Fifth annual Breckenridge International Festival of Arts returns this weekend, featuring musical performances, vertical dancers and environmental art


What: Breckenridge International Festival of Arts

When: Aug. 9 to 18

Where: Breckenridge

Visit for a full schedule of events and to purchase tickets to select performances.

BRECKENRIDGE — For the next 10 days Breckenridge will host a variety of artistic experiences and installations as creative minds from around the world arrive to showcase their work during the fifth year of the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts.

Traditionally, galleries are thought of as white cubes and theater spaces as black boxes, but BIFA brings the art world to an immersive level. Live performances include Denver-based DeVotchKa bringing its signature punk and gypsy folk sounds to the Riverwalk Center on Sunday, Aug. 11, and multimedia artist DJ Spooky blending a mix of hip-hop, electronic music and a string ensemble at the Riverwalk Center on Tuesday, Aug. 13.

Returning this year are curated Trail Mix events, pop-up concerts by Chirp! — an a cappella group featuring Denver-based Chimney Choir — and Tree-o, musicians perched on tree branches. They will occur on the Illinois Creek Trail, Trollstigen Trail, Iowa Hill Trail and Moonstone Trail throughout the festival.

Those looking for more ecological media can head to the Riverwalk Center lawn for a movie night Thursday, Aug. 15. Co-presented with the Breckenridge Film Festival, the free screening includes a series of shorts that focus on conservation and climate change.

Nearby on the Blue River, performance artists Tara Rynders, Courtney McGuire and Jess Webb will present their piece “Wading for Cupcakes” with environmental engineer Tim Rynders. It informs the audience about the importance of watersheds and is held twice daily from Thursday, Aug. 15, to Sunday, Aug. 18.

In between the activities, guests can wander around the town and trails to view art by The Canary Project, Giuseppe Licari and Gretchen Marie Schaefer. Rotterdam-based Sicilian artist Licari will display his climate change work, Golden Shelter, on the Moonstone Trail and has teamed up with Denver-based Schaefer to highlight the history of mining in Breckenridge with Blue River at the Old Masonic Hall. Meanwhile, The Canary Project, made up of Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris, is showcasing its sustainability-minded Green Patriot Posters collective on the Arts District lawn.

Breckenridge Creative Arts, the organizer of the festival, also will have a selection of family-friendly workshops happening on the Arts District campus. Tying into the festival’s themes with clay planters, nature collages, leaf prints and more, the hands-on experiences are a chance for people to create their own works, like printing Green Patriot designs on canvas tote bags.

Taking Flight

A unique portion of the festival will be the awe-inspiring dance movements of BANDALOOP. One of the pioneers of vertical dance, the Oakland-based company has been wowing audiences with its elegant and head-tilting choreography since 1991.

With a name inspired by Tom Robbins’ book “Jitterbug Perfume,” Amelia Rudolph created BANDALOOP when exploring the idea of dance as a spiritual ritual during her studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. She also wanted to marry her passion of rock climbing with dance, seeing the sport as a sort of duet between the athlete and the stone.


BANDALOOP Performances

Open rehearsal at 5 and 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15, at the Clock Tower at the Village at Breckenridge, 535 S. Park Ave., Breckenridge.

Indoor performance at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, at the Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave., Breckenridge.

Indoor performance at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Riverwalk Center, 150 W. Adams Ave., Breckenridge.

All performances are free and don’t require tickets.

Having appeared at festivals on the Front Range, BANDALOOP will perform for the first time in Breckenridge at the Riverwalk Center on Friday, Aug. 16, and Saturday, Aug. 17. Those eager for a sneak peek can catch them rehearsing at the Clock Tower at the Village at Breckenridge. The short practices are open to the public, inviting audience interaction and questions with the dancers and directors, such as Rudolph.

“It’s about engaging the public in a common art form that they’re not typically bumping into unless they are going to an opera house or ballet stage,” said Thomas Cavanagh, BANDALOOP executive director. “As modern dancers, to bring this form of work and weave it together with the athleticism and the creativity that comes from the natural spirit is true to form to us.”

Projected behind them during the Riverwalk performances will be brief video snippets of them dancing in mountainous areas along the Tenmile Range. Taken earlier this week, the shoot was for a film project like similar Yosemite-set “Shift” and “Coyote Waltz” movies and will be released at a later date. Originally composed music from Boulder-based collaborator Zachary Carrettin will be interwoven live with the two- and three-dimensional dancing.

In Cavanagh’s mind, the films and live performances are two separate works that complement each other rather than compete. Since it would be too difficult to bring audiences to the remote environments, their viral videos instead help make BANDALOOP more accessible.

“We want people to see video work as a gateway to experience these human forms of dance in flight,” said Cavanagh, who started working with BANDALOOP in 1998 as a rigger and technical director.

That gateway goes both ways, as the dancers are touched and influenced by their outdoor performances.

“We’re bringing in our team early to better understand and immerse ourselves in this community — to understand the ecosystem, to understand the mountains, to have the mountains inform the dance and the dancer,” Cavanagh said.

Though the same program will be performed each time, he said that — as is the nature with live art — repeat viewers will likely see something different because the work is so immersive.

“Looking at the Riverwalk Center, we’re going to use those orchestra shells that are on the sides as dance walls,” Cavanagh said. “That’s a very site-reactive thing that I’m sure no one has done there. We’re going to build a stage in the middle of the theater so we can have a more free-hanging, in-the-round or thrust environment, instead of a proscenium where you’re just looking at the stage.”

Running about 35 to 45 minutes long, the act will have eight dancers — the more visible members of the 16-person traveling team — who will be twirling and bounding about in their harnesses.

Performing more than 20 projects a year across the world as cultural ambassadors, the message of BANDALOOP is one of humanitarian unification. The group has performed at the 1998 United Nations conference on climate change in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and more recently in Malaysia at the World Summit on Arts and Culture in March. The company hopes to bridge divides regardless of whether they’re performing in front of an audience in an urban city or a rural town while starting a dialogue on issues such as the environment.

“We instantly bring people happiness,” Cavanagh said. “When you look up and see a dancer dancing, no matter who you are, who you voted for, you get a smile on your face. You can’t help it. … It’s rare that someone sees us dancing and is in a bad mood from it.”

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