Picture this: twenty-two stages of live music, living visual art, interactive theater, long-form improvisation and dance. This was the setting of Cleveland Public Theater’s annual fundraising extravaganza, Pandemonium 2017: Unleash. Climb Cleveland was there, not just spectating, but performing. Adorned in not much but feathered wings and a hand-made mask, Chick and Matthias were the focus of Stage 10: Fearless Façade. Fearless indeed; experienced in rappelling, Chick and Matthias knew what they were doing was safe. Properly anchored, trusting in their gear and knowledge, they were completely free to have fun.

With one day of practice, their act was largely improvised. The laughs were genuine, and one could truly sense the depth of friendship between the two people swinging from the rooftop of the 50 something-foot century-old building in Gordon Square’s Arts District. One of their favorite moves was a Blues-Brother’s-esque short stepping to the music across the face of the brick wall – from one edge to the next. They crossed each other’s lines so many times, but always kept the presence of mind to stay organized and safe. Another maneuver that inspired gasps from the audience below and awe from the photographer above included Matthias jumping away from the wall, appearing to defy gravity and float for just enough time for Chick to swing along the building underneath. On and on, the dance continued.

From about 7:30pm until 9:30pm, Chick and Matthias rappelled down the building, met the new and old fans and friends on the ground, posed for photographs and waited for clearance on the main stage to access the stairway leading back up to the roof. The energy they were using kept them warm agains the nighttime chill of our oncoming Fall season.

On the ground, a brilliant work of visual art was ongoing. Costumes so varied and vibrant, your eyes were compelled to constant motion. There was a buzz in the air, of raw artistic flair. Giant, larger-than-life paper mâché heads bobbing atop well-dressed individuals, mixing in among the crowd while not on stage. Burlesque acts, belly dancing and stand-up comedy filled in the stages throughout the night. Everything was tied together well, a beautiful circus of organized chaos. The list of participating artists is long and varied; 8 different dance troupes, 13+ live music and comedy groups/performers, 26+ original theater works performed, and 6+ wandering shows including one by the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Celebrity chefs including Astoria Café and Market, La Campagna, Luxe Kitchen and Lounge, The Root Café, Toast, West Side Market Café and XYZ Catering were cooking delicious food live throughout the venue. Nobody went hungry, and nobody was short of a drink or ten.

It was a fantastic spectacle, a performance with an important aspect of climbing at its center: rappelling safely. What occurred at stage 10 was a transformation of climbing into theater, a visible connection between art and climbing. This is one of our core values at Climb Cleveland, and something we intend to promote tirelessly. We’re about having fun, and using the skills you can develop in the gym, whether from yoga, climbing or dance (a combination is best!) to experience exceptional adventure outside the gym.

This event brought two of Climb Cleveland’s foremost advocates, its owner, Chick Holtkamp, and Matthias Doherty, who was an integral part of realizing Chick’s dream to build the gym we love, into the broader community of Cleveland’s Near West Side. Community is the foundation of the Climb-Cleveland gym, and the true source of our strength. Being an active part of Pandemonium 2017, along with many other amazing artists from this city, was a spectacular experience we would happily repeat at Pandemonium 2018.

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