"Romancing the Stone" combines
dance and climbing
|Members of the Fort
Lewis College dance group, Dance Co-Motion, rehearse
at Animas City Rock on Sunday night. The performance,
“Romancing the Stone,” will be done entirely
on ropes and is the first of its kind in Durango./Photo
by Todd Newcomer.
It’s not every day that Durangoans have the chance
to lie on the floor at Animas City Rock and gaze up at
dancers suspended from climbing ropes and moving in unison
to music. But for the next two weekends, Dance Co-Motion’s
production “Romancing the Stone” will provide
just such an opportunity.
is the first time Dance Co-Motion has done anything like
this,” says Kindra Landram, director, group president
and FLC sophomore. “I’m a pioneer!”
“Romancing the Stone” does indeed combine
dance and rock climbing to create a unique art form. To
that end, 16 dancers (and several belayers) have practiced
several nights a week since January to perfect seven choreographed
“Each piece is a statement of the choreographer’s
own personal style,” Landram says.
For example, Landram’s piece, the last of the show,
is about “standing up to the challenges of life
and relying on others to overcome them – sometimes
it’s OK to fall,” she says.
In contrast, choreographer Joan Grant describes her piece
as “a fun, funky piece with a carefree style.”
As many as 40 audience members will lie beneath five
female dancers in harnesses suspended above them as Grant’s
piece begins. The dancers gracefully dance with their
feet on the wall, then lean backwards to look into the
|Choreographer Joan Grant strikes
after a powerful thrust from the wall of the climbing
gym./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
eyes of the audience below. Then they’re upside
down – an uncommon sight in climbing, of course
– ending the flip to grip the wall to do splits.
Later they break into an athletic climb up the holds,
turn upside down again and spiral head-first down their
This creates an unusual sensation in the viewer, to say
Though audience members do have to sign waivers at the
door, Landram says safety has been a primary focus in
practices. There’s even a “safety liaison,”
Bill Grasse, to ensure that carabiners are locked, anchors
are backed up and so on.
“Bill Grasse has definitely kept us alive and safe,”
Landram says. “Climbing is a dangerous sport, and
what we’re doing is not recommended by climbing
gear companies. Don’t try this at home...you’ll
get kicked out of most gyms!”
A less serious challenge to the production is gear changes
between numbers, and the fact that the dancers can’t
change clothes for each piece as they would in a normal
dance performance because of the harnesses. Instead, dancers
wear black pants and leotards throughout the show.
Then there’s the practice space.
“Usually we can rehearse anywhere that’s
flat,” Landram says. “With this, we could
only practice here.”
|Sadie Landram rests against the
climbing wall before the start of dress rehearsal
for “Romancing the
Stone” on Sunday night at Animas City Rock gym./Photo
by Todd Newcomer.
Fortunately, Animas City Rock owner Anne-Britt Ostlund
appreciated what Dance Co-Motion is trying to accomplish,
and has let the troupe practice there for free.
“Anne-Britt has been awesome with the gym,”
Landram says. “I definitely give her props for being
so supportive – and her staff!”
Members of the gym didn’t seem to mind sharing
space with the Dance Co-Motion team.
“They’re always here – they’ve
put a lot of work into it,” says ACR member Guy
Yaklich, during the group’s rehearsal Monday night
at the club. “It’s pretty creative, the whole
concept. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
But Landram had, because her younger sister Sadie performed
in a similar show in Arizona while attending a performing
arts high school. Sadie joined her sister at FLC and is
now the assistant director and a dancer in “Romancing
the Stone.” Conveniently, she’s also the secretary
of the FLC Rock Climbing Club.
“Sadie and I are both big into climbing and dancing,”
Landram says. “(The show) is combining the two passions
in our life.”
She’s also enjoyed watching the dancers –
many of whom had no climbing experience when they auditioned
in January – learn to incorporate the two skills.
She describes a dancer who, at the first rehearsal, was
gripping the rope for dear life.
“Look at her now – she’s beautiful!”
she says gesturing at a dainty woman straddling the wall.
Landram hopes audience members will come away from “Romancing
the Stone” with a newfound passion of their own.
She says dancing and climbing compliment each other, and
that using a dancer’s grace in climbing has made
“I hope people can learn to appreciate both sides
of these sports,” she says.
“Romancing the Stone” will show at Animas
City Rock on March 25-27 and April 1-3 at 8 p.m. each