Bandaloop Soars: ‘Vertical Dance Group’ Stun and Delights

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Photo by Silvia Cantu-Bautista

Whimsical acrobatics by the Bandaloop crew inspired and entertained.

By SARAH BOYLE

This weekend the vertical dance troupe Bandaloop celebrated its return to the Middlebury community as a part of the Mahaney Center of the Arts 25th anniversary. The gravity-defying group, which includes alumnus Mark Stuver ’97.5, returned to the college after their last performance in 2004. Viewers were able to experience Bandaloop’s unique performances at the Mahaney Center for the Arts plaza.

Bandaloop blends circus art, athleticism, and dance to create their dazzling performances. Using ropes and pulley systems, the dancers are able to fly across walls and fall through midair in an act that is fresh and awe-inspiring.

Company member Roel Seeber loves that his movements have a “perceived weightlessness” about them. What makes Bandaloop special for him is that they are able to “bring dance to people who would never see it,” because their stages are public buildings. Seeber also loves this medium because in a world of smart phones and a tendency to disconnect from our environments, Bandaloop allows people to look up to the sky with wonder.

The troupe was formed in 1991 by Amelia Rudolph and is currently based in the San Francisco area. The thrilling medium of dance that the group is known for alters the way that dance is viewed, bringing it outside and to different communities. The company has traveled to over 17 countries throughout the world to give people new experiences with performance art and the emotions it can evoke in us.

The group places a great deal of emphasis on education, so they hold classes in their local area. Accordingly, Middlebury students were able to try out this exhilarating form of dance through vertical dance workshops at Virtue Field House run by troupe members. Stuver also gave a talk about his dance and entertainment career, serving as an inspiration for all dance and theatre majors of the college.

Mark Stuver’s long and impressive dance journey started at Middlebury. Growing up in rural Colorado, he said he “did not have much access to culture” such as dance, but decided to try the art form when striking up a conversation with one of the department’s professors at class registration. Professors such as Penny Campbell helped formulate Stuver’s dance experience at the college, and gave him “an understanding of the creative process.”

While at the college, Stuver performed in various college dance troupes and choreographed a duet that was featured at the Kennedy Center for the American College Dance Festival.

After graduating from Middlebury with a major in Dance, he joined Bandaloop and began to tour the world with their company, filling up three passports in the process. From Saudi Arabia to South America, he and his fellow dancers have been able to bring their passion for dance around the globe.

Stuver says that the biggest take-away for him during this time was not how similar everyone is across the world, but how different and “unknown” to him everyone was. Dance was a way to bring all of these differences together “embrace the unknown in others” and allow others to “embrace the unknown” in him.

However, after many years of performing with the troupe, Stuver has decided it is time to move on from high-flying performances and move on to quieter roles in writing.

His final show with Bandaloop was on Saturday, an experience he described as “walking into the past.” To begin and end (for now) his dance journey in the same place, to him, is “very potent.”

Stuver has a lot to work with in the world outside of dance. He has worked as a puppeteer at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, performed on the Late Show with David Letterman and the Late Late Show with James Corden, written various screenplays, and acted in short films.

A true Middlebury grad through and through, he has varied interests and even holds a Master’s degree in Jungian psychology. Through his time working as a therapist he realized that the best way for him to help people is through storytelling, which is where his career is headed now.

Through Bandaloop’s memorable performances this weekend and Stuver’s wide-ranging and fruitful career in the arts, Middlebury students have great examples of the creative possibilities that await them in the years after graduation.