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Presenting All the Beauty of Vertical Dance

With their special technique of dancing on cables, they have conquered countless bridges, historical buildings, and modern skyscrapers over the years. They debuted in Hungary two years ago on the glass wall of an office building on Kálvin Square, and now, BANDALOOP is back, but this time with a traditional stage performance. We talked to Thomas Cavanagh, the director of the American troupe, about his new piece focusing on the fragility of human relationships.

After your highly successful Budapest stunt in 2017, you’re returning to our capital city with a new performance. Moreover, this performance of STRINGS will be its European premiere. You constantly travel the world, yet it seems that Budapest plays a more favoured role in your lives.

We like being here. We love Budapest. Over the course of the 28 years since the troupe was founded, we’ve fallen in love with many cities, but we don’t return to all of them. The year before last, we presented a “performance art”-style, surprise production, stretched cables over one of the office buildings on Kálvin Square, and danced on the glass wall and the roof. I have very fond memories of this. After the show, once we were back on terra firma, I started chatting with an elderly gentleman who told me how desperately Hungarians awaited the Americans to come and save them from the Soviets after the 1956 Revolution broke out. Jokingly, he remarked: finally, you’ve arrived, after all these years!

Might we consider the Kálvin Square open-air show as a kind of preview or taste of what’s to come in the performance of STRINGS?

It’s a fact that Hungarians have already had a taste of what BANDALOOP is all about. But with this invitation to the festival, we wanted to show a completely different segment of our skills and our repertoire. The unusual, spectacular street formula is an effective means of building public interest, of luring the audience into the theatre. But STRINGS follows a score different from our open-air performance; it is a different kind of construction. It will be closer to a traditional contemporary dance performance. We’ll be presenting a piece now which is longer, both in its musicality and choreography, and much more refined in atmosphere, with a timely theme and a significant message.

Will you be performing it on or in Müpa Budapest? With BANDALOOP, you never know.

STRINGS will include vertical dance as usual, along with our customary harnesses and ropes, but basically we’ll be dancing with them on the stage. The performance will actually start outside the building, on the walls of Müpa, thus drawing people into the building. We’d like to present all the beauty of vertical dance by opening up Müpa that day, and reinterpreting the space through dance.

You have dancers jumping through the air and performing astounding spectacles; you have conquered countless buildings, Gothic cathedrals, bridges, and skyscrapers. After all this, wouldn’t a classical stage production be a step backwards?

That’s not how we see it at all. Although we are known predominantly for our spectacular open-air shows, we’ve worked a lot inside theatres too. For instance, five years ago we danced on an enormous 150-metre high skyscraper in Providence, and two years ago we returned to conquer a much smaller, 30-metre building, where we could give a more intimate performance. Before the show, everyone asked why we didn’t go back to the skyscraper that posed such a challenge. But this performance fascinated people even more. Our work is still art, and it is primarily about movement, dance, and choreography, not about extremes.

STRINGS essentially examines human relationships and their fragility in our world which seems increasingly more divided. Are we in for a political dance performance?

Strings will be important elements of the performance, both literally and metaphorically. We’d like the people in the audience to discover common threads – the heartstrings they share in common, if you like – with the person sitting next to them, and to discover themselves in the performance. In the world of social media, we’re increasingly living in our own echo chambers, and we’re surrounded by increasingly higher walls. One of the things we’d like to achieve with STRINGS is to break out of this lack of empathy, to recognize that suffering and problems exist beyond our immediate environment. Let’s be staggered by the knowledge that there’s another world out there. We believe in the role of art as mediator.

Earlier, you mentioned the music of the piece: the composer is Gabriel Prokofiev. Does he have anything to do with the great Russian composer?

He certainly does. He is Sergei Prokofiev’s grandson. He’s inherited the talent, but the genre is slightly different: in addition to being a composer, Gabriel is a DJ and a music producer as well. With him, we’re continuing our tradition of commissioning every composer who works with us to write new music for the respective performances. We’re also keeping our custom of dancing to live music. In fact, we’re going include local forces as well: the Accord Quartet, made up of excellent Hungarian musicians, will play at our Budapest performances.

THE EDITOR RECOMMENDS

Hovering between night and day, Minuit (Midnight) is the creation of the charismatic acrobat and performance artist Yoann Bourgeois. His new production comprises experiments in physics made into short scenes and strung together. Variations on falling, juggling horizontally, a machine that creates zero gravity, dancing on the stairs – all on the same evening.

Adél Hercsel

This article was first published in the BSF Magazine.

April 6 and 7 | 8 pm
Müpa Budapest – Frontage
BANDALOOP
Horizontal to vertical, or the new perspective of dance

April 6 and 7 | 8.40 pm
Müpa Budapest – Festival Theatre
BANDALOOP: STRINGS
Performed by: Virginia Broyles, Becca Dean, Melecio Estrella, Rachael Lincoln, Courtney Moreno, Jessica McKee, Roel Seeber, Jessica Swanson
Featuring: Accord Quartet (Péter Mező, Csongor Veér – violin, Péter Kondor – viola, Mátyás Ölveti – cello)
Music: Gabriel Prokofiev
Lighting: Jim French
Costumes: Jessica McKee
Choreographer: Amelia Rudolph és a társulat tagjai
Assistants to the artistic director: Melecio Estrella, Rachael Lincoln
Artistic director: Amelia Rudolph
Executive producer: Thomas Cavanagh

THE EDITOR RECOMMENDS

April 19 and 20 | 8 pm
Trafó House of Contemporary Arts
Yoann Bourgeois: Minuit (Midnight)