Into Thin Air

SonKiss'd mixes hip-hop with rock climbing in adrenaline–fueled performance, Moving Mountains.

By Nick Esquer November 23, 2015

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Members of the SonKiss'd dance group perform at Texas Rock Gym in Moving Mountains

In 1924, British mountain climber and explorer George Mallory was scaling Mount Everest, attempting to be the first man to conquer the tallest peak in the world. But, with poor footing, the daredevil lost his steps and slipped off the side into the white and conquering abyss. Dangerous as it may be, rock climbing and mountaineering continue to garner followers and thrill seekers alike including one Houston dance group that’s mixing the adrenaline-rushed sport with its own brand of dance. SonKiss’d, a hip-hop influenced dance group, mixes rock climbing with choreography in its series, Moving Mountains, which takes over the Texas Rock Gym on Sunday, November 29, and again on December 20.

The performance was born from the idea of pushing past your own obstacles and overcoming theoretical mountains that stand in the way of dreams and goals. Artistic director and co-founder Christopher Thomas had to work outwards from that crux of an idea; first by learning how to rock climb. “We went through a two-month training program at Texas Rock Gym before we even started creating anything. We learned how to climb and different techniques in climbing and understanding the ropes and harnesses and the cliffs, and making sure we were physically able to make these things happen,” he notes.

In the hour-long performance, members of the SonKiss’d dance group twirl and tumble and pop-and-lock, all while suspended by climbing ropes. They hang from high up near the ceiling, then, in a dizzying flash, descend to the floor below, nearly colliding with the surface. Throughout the show the audience is surrounded by dancers creating a 360-degree experience. “You can literally be watching something in front of you while something is going on behind you. It’s overwhelming because there are no stops for an hour,” says Thomas. “People are so blown away by how non-traditional this show is. I mean, come on—it’s a dance show in a rock gym.”

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Like the title suggests, the group faced many mountains and obstacles—the biggest and most obvious being a fear of heights. “We’re 20 feet high so we had to overcome that fear-of-heights mountain,” says Tucker, a native Houstonian who started the group in 2012 after teaching dance in Thailand. “When we were at a good level of climbing, we started creating and started trying to figure out how we could create movement. We wanted to ask ourselves, ‘How can we climb this wall without it looking like we’re climbing?’ How can you make it graceful or belay down in smooth movement?”

When things started syncing up and the dancers were comfortable, Thomas added elements of live painting and poetry, each helping to outline the performance’s central theme. “It was a really creative piece based on timing, and from there we just kept going with unique ideas and producing these shows and the rest is history.”

Nov 29 and Dec 20. 5. $20. Texas Rock Gym. 1526 Campbell Rd.

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