Climbing and contemporary dance meet in “White Spider”

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Had to take a brief break from the blog during the Olympics. Information overload. Back to some of the most interesting events happening in Vancouver. This new choreographic work by Jennifer Mascall looks very promising.

Choreographer Jennifer Mascall’s White Spider scales wild heights
By Gail Johnson
Publish Date: March 4, 2010

Rare is the 21st-century dancer who’s limited to a single style. Rather, more and more of those who call the studio and stage their workplace can execute a breadth of forms, from classical ballet to contact improvisation, modern dance to martial arts.

But mountain climbing?

True to modern-day form, when Vancouver choreographer Jennifer Mascall asked five dancers to take up the activity for a new piece, none of them blinked.

“We went to the Edge [Climbing Centre] and got our belay tickets,” Mascall says in an interview before a rehearsal at West Vancouver’s Kay Meek Centre. “We weren’t so much interested in getting up as we were exploring the physicality of what the harness does with your body.”

Scaling peaks is at the heart of the Mascall Dance artistic director’s latest work, The White Spider. It takes its name and inspiration from the book of the same name by Heinrich Harrer, who in 1938 was on the first team to successfully climb the north face of Switzerland’s treacherous Mount Eiger. The 5,000-foot ascent, whose name means “ogre”, is also known as the Murder Wall because of the number of lives it has claimed.

The parallels between mountaineering and dance are undeniable, Mascall explains. Whether it’s a group of climbers ascending a precipice single file or an ensemble of performers swirling together on-stage, each member is completely dependent on the others. One slip-up and everyone suffers.

Then there is the unshakable commitment that climbers and dancers make to their chosen activity, a loyalty that leaves some people perplexed.

Read the entire article here.

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