It was midnight when a group of people gathered at the base of Yamnuska Mountain in Banff National Park. The full moon illuminated three figures halfway up the mountain, where they hung from harnesses. Rock climbers they were not, but rather dancers, moving to a live violinist at the base.
Calgary artist Nicole Tritter and friends Trina Rasmuson and Laurie Montemurro of Bird Soul Productions call this “vertical dance,” each appearing like a real-life Spider Woman, combining a ballet dancer’s grace with rock climber’s agility. Members of Bird Soul, which Rasmuson founded in 1998, have done this against a cliff in Kimberley, B.C., atop a York University building in Toronto and on a replica of an oil derrick in downtown Calgary.
On Sept. 7 to 9, Tritter and company will dance on the side of the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts during the Kaleido Festival, for the fourth consecutive year. It will involve hours of preparation and rehearsals at the Calgary Climbing Centre, says Tritter. “Creating one minute of material can be arduous; it can take hours.”
For example, during their Yamnuska performance, in 2007, they camped out for a full week to practise, and gave performances throughout two days, each one clinching with a midnight show for audiences camping in tents at the base of the mountain. The midnight performances were especially exciting. “We were improvising some bat-like movement and a real bat came up and was flying right in front me,” says Tritter, who’s also a visual artist. “It was like magic.”
With or without bats, their movements are like magic. In fact, in 1995, when Tritter was a University of Calgary physical education student — before switching her major to dance and meeting Rasmuson — an instructor quipped: “One day, I think I’m going to see you dancing on a wall because of the way you move.”