Dancers from Mascall Dance in their production of The White Spider

Dancers from Mascall Dance in their production of The White Spider

Dance ‘climbs’ to new heights

The White Spider performance

The north face of Switzerland’s Eiger Mountain, with its snow-filled cracks resembling a spider’s legs, is a landmark for the men and women who dare to climb it. Heinrich Harrer was among those who first successfully ascended the spider in 1938. Harrer went on to chronicle the many failed attempts and the first successful climb in his book, The White Spider.

Choreographer Jennifer Mascall draws inspiration from Harrer’s book, seeking to honour the death-defying maneuvers, impossible decisions, and enormous strength enacted while climbing the north face. The White Spider, coming to the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre on Saturday, is an innovative blend of traditional dance moves and mountain climbing athletics.

Mascall Dance’s production of The White Spider is the first show in the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Society’s 2011/2012 Dance Series.

Five dancers climb, rappel and dance the walls and ceiling of a set that shifts and changes like the abstract face of a mountain. This production is a fusion of dance, sculptural installation, site-specific musical composition and mountaineering.

Mascall has years of experience creating new imaginative choreography. Book lovers and dancers alike can connect with The White Spider with its unpredictable style, working with a form of abstract storytelling that verbally references Harrer’s narrative, but always emphasizing the movement first.

There will be a behind-the-scenes meet-and-greet with a demonstration of the rigging with the choreographer and some of the performers at 1 p.m. Saturday.

A master class with Jennifer Mascall is also offered to local dance students on Friday at 6 p.m. Master class admission is $20 and includes a ticket to the performance. For more information or to sign up for the meet-and-greet or master class, please contact Karina, the centre’s dance outreach coordinator, at 250-542-9355.

The Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Society would like to thank the following sponsors for their generous support: Valley Medical Labs, The Morning Star, the Okanagan Advertiser, North of 50 Magazine, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the British Columbia Arts Council, the Regional District of the North Okanagan, Made in BC Dance On Tour, and the Sustainable Environment Network Society.

Jennifer Mascall’s exuberantly prolific performance career began as an improviser and rapidly received international attention. Primary influences include Laban, Alexander, Cunningham, Paxton, T’ai Chi, New Music, and more recently Putnam and Bainbridge Cohen.

Harrer used this name for the title of his book about his successful climb, Die Weisse Spinne (translated into English as The White Spider: The Classic Account of the Ascent of the Eiger). During the first successful ascent, the four men were caught in an avalanche as they climbed the Spider, but all had enough strength to resist being swept off the face.

As an emerging choreographer, Mascall was characterized as a maverick, a visionary, a radical re-visionary and “the enfant terrible of Canadian dance.” Mascall’s work has consistently fulfilled this promise, defying assumptions, intensely fascinated with body research.

Works such as The Shostakovich, and The Light At The End Of The Tunnel May Be Another Train Coming Toward You, I’ll Leave The Back Door Open and Housewerk — all characteristically inventive, insightful, and witty — provoke (re) consideration of the relationship of movement to meaning. Other works, The Brutal Telling, WhaT,?, Cathedral, and Make A Dance, consider equally the relationship of words to movement to meaning.

Mascall Dance presents The White Spider, Saturday, Oct. 15 at 8 p.m. at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre. For tickets contact the Ticket Seller at 549-SHOW (7469). Tickets are $30 adult; $27 senior; $25 student; $5 eyeGO. Discounts are available for members of Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Society.