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Aerial dancers mark APEC with performance atop Transamerica Pyramid

Three people wearing loose orange fabric sway and cling to cables held and maintained by three other dark-clothed figures atop a tall building's roof.
Dancers with the Oakland-based vertical dance company Bandaloop perform Monday against the city’s iconic Transamerica Pyramid. | Source: Courtesy KGO-TV ABC 7

Pedestrians who happened to look skyward in the vicinity of the Transamerica Pyramid Monday afternoon saw three people in bright orange gracefully soaring and leaping in formation off the sides of one of San Francisco's most iconic buildings.

They were dancers with Bandaloop, an Oakland-based "vertical dance company" that "uses climbing technology to expand and challenge what is possible."

San Francisco police sought to reassure anyone who might be confused by the performance. "Heads up! The individuals seen [rappelling] down the #TransamericaPyramid are part of a PERMITTED PERFORMANCE. Do not be alarmed, enjoy the show!" SFPD said in a social media post.

The city's Joint Information Center said in an email that the dancers who appeared to be rappelling the building were part of "a planned performance, and it is related to APEC. We are monitoring the situation."

A Bandaloop operations manager said in a statement that "our message is 'We are dancing for human connection and expanded possibility—how we can have hope in impossible times.'"

Just yesterday, Bandaloop celebrated the opening of a newly expanded headquarters in West Oakland, where it offers dance classes and performances and invites the public "to enjoy a free flight test to experience vertical joy in person."

Noting a performance earlier this year outside St. Paul's Cathedral in London, among other landmark structures, the statement added: "What better emblem of San Francisco than the iconic pyramid?"

Thomas Cavanagh, executive director for Bandaloop, told The Standard that the troupe would be performing Monday until sunset and is expected to perform again Tuesday.

"This particular one has been a hurdle, but it's exciting to work with partnership and property stewards like Michael Shvo and the Transamerica team, let alone the city of San Francisco's support, to lead with public arts," he said.

Cavanagh said "significant logistical challenges" were overcome with the help of the company's approach to risk management, a culture of safety and "a pace that allows all parties to feel comfortable."

Members of the Bandaloop vertical dance company were seen Monday atop the Transamerica Pyramid. | Courtesy KGO-TV/ABC 7 | Source: KGO-TV/ABC7

A post on the company's Facebook page Monday included a "Free Palestine" graphic and said Bandalooop stands "in solidarity with movements towards liberation and the call to a ceasefire."

Asked about the timing of the performance during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, Cavanagh said that the troupe is "here to celebrate public art in San Francisco. Bandaloop is a celebrated hero of the Bay Area's arts community.

"We've performed in many locations for many events, from mayors to governors," he added. "That leaders may see what we're up to up here is wonderful. That's up to others and folks that invited us to perform. My job is to make sure we have a safe performance on this wall, that dancers are able to lift up the message of hope."