Locals Michelle Griffith and Josh Beaudoin are setting a new standard for the world of tandem slacklining, an activity that requires them to balance together on a two-inch wide piece webbing suspended above the ground. On Saturday, June 9, the duo gave a breakout performance at the Littleton, Colo., Main Street Block Party for a crowd of hundreds.
Griffith and Beaudoin have a combined 15 years of slacklining experience. Over the years the two have developed their skills separately, performing tricks and walking across canyons. Now that they both live in Moab, they have begun to see how they can use their skills to push the limits of the activity together.
“For me, tandem slacklining goes further than just being able to perform or dance with someone on the slackline,” Beaudoin explained. “I started using tandem slacklining to help others learn.” In his time as a professional slack-liner, Beaudoin has taught many to slackline, even elementary school children. “I would get a kid on the line with me, and we would walk the line together, and it would get everyone else stoked and ready to try. It also made me a better slack-liner to be able to compensate for somebody else. It’s full circle,” he said.
It was when Beaudoin began to work with Griffith that he began to see the further potential of tandem slacklining. “Being able to dance with Michelle on the slackline with such ease, I’m excited to set the bar,” he said. Griffith added, “It was always super sporadic, but now that we both live in Moab, we started practicing more regularly together last fall.” Since then, the duo has been honing their skills. When Sven Jorgensen of the Boulder Circus Center contacted Griffith and asked her to perform, the pair knew they were ready to debut their act.
As street festival attendees flocked the streets of Littleton for the live music, food and drinks, Beaudoin and Griffith put on their matching sparkly pants and prepared to walk the lines. Their performance took place on two slacklines: a highline suspended 20 feet above the ground, and a trick-line, just a few feet above the earth.
“We did five to six shows in this way that just came together and made sense,” Griffith said. “It was a really fun, creative improvisation.” Beaudoin added, “It was good for us to get out there for the first time and draw and retain a crowd in such numbers.”
The two performed both separately and together on the two lines, with Griffith specializing in the highline performance, and Beaudoin focusing on tricklining.
“A show involves all ways to be on the highline and interact with the crowd while you’re doing it. I did a shoulder stand, I went down to the bottom of my leash, I spun around, I did poses, I climbed back up, I walked a little bit,” Griffith explained. “The thing that people think about when it comes to high-lining is walking, and when it comes to my show, there was actually very little walking involved. One of the capstone performances was walking and lowering down into the splits, but other than that it was just building energy, creating a space where people are interested and involving them in it.”
Of his part, Beaudoin said, “I conducted a traditional trickline performance. The moves that I do are very traditionally based, but with added jumping, spinning and flipping. I primarily do everything with my feet, so I always land on my feet.”
“We interact with each other and the crowd,” Griffith continued. “At one point, I was hanging upside down from the highline and getting the crowd to cheer for Josh to do a backflip.”
Beaudoin did indeed perform a backflip on the line, and he landed it. His favorite part of the show, though, remains the tandem portion. “What I really like are the tandem aspects of slacklining, and that’s what I do with Michelle,” he said. “Michelle has so much talent in yoga and acrobatics, and all that skill completely amplifies what we can do together. I’ve never met someone who learns so quickly and with so much stoke, even when things can be dangerous.”
When the two perform in tandem, it creates a unique flow of dance coupled with balance. And it does not come without risk. “We practice honest self-assessment and risk mitigation,” Griffith explained. “There are some pretty dynamic falls that happen. Especially like you’re coming off the line from a dynamic move off to a side. It can be really dangerous for the flyer, because so much of my role involves actually not balancing, just blind trust in a pose. The danger is greatly mitigated by the fact that Josh is so incredibly aware of where he is and where I am in space at any given time, so he’s really good at reflexively spotting.”
The June 9 performance went off smoothly, and the team is optimistic about the continuous possibilities of their tandem work. Griffith sees more shows in their future. “I’ve always been a performer,” she said. “I love performing so much because it allows you to tell a story. You’re literally creating your entire world, and sharing that with other people.”
The two have goals beyond strictly performance, though. They plan to continue to create and execute new skills in this groundbreaking new form of slacklining, and they have the ambition to see it through. “Right now, there’s no one else doing this,” Beaudoin claimed. “We are going to casually attempt a tandem highline walk.” For him, though, it’s about more than the feat itself. “Slacklining doesn’t define my life,” he explained. “It’s a tool within the “slack life” to engage in such a way, create friendships on nothing else other than to ask how can I do this, or why, any day in the park.”
ByBy Jacque Garcia