Blue Lapis Light's In Light
In this aerial dance production, the performers move through the sky with such grace, joy, and harmony, they might as well be angels
Reviewed by Robert Faires, Fri., Sept. 27, 2019
You sit on a metal folding chair, its hardness matching that of the concrete beneath your feet. Skyscrapers hem in your view of the city's violet crown, in the past easily seen at twilight Downtown. The weight of the summer air – no matter what the calendar says, it's nowhere near autumn – presses down on you. Everything about the world is thick and heavy in its mundane, daily way.
Then, suddenly, toward the setting sun, on the building across the street, several stories higher than you are, four women appear, their feet pressed against the building's side, their bodies perpendicular to it. Bathed in radiance from far below, they push off the structure – what is upward to them, sideways to us – to tumble in somersaults, to spin like pinwheels, sometimes in unison, sometimes in sequence. The grace and joy they display, the harmony in their movements, their united defiance of danger and gravity, sets them apart from you and all that keeps you earthbound. They are beings of wonder, belonging to another plane, and as you watch them in awe, your ears fill with the voice of Tina Marsh, steeped in heartache, singing of the heaviness the body settles in and the road we all travel and calling all angels to walk her through this one and not leave her alone. And you feel as if these women who look to have transcended that heaviness and this world could be those angels to walk us through it, as Marsh sings, "before it's too late."
Those women in the air are not the angels being called for in Jane Siberry's song. They are aerial dancers with the Austin performing arts company Blue Lapis Light – Kari Burke, Anika Jones, Susan Harkey, and Amy Myers, to be specific – but that doesn't make their dancing in the opening moments of In Light any less wondrous or transcendent. What they do on the side of the IBC Bank building is so far beyond what most of us can imagine ourselves doing as to be otherworldly. And their colleagues here follow suit, some walking backward down the structure's glass face, some rappelling from its roof, some hanging upside-down, some embracing in midair.
Such movements are not new to this company, but they are still so rare in this city, or anywhere – in their scope and artistry as well as their level of risk – that they retain the power to astonish. But that power isn't simply about the physicality. Artistic Director Sally Jacques grounds every work in a concern for the planet and its people, for the suffering endured by so many and the potential to ease it with beauty. The program for In Light contains a dedication of the work to people being held at the Texas border, people working for democracy and justice in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the world, indigenous people of the Amazon, the recovery of Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, and the end to gun violence. The work of Blue Lapis Light exists to lift up some of the heaviness of this world, to find some saving grace above us, in figures who come together in the sky, who move as one there. There is a power in the compassion at the heart of this company and the beauty that arises out of that – expansive beauty in movement, in light, in music.
In Light ends with a single dancer, Angela Kaylor, rising through the air to the full height of the building, mirrors all over her costume catching the light and turning her into a human star. Near the top, her ascent pauses and she begins turning end over end, spinning swiftly five, 10, 15 times. It's a moment that dazzles, in every sense of the word, and it provides us with a beacon to illuminate our way on the road through this life, to help us walk through this one. The angels have answered. We are not alone.
In LightIBC Bank, 500 W. Fifth
Through Sept. 29
Running time: 45 min.