Blue Lapis Light is a site-specific aerial dance company founded by Artistic Director Sally Jacques in 2005. Jacques’ earlier works encompassed social, political, and spiritual themes, and these performances have evolved to explore movement through the air: extending boundaries, defying edges, and suspending graceful athleticism for the risk of igniting ephemeral beauty.
Blue Lapis Light seeks to transform urban environments into inspired works of art, creating beauty that transcends space in their expansiveness, connecting us to a sense of wonder, possibility, and hope. The company’s name draws from Ghandi’s description of a meditation practice, wherein the soul merges with Eternal consciousness taking the form of blue light.
Blue Lapis’ works are mostly large-scale productions, taking place in non-traditional public environments: warehouses, abandoned structures, federal buildings, power plants, or scaffolding at the shores of Lady Bird Lake in Austin, TX. The company’s first aerial rig was a rope strung across an abandoned swimming pool where a dancer in a net was pulled from one side to the other. With each work, dancers now explore new apparatuses and develop aerial vocabulary complimentary to the possibility and synergy of on-site collaboration.
In June 2006 the company transformed the iconic Intel Shell, an unfinished building in downtown Austin, by creating a tribute to life’s transcendence. Requiem featured dancers floating 75ft from the ground, moving in and out of concrete columns and dancing on guy wire salvaged from the building itself. Over 14,000 people attended these performances.
Blue Lapis Light continues to develop large productions on prominent public architecture. Sites include the historic Seaholm Power Plant, J.J. Pickle and Homer Thornberry Federal Buildings, Hyatt and Radisson hotels, Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and the Long Center for the Performing Arts. With a hope and prayer for transformation, the company seeks to create works of beauty that continue to touch our collective awareness.
SALLY JACQUES, founder of Blue Lapis Light, creates site-specific aerial dance works that speak to social, political and spiritual issues. Recognized for her international efforts against human rights abuse, environmental endangerment, homelessness, and racism, her activist views inform her artistic journey. A native of England, Jacques’ early career included international performances in Munich, Barcelona, Vienna and Costa Rica. She studied dance at The Place and The Contemporary Dance Center in London and attended the Lee Strasberg Drama School in New York to study improvisation and acting. Jacques also studied movement at the Oval Theatre in London as a protégé of John Trigger. Jacques has been the recipient of numerous grants and accolades, including the Susan B. Anthony Award for Peace, funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission On the Arts, the City of Austin/Arts Commission and Art Matters, New York City.
In 2008, Jacques was nominated for a United States Artists Fellowship and in 2007, was inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame. As part of First Night Austin, 2006, Jacques was awarded the Samsung Signature Peace Award. She was named the 2003 Greater Austin YWCA Woman of the Year for Achievement in the Arts and honored as a lifetime member of the Golden Key National Honor Society. With Jose Luis Bustamante, she was awarded the 1994 New Forms Regional Initiative Grant (NFRIG) funded by the NEA, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation. Ms. Jacques has also been the recipient of numerous Austin Critics Table Awards. Her work 64 Beds has been viewed in museums in NYC, Berlin and Madrid, 2015.
Jacques is a featured choreographer in “Site Dance” (University Press of Florida). She was included in the 2006 “Faces of Austin” installation at the Austin City Hall. Her work has been cited in publications around the globe. Her own book, “64 Beds and other Site Works,” was published in 1996.
For many years, Jacques taught movement to at-risk teenagers, prison inmates, senior citizens, and the differently-abled, making dance accessible for all. Currently, Blue Lapis Light mentors young dancers through the Youth Taking Flight program.
NICOLE WHITESIDE loves dance! During her 12 years with Blue Lapis Light she has served as associate artistic director, performer, choreographer, rigger, and teacher. Her classical ballet training began at age two and blossomed into a life-long love of dance. She has studied at esteemed studios including Houston Ballet Academy, High School for Performing and Visual Arts, Austin School of Classical Ballet, and Marsha Woody Academy of Dance. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a BFA in Dance and has continued dancing in Austin with local companies, including Sharir+Bustamante Danceworks, Sheep Army/Elsewhere Dance Theater, AustinSchool of Classical Ballet, Cheryl Chaddick Dance Theater, and Little Stolen Moments. She has received numerous awards including Best Dancer and Best Duet. Little Stolen Moments was voted Austin’s Best Dance Company 2010 and recognized for Best Dance on Three Miniature Trampolines. For New Year’s, First Night commissioned her performance, Fabric of the Hour, a silks piece performed inside Austin City Hall. She was nominated Best Choreographer for her aerial choreography with ZACH Theater’s Metamorphoses. Nicole manages Blue Lapis Light’s studio where she teaches the art of aerial dance. She has been learning aerial silks since 2005 and to further her knowledge, she has studied with aerialist sat New England Center for the Circus Arts, Air Dance Bernasconi, Aircat Aerial Arts, House of Yes, Liza Rose, and FALL. Nicole is driven by collaboration and is eternally grateful for the unique beauty in all people.
SUSAN HARKEY (Dancer) began studying aerial dance with Blue Lapis Light in 2011 and joined the company for Heaven Earth One in 2012. In addition to aerial dance, she has performed on stage acting and in musical theater productions. She has always loved dancing and began a formal study in adulthood. She is blessed to teach wonderful students aerial fabric at Blue Lapis Light. She also works as a part-time web developer, and is pursuing her Associates in Dance from Austin Community College.
ANIKA JONES (Dancer) graduated from New Mexico State University with a bachelor in Hospitality Management and a minor in Dance. This year she celebrates her fifth year of working with Blue Lapis Light as a company member and instructor. Anika also performs with Rapt Aerial Dance, teaches at Pure Barre, and enjoys spending time outside. She sends thanks love to all of her dance instructors from childhood to present
AMBER TARCHA aka Ember Ashe (Dancer) found her passion for dance in 2007, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. To her surprise, that passion came through pole dancing. After returning to the States she started taking aerial silks classes and became a Blue Lapis Company member in 2009. She has continued to perform with Blue Lapis Light while running her pole studio, VAMPS Dance, which opened its doors in 2010. She has spent the last 8 years studying, competing, and performing the arts of pole and aerial dance, and recently she has added Zouk Dance to her repertoire. Amber credits Blue Lapis Light for shaping her into the dancer she is today, and she feels truly blessed to have the opportunity to work with such talented and passionate individuals.
BARRY WILSON (Lead Rigger) was raised in Texas and comes to Blue Lapis Light with 28 years of rock climbing experience and 45 years in the construction industry. He served on the Central Texas Climbing Committee (CTCC) for 14 years. The CTCC is an independently chartered advisory committee established to provide guidance and expert knowledge to Texas Parks and Wildlife regarding rock climbing resources and the placement of fixed protection at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. When not throwing ropes for Blue Lapis, Barry can be found hiking, climbing, biking, and repairing the trails of Central Texas and North America.