For some, hitting the dance floor can be challenging. Imagine executing those same moves while hanging in air. Now, take that scenario to the side of a downtown building, underneath the I-35 bridge, or suspended from 25-foot high scaffolding.
Welcome to the world of Austin’s Blue Lapis Light.
Blue Lapis Light is a site-specific dance company that combines the art of dance and music, athleticism, aerial silks and the drama of Austin’s skyline into unique yearly shows. Their current performance, Edge of Grace, serves additional functions. It gives the public a look at Blue Lapis Light’s new south Austin studio location, while celebrating 10 years of creative performance and educational outreach.
Collaboration Key to Blue Lapis Light Works
Each production springs collectively from the Blue Lapis Light team. Founder Sally Jacques guides the artistic process, looking to create “transcendent works of beauty” she describes as nondenominational “prayers for the planet.”
This season, construction of the new studio inspired the idea of performing using scaffolding at the Blue Lapis Light site. Jacques chose Max Richter’s haunting musical piece, “Sarajevo,” about a cellist who played daily among ruins during the city’s 1992 siege (it was also used in the international trailer for sci-fi blockbuster Prometheus).
Jacques explained the connection: “In creating [Edge of Grace], the scaffolding with its bars and confined spaces evokes a symbol of the limitations and challenges we face in our lives, as well as exploring ways to move through them with grace and beauty.”
Once the concept has bloomed, logistics are crucial to bringing the performance to fruition. Production manager Michelle Symons described this process as “going back and forth between the creative heart and more controlling head.”
Because each performance is uniquely specific to its site, every show presents challenges for the technical crew (riggers, sound and lighting) who implement the artistic vision. Dancers work closely with Jacques, associate artistic director Nicole Whiteside and Brenda Hull (managing director) on the movements that work best physically and interpretively.
The dance team practices at the new Blue Lapis Light studio. The week before the performance, the entire crew rehearses at the actual site to feel how the parts become a creative whole.
Blue Lapis Light Builds for the Future
Edge of Grace takes place on two 48′ x 25′ scaffolds flanked by short, blue walls. Erected on top of a slight hill, the structures rest on natural ground, tethered tightly with cables. The Austin sky serves as a backdrop to sound, light and performers. Throughout the 45-minute show, dancers move all over these forms, sometimes climbing, sometimes hanging from ropes, in groups, pairs or alone.
Though Edge of Grace and its scaffolding exist only for the 2015 season performance, Blue Lapis Light works to build a more permanent structure through outreach. After Edge of Grace ends, the rest of Blue Lapis Light’s year will be devoted to fulfilling a mission of “challenging physical limitations and inspiring audiences with a sense of wonder” via education.
The nonprofit brings its signature collaborative style to students and young adults through its Youth Take Flight program, which teaches the skills to create original aerial dance performances. Student showcase performances are held in December and May at the end of sessions. In addition, summer classes for children and ongoing community workshops are scheduled throughout the year.
Going to Blue Lapis Light’s Edge of Grace?
- Tickets start at $18 and are available for purchase at TheLongCenter.org.
- The show runs September 16–20th and September 24–27th, with discounts on Community Night (September 16th) and a gala dinner and performance on September 20th (times vary).
- Blue Lapis Light is located at 10331 Old Manchaca Rd, one light south of the Slaughter/Manchaca intersection. The turn into the parking area is past the red circular sign for The Manchac (on right) and Southwest Christian Church (at left). Note: If you can see the scaffolding from the road, you’ve passed the parking lot entrance.
- This is an outdoor show. Dress accordingly for the weather. In the event of thunder, lightning or rain, a performance may be postponed or cancelled.
- There is chair seating, but feel free to bring a blanket. Seating is really first-come, first served, so arrive early to snag a spot. Fortunately, there are no bad seats!
- Please leave picnics at home. Outside food and drinks are not allowed.
- There is a handicapped accessible drop off for mobility impaired patrons (follow signs past the general parking lot).
- The performance area is a short walk over uneven ground from the parking lot, so leave those heels at home.
For more information about Blue Lapis Light, visit BlueLapisLight.org.
leahruns100 wants to know:
If you could suggest one Austin building for a future Blue Lapis Light performance, which one would you pick?
Photographs updated on September 16, 2015.