Aerosia, a feat of vertical dance performance

Artistic director Julia Taffe’s Vancouver-based Aeriosa Dance Society merges elements of vertical dance and rock climbing in the theatrical work New Artists and Approaches in Vertical Dance, part of Scotiabank Dance Society’s Discover Dance! Series.

This noon-hour show on May 18 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre features Landon Krentz, Deaf ASL Theatre performer, and dance group Butterflies in Spirit which uses hip hop as well as contemporary and traditional First Nations dances to raise awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit people.

Aeriosa performs its work on stage and on the outside of tall buildings, utilizing the walls, ledges, rooftops, and open sky of the architectural setting. The troupe’s eight members and four riggers use the same ropes and harnesses climbers use when descending/ascending mountains, the suspended performers appearing as if they have taken flight.

A multidisciplinary artistic path

From stage to rooftops Aerosia’s diverse performers explore new challenges | Photo courtesy of Aerosia

Taffe is a choreographer, performer, co-producer, rock climber and mountain safety rigger. She has studied dance with companies and schools, such as Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Winnipeg Schoolof Contemporary Dance, and Toronto Dance Theatre. As a performer, she is the recipient of the Mountain Culture Hero Award. Aeriosa Dance Society won a Creation Award from BC’s Art Partners for their interdisciplinary work Inu Situ.

Aeriosa originated when Taffe filmed her love of dancing on the sides of mountains she had climbed.

In 2001, to bring her work to wider audiences, Taffe collaborated with B.C. dancers Scott Buffett, Abby Watkins, and Michael Flynn to create a vertical dance performance for the Scotiabank Dance Centre.

Vertical dance then rapidly gained popularity and sparked interest from dance communities.

During the next couple of years, Taffe received commissions from Banff Centre, Cirque du Soleil Headquarters, Taipei’s City Hall, and others to create performances. In 2005, Taffe registered Aeriosa Dance Society as a not-for-profit, and in 2009 it became a registered charity, providing not only public access to free and low-cost dance programming, but also specialized training in the dance form for artists and technicians.

In 2011, Taffe brought her dance to the west coast of Vancouver Island, where Aeriosa organized the first annual Tofino Tree Festival. This week-long event, usually in late May, celebrates the cultural and environmental importance of the trees, forests, and nature. It is full of free public performances and nature-centered events.

Core values

Aeriosa Dance Society’s main values include collaborative creativity, mentorship and community, and cultural diversity. Taffe strives to create an environment where artists of all backgrounds can comfortably share and develop their ideas, and in turn contribute to the diversity of vertical dance. The company has both urban (Vancouver) and rural (Ucluelet/Tofino) home bases, exposing vertical dance to a wider, more diverse community. They also aim to uplift and support other dancers, especially dance artists from racialized or underrepresented communities.

“We are listening and learning. We are committed to increasing representation of equity-deserving people within our organization, and are excited to continue nurturing cultural diversity in our field of practice,” Taffe stresses on the website.

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