After a little interruption from Hurricane Florence, the Mint Museum’s Grand Re-Opening festivities at their newly renovated Uptown location commenced. The highlight of the Grand Re-Opening was the performance of Perspective by Caroline Calouche & Co. This is the dance company’s first aerial dance on a building, and the dancers performed on the large walls straddling the main staircase.
When we arrived for the first Saturday performance, a crowd had already started gathering, so we found some seats on the front row with the best view of the grand staircase. Ropes were already trailing down the wall, and we looked up with anticipation as the introductions about the show and which dancers would be performing were announced to the crowd.
This was the first aerial dance performance that we’ve seen, and Charlotte’s first-ever aerial performance on a building. From the very first moment, we were absolutely mesmerized. Every movement was so graceful and fluid, the music matching perfectly with the choreography. Even after the dancers repelled down the wall at the end of the first performance I was still awestruck, and absolutely speechless. It was literally one of the most beautiful performances that I’ve ever seen.
Before the performance, I had the opportunity to chat with Caroline Calouche the founder of Caroline Calouche & Co and one of the performers in Perspective.
What was it like preparing for the first aerial performance on a building?
Very different. I’ve been doing aerial dance for 11 years and I started with rope and harness in the Wells Fargo Atrium. It was kind of high, but not against a building. In training for this performance, we didn’t have the height we needed in our studio, so we had to work only a foot from the ground to choreograph it. We’ve had two rehearsals on building, the first was on August 27th. It was only once we were on the building that we could figure out the logistics of everything.
When it comes to working on a building, you’re working with a pendulum and a fixed point. I always love new challenges and this performance definitely provided us with that opportunity. To get a feel for the building and the atmosphere of the performance we had to just start with repelling down the wall and go from there. It definitely feels much different than when you’re practicing in the studio, but it was so much fun!
How does the choreography differ from one of your theater performances?
In the theater, we work with stationary choreography. For this performance especially you really have to focus on using your abs to make it look like you’re standing on the ground instead of at a 90-degree angle. Throughout this performance our rope point will always connect us to the wall, so we’ll have that strong connection which gives us more play for dancing, pushing off, and spinning. We really worked hard to flip the perspective of the view of the audience for this performance.
Tell me about the concept behind Perspective.
Since this was our very first performance on a wall, I didn’t want to add a lot of thought-provoking things. We worked to find the perfect inspirational music that would uplift (and not frighten) the audience. To find the pieces we ended up with, we went through quite a few since we didn’t want them to be overly dramatic. In the end, we found two light pieces that really work well with the swing momentum of the performance. For the performance itself, we wanted it to be more of a dance and have a geometric design element to it (like the building itself) without being over the top.
When it came to the costumes we wanted them to have clean lines and work well with the building. With the neutral color of the walls, we stand out and pop really nicely. So we definitely took our surroundings into the account when we came up with the concept for Perspective.
Was there additional training required for the dancer’s safety?
Knowing your safety precautions and triple-checking all of your security before you step off the wall were the most important things to remember as we performed Perspective. All of our dancers had to become more familiar with rock climbing gear before the show. There is a different way to clip in and when we first started practicing the harnesses we were suiting were very uncomfortable, so our aerial coach stepped in and made some recommendations. So we use different harnesses on the building performances than we do in our studio practices and in our theater performances.
What did you enjoy the most about being a part of the Mint Museums Grand Re-Opening?
Ever since the Mint Museum (Uptown) was built we’ve been interested in working on the building. At 60-70 feet it’s not super high so it was the perfect building to start out on. I first approached The Mint Museum earlier this year and they contacted me in June and we decided that this performance would be perfect for the Grand Re-Opening of the Mint.
This was our first partnership and we were very excited about it. We had to go through the City of Charlotte, Wells Fargo, etc to get permission but everyone signed off really quickly. The Knight Foundation supported the production of Perspective and everything went very quickly which is not the norm when you have to work with so many foundations to get approval and funding.
Performances like Perspective are often seen in the larger cities, so I was excited that not only were we chosen to perform but that the City of Charlotte was so eager to see this type of performance.
Did all of the members of the main company take part in the performance?
We have 8 dancers in our main company and four of us (including myself) took part in the show since we’ve all had previous experience dancing in a harness.
How long is each performance?
The performance itself lasts 10 minutes including the music/dance etc. There’s additional time beforehand to allow the dancers to repel down the building.
Do you plan on more (on building) performances in Uptown in the future?
While there’s nothing currently in the works, there definitely is talk. We look forward to having another show soon.
To find out about upcoming performances by Caroline Calouche and Co. you can follow along through the following links. Website: carolinecalouche.org // Instagram: @ccaloucheco