'Vibrant with the glow of life'

Magical cave: Brilliant creativity and a night of music, dance, aerial antics support Procession

February 4, 2011 

lluminated Ball

Decorations hang from the ceiling and on the walls of Olympia's Eagles Ballroom as guests dance the night away during last year's Illuminated Ball, a fundraiser for Procession of the Species.

  • Illuminated Ball: Crystal Cave

    What: Step into an illuminated and magical cave at the main fundraiser for Procession of the Species. The evening includes a performance with music, dance and aerial acrobatics, plus music by Filé Gumbo, drinks, desserts and a silent auction. The event is for ages 21 and older only.

    When: 8 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday

    Where: Eagles Hall Ballroom, Plum Street and Fourth Avenue, Olympia

    Tickets: $65 in advance at Rainy Day Records and Traditions Cafe & World Folk Art, $75 at the door

    More information: 360-705-2331 or www.procession.org


    Tickets for the Illuminated Ball have risen from $45 in advance/$50 at the door to $65 in advance/$75 at the door.

    The reason? Earthbound Productions received an anonymous challenge grant that will match funds raised up to $5,000.

    “We have to raise new money to get it,” said Paul Knox, one of the organizers of the ball. “So for the first time in four years, we upped the price of this year’s Illuminated Ball. That’s a big jump for people.”

    There’s another issue. The Olympia Fire Department has lowered the occupancy limit of the Eagles Hall Ballroom, where the ball is held, meaning that there will be slightly fewer tickets available, said Procession founder Eli Sterling.

    The ball is the primary fundraiser for Procession in April and for the Procession Community Art Studio.

    “This is the second year we’ve been able to keep the studio open year round, mainly because of the support of people through this event,” Knox said.

Caves are dark, as everyone knows. But a cave created by the folks behind Procession of the Species is going to be anything but.

A crystal cave – filled with illuminated gems, bats and cave swallows and decorated with cave paintings – will be the setting for the seventh annual Illuminated Ball.

“This is our main benefit for the Procession, but it’s also a big celebration in the middle of winter,” said Nichole Rose, one of the event’s organizers. “The luminaries bring focus to the light returning and the brilliance of creativity. It’s a great thing for people to gravitate toward as the light is returning.”

Saturday’s fundraiser will feature aerial acrobatics by the Tallhouse Arts Consortium, modern dance by Radco (Random Acts of Dance Co.), and belly dance by Troupe O-Wa – much of it set to original music created by a group of musicians including musical director Steve Mazepa and cellist Christine Gunn.

The cabaret-style performance will be connected by a cave explorer (danced by Steve Passero) who journeys through the show’s segments.

“The cave plays a role in transforming the character,” Rose said. “The cave is not just an elemental static presence. The crystals, the bats, the cave walls are all vibrant with the glow of life.”

“What’s alive in the cave ultimately is what’s alive in us,” said Procession founder Eli Sterling. “What happens in the piece of transformation is the recognition that what’s in the cave is already inside of us.”

Those attending the ball also will show off the glow of life – and in some cases, the glow of battery-operated lights on their clothing, depending on how literally they take the invitation to “dress to illuminate.”

But it’s likely the luminaria – built of wire frames covered with paper – will become the biggest stars of the night. They’ll begin in the stairwell, which will be transformed for the night into a cave entrance.

“We’re creating a cave wall skin that’s going to cover the entire entryway,” Rose said. “It will be studded with giant luminary garnets. They’ll establish the ambience so you’ll feel like you are entering a cave where magical things happen.”

Inside, the ballroom will feature more illuminated decorations than ever.

“It’s the most luminaria we’ve ever created in terms of square footage,” said Paul Knox, another organizer. “There’s a giant geode, and it will open up to a heart.”

“We’re doing a lot more complex luminary work this year,” Rose said.

At the Procession Community Art Studio last week, she and other volunteers were working on a big crystal that will fracture as part of the performance, opening to reveal the gems inside.

“The inspiration for this crystal was taken from a photograph of crystal from a cave in Mexico that was discovered by miners,” she said. “It’s a giant gypsum crystal.”

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