Falling from the sky

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How can an entire set change within minutes? Rebecca Burton discovers what will be coming from high places at Ryerson Dances this year

While Ryerson dancers take flight on stage, a hidden crew of theatre production students in the wings are making the real magic happen.

Autumn Coppoway aliases as the “head flyman” at this years Ryerson Dances.

That means anything that flies in the air or hangs over the dancer’s head is Coppoway’s job.

“It not a very girl-heavy industry. It’s not meant to be but that’s the way,” she said.

“Generally there are more women in management and wardrobe. I can do wardrobe really well but I don’t like it. I like making things happen. Nothing moves unless a flyman is here,” she added.

This year Coppoway spent two months working on an orb-shaped light that floats across the ceiling for 20 minutes during one dance piece. Coppoway had to figure out how to construct it and make it move all the while making sure it wouldn’t fall on the dancers.

“It’s a lot of problem solving,” she said.

Much of the technical role is to fulfill the designer’s thoughts. For Coppoway hearing the designer gasp when she revealed the orb light made the two months all worthwhile.

“They have these ideas in their head and we make them reality,” said Coppoway.

Balancing counterweights to lift the 500-pound stage curtain is just one act she’s balancing on top of a full eight-course workload this semester.

“Personally I think it’s a great opportunity. You learn to time manage and it teaches you about the industry,” she said.

The week before the show opens, the technical crew spends every waking moment in the theatre.

“You’re here because you love it,” Coppoway said.

Days start at 9 a.m. and often don’t end until 10 p.m. Except for breaks for classes and lunch there is always a flyman on deck.

“In theatre you see the final product. You don’t know the months of work behind it.”

Photo: Chloe Kerzner

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