Amelia Rudolph, the founder of BANDALOOP, always had international influence in her life. Due to her parent’s work, she lived internationally as a child in India for five years while she was growing up. Her parents were both professors of Political Science at the University of Chicago. She started dancing and doing gymnastics already as a kid and became later a student of comparative religion, also because she was very interested in performance as ritual (her main focus was on Asian religions). She received a BA and an MA in this area of study and taught for two years at the college level. Before she founded Bandaloop in 1991, she trained as a dancer from a young age and did several professional dance contracts. She also became an avid rock climber around the time she founded the company.
Amelia, what gave you the confidence that this would be a niche of success?
I have gumption and persistence which is more what it takes to become successful at something than almost anything else. I also realized after our first performance that the combination of sport and art, climbing technology and dance had hit a sweet spot in people’s imagination. The response to our first show was very powerful and I could feel the electricity in the idea. Also, the excitement of combining adventure and art, as when we first did work high on El Capitan in Yosemite was palpable. I could never have predicted our success, but I think it is because of a combination of persistence, striving for excellence and a really good team of people to work with.
Why did you choose such a special art of dance?
I did not choose this form in the sense that it did not really exist when I began. I simply brought together my two passions of climbing and dance in an experiment that has now turned into a sub-field of dance. There were several examples in the US of work like the kind I had embarked on, like Trisha Brown’s “Man walking down the side of a building” and Susan Marshall’s “Kiss,” which I only saw many years after I had been working with off-the-ground harness based dancing, but the mix of dance and climbing technology and dancing on cliffs was not something I had a model for. In short, it was organic to my passions at the time, so it emerged.
How are you choosing your locations? Is there a specific requirement of installation to keep your dancers safe or would just any building work?
There are basically two ways this happens: Either a presenter or client asks us to perform on a building and we do a site visit to make sure the building will work or a presenter invites us on a site visit and we chose between several potential buildings. Occasionally we approach a building owner ourselves because of its location, public meaning or attributes. There are many things that make a building a good “dance floor,” but most important is that we can safely rig our ropes and the dancers can safely dance on it. This can mean that there are no loose pieces or sharp edges for example.
How difficult is it to get the permits to do your gigs?
This varies widely. Our history of 28 years of work on over 250 buildings without incident is our calling card when it comes to safety. We have strong safety systems and excellent liability insurance. All these things contribute to our ability to work with presenters/clients and building owners to manage the permit process. Now it is our executive director Thomas Cavanagh who takes the building stakeholders through a step be step process of how we work very carefully to ensure the dancers, audience’s and building’s safety, a delicate and fascinating job I did for the first twenty years.
What was the most impressive gig/location you have ever danced with Bandaloop?
That is easy. El Capitan in Yosemite. We climbed for six days and five nights up the 3,000 foot tall massive of granite to make “Peregrine Dreams,” a piece that celebrated the return of the Peregrine from near extinction. The experience of living on an ocean of granite for almost a week is one I will never forget.