Tofino’s inaugural tree festival was postponed due to COVID-19, but that didn’t stop Aeriosa Dance Society’s principal Julia Taffe from swaying amongst the giant cedars at North Chesterman Beach May 24-30.
Taffe, cloaked in a moth costume, could be spotted performing a new dance production and experimental film project ‘Habitats and Camouflage’ in collaboration with visual artist Sarah E. Fuller.
‘Habitats and Camouflage’ is inspired by the endangered Sand Verbena Moth, a Vancouver Island species, which depends exclusively on the Yellow Sand Verbena Flower as food and habitat throughout their life cycle, notes Taffe.
“One of the ways it’s connected to this area is because Pacific Rim National Park Reserve at Wickaninnish Beach has done some restoration of the Verbana Flowers,” she said.
Pablo Calderon @pablopalmacalderon photo
For the most part, says the tree dancer, Aeriosa performances try to stand out in the landscape; the dancers often wear red ninja-like costumes.
“This [project] kind of turns that whole notion on it’s head, so that in terms of the performance the audience has to really use all their senses to actually engage with the work,” she said.
During production, Taffe’s Sand Verbena Moth character took her to several different shooting locations including: driftwood piles, rock cliffs and in the trees at North Chestermans.
“You actually really do disappear,” she said. “It’s bringing attention to the species and to the habitat. By being a human and turning into this moth there is some dark humour in it.”
Fuller, a photography professor at the University of Manitoba, originally approached Taffe with the concept for the experimental film.
“She’s done this work, disappearing into cliffs in Banff and Iceland and this is taking it a step further because she is not a dancer, but she has been working alone to create these images. She reached out to me as a fellow climber,” Taffe said.
While ‘Habitats and Camouflage’ is an experimental film destined for art galleries, notes Taffe, the production is in fact intended to be a live performance.
“We’re just waiting until we can bring this work to life,” she said, adding that if September doesn’t seem feasible, the first Tofino Tree Festival will happen in May, 2021.
Taffe said they did so much work to obtain permits from the District of Tofino for the Tree Festival that it really would have been a shame not to use it.
“In the middle of all this crazy world, I really appreciate the chance to become a dancer again,” she said.
Taffe encouraged anyone interested in the preservation of trees to reach out by visiting the event website: westcoasttreefestival.com.