. I don't think it was what a lot of people expected, because when we have talked about Aeriosa being a part of this piece, everyone's expectations went to aerial dance."