VIDEO: Tree dancing in a Vancouver Island Sitka spruce

Aeriosa Vertical Dance soars with nature.

“It’s not every day you get to go work in a tree,” said Julia Taffe as she tied herself into a rigging device destined to haul her 15-feet up a majestic, middle-aged Sitka spruce.

On the fourth of July, the artistic director and founder of Aeriosa Vertical Dance Society taught Hawaiian visitor James Koshiba how to dance with, and in, trees.

Their dancing partners were a pair of Tofino trees or “Sitka Sisters” as Taffe called them, located at an intermediary spot just to the left of the pathway that leads to North Chesterman Beach.

The Sitkas were equipped with rope by Aeriosa riggers Colin Zacharias and Stephanie Hughes.

The rope ran up one tree and across to the other with two pulleys at the top, which linked the system together. For tree dancing, Aeriosa uses similar gear to rock climbing: GriGris—belay devices—carabiners, slings, harnesses, and climbing ropes.

“You have to trust the system; know the system is secure,” said Zacharias, a certified mountain and ski guide.

They look for trees with clean, vertical lines, he notes. “And, ones that don’t have a lot of moss or dangerous branches poking out.”

Unlike climbing a rock face, tree dancing is a tango with live creatures, Zacharias pointed out.

“The trees sway and they have to make these subtle little adaptations. However well [the dancers] are practiced and choreographed, every single day is different. Every day is a different temperature, a different humidity, the trees are closer together, they are a little further apart, sometimes they move independently.”

Koshiba said never in his life had he tried anything like tree dancing.

Yet, he managed to execute the beginner aerial movements with fluidity and composure.

“It seems like the ideal way to get over fear and attachment,” said Koshiba. “I’ve been thinking a lot about fear and attachment and how a lot of the stuff we are afraid of is because of the things we are attached to. This being up in the air is kind of confronting both at once.”

Taffe instructed him to use the physics of the pulley system to his advantage.

“Dance with the pull of the rope,” she said. “It’s all about cause and effect. Be really honest with the movement.”

She gently pushed off the tree trunk with the tips of her toes.

“Find the tempo; one, two, three, four,” she counted before her feet re-connected with the bark.

Over the course of three days, Taffe taught Koshiba and about 10 other students basic tree dancing body positions, like a spider-man sit, and introduced them to partner formations, small jumps, and movement sequences.

The Tofino Tree Dancing workshop was supported by the District of Tofino, the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, and the Tofino Arts Council.

Aeriosa is open to booking private lessons and collaborating with communities for aerial dance performances. The aerial dance company can often be seen flying in the forest of Stanley Park in Vancouver and Saxe Point Park near Victoria. Recently, Taffe soared from an 800-year-old castle in Limerick, Ireland.

There are typically six dancers in a choreographed dance.

“We’ve been looking at big palms in Hawaii to dance on,” said Taffe.

Just Posted

Recognition at Trail Riverfront Centre

Hundreds of kids were part of “Imagine the Possibilities,” the Summer Reading Club

Music in the Park closes season Thursday, 7 p.m.

Grapevine: Events in Trail area for the week of Aug. 22 to Aug. 28

La Cafamore returns to Trail with ‘Mozart and More’

Performance goes Sunday, Aug. 25 in Trail United Church

Greater Trail hospice seeks volunteers

Training starts next month in Kiro Wellness Centre

Fruitvale looks at re-branding the village image

Council is applying for rural dividend grant to begin the work

Black Press Career Fair underway in Cranbrook at Days Inn

Opportunities abound for employers and job seekers

B.C. man tells judge he attempted suicide a month before daughters’ murders

Andrew Berry takes stand in his defense for December 2017 deaths of young daughters

‘Plenty of time for a deal’: Teachers’ union expects kids back in school on Sept. 3

BCTF says class size, composition at the heart of the issue

Province funds new shuttle buses for 13 B.C. senior centres

Activity, socializing helps maintain health, Adrian Dix says

Thermal imaging cameras eye Salish Sea in hopes of better detecting whales

Cameras installed at BC Ferries’ terminal on Galiano Island, and off southern Gulf Islands

BREAKING: Province approves Surrey police force

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth green-lights city’s municipal police force

B.C. father tells judge he did not kill his young daughters

Andrew Berry pleaded not guilty to the December 2017 deaths

Police watchdog investigating two officers after Langley teen’s suspected overdose

According to IIO, two officers were deployed to help Carson Crimeni but did not locate him before he died

UPDATED: Kelly Ellard gets day parole extended for six more months, overnight leave

Kelly Ellard was convicted of killing 14-year-old Reena Virk in 1997

Most Read