Comments & Curiosities: In the air and on the sand

Two interesting happenings this week. One is over, one is not.

The one that's in the history books is Project Bandaloop. Funny name but an unbelievable performance. Have you ever been to the Performing Arts Center? I have. Have you ever jumped off the Performing Arts Center? Me neither.

The Project Bandaloop dancers have, although dancers is a misnomer. It's more like dancer-gymnast-rock climber-rappelling people. Picture a contemporary dance troupe in action, except with the stage floor flipped vertically and standing on edge. Three evenings this week, the Project Bandaloop troupe danced, so to speak, across the 90-foot sheer face of the Performing Arts Center, in mid-air, dangling from ropes. Incredible. It takes your brain a while to decide if it's supposed to be impressed, touched or terrified. It's a kind of a Cirque du Soleil-Nadia Comeneci-Evel Knievel-Rudolf Nureyev thing.

They are all very accomplished dance professionals who just happen to be, well, what would you call it? Wait, I know – totally insane. Yeah, that's it.

Project Bandaloop is the brainchild of choreographer Amelia Rudolph, who envisioned the heart-stopping concept while rock climbing and rappelling in the Sierras. In the 20 or so years since then, Project Bandaloop has performed its mind-bending ballets for more than a half-million people, using iconic structures and rock formations around the world as its stage, including Leaning Tower and El Capitan in Yosemite, the Dolomites in Italy, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Grand Auditorium in Macau. You really have to see it to believe it. If you missed the troupe's high-flying performances this week, you can see them caught on tape on YouTube or the group's website –

The performances are as intricate and graceful as any you've ever seen, except for the fact that they're doing it in the air, a hundred feet above the ground. I'm guessing the Project Bandaloop dancers are really, really nice to the riggers. I know I would be. If I were a Bandaloop dancer I would never let a rigger pay for a drink, ever, and I would be forever telling them how wonderful they are and how great they look. Want a local connection? We got that. Not only is Sage Hill School's outstanding dance teacher Rachael Lincoln a proud Project Bandaloop dancer, but she has been bandalooping with the group for some 12 years. And I thought I spent a lot of time in the air.

The event you didn't miss this week is much closer to sea level, in fact, it's right smack on it. Can you build sand castles? I can't, not now, not when I was a kid. There was a severe shortage of beaches in the Bronx, other than Orchard Beach, which you could only get to by bus. The getting there wasn't bad, but the coming back meant a long ride in a hot, crowded bus sitting on sand in places that sand shouldn't be.

I've always been impressed by people who can build sand things, though – castles, trolls, Ursula Andress – especially people who do it really well. If you are one of those people, this is your time. Today is the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce 49th Annual Sand Castle Contest. It's all happening today, 11:30 to 4:30, at Corona Del Mar State Beach. The building part is 11:30 to 2:30 and the admiring part, no tower kicking please, is 2:30 to 4:30. It's free for you and me, but if you want to build your dream sand palace, it's $60 for masters, $40 for businesses, $30 for families.

Here is my question. How do they know you're a master before you build anything? What if someone says they're a master, but then they turn out to be like me, which means they can make a small lump of wet sand or a large lump of wet sand? Do they throw them out or charge them less? I think that's important. It's also what makes these things fun. You see a range of talent from the lump makers like me to incredible works of art that could easily earn a spot at the nearest museum or gallery except for the fact that they will be washed away as if they never existed within an hour or two. I can still remember a sand version of King Ludwig's castle some years ago that was so real your mind just couldn't accept the fact that it was made from nothing but sand and talent.

And I believe that's it – soaring dancers above and sand castles below. Some weeks you just don't know where to look. There are worse problems though. I gotta go.

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