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A combination of film and dance exploring the emotions of 2020
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Colorado Voices

Dance becomes film & explores emotions of 2020

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Wonderbound partners with local musicians creating short films about the emotions of 2020.

It’s been a wild year for Denver’s Wonderbound contemporary ballet company.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, president Dawn Fay and artistic director Garrett Ammon have kept a focus on community engagement, staff retention and the support of their musical partners.

Adhering to social distancing best-practices, the married couple spoke candidly via a remote Zoom call about the bumpy ride and their new artistic ventures; from dance stage to film set.

“We started 2020 with a bang. Garrett produced an amazing full-length new work called The Sandman, a new-fangled Western in collaboration with Clay Rose and the Gasoline Lollipops. It was absolutely epic. We had packed houses. It was just such a success. That was the middle of February. Then we were starting to roll into doing our (return of the) production of ‘Divisions’ with Flobots. That was on the horizon and we had several other events. And then, none of that happened,” said Fay.

Digital content keeps community engaged and dancers working

As life in a pandemic evolved, the entire Wonderbound team jumped into the digital world creating over one hundred free videos.

Educational programs traditionally shared at local elementary schools evolved into online tutorials called Dance Along!

Dancers explored new creativity in a series called Project Wonder.

“Project Wonder was a collection of weekly films that had dancers making them in their apartments, in their neighborhoods, in the park and even in the snow,” said Ammon and Fay. “We really kind of threw this at them very quickly right at the beginning of the stay at home order and they had to start creating these new dances and so we worked with them to help get them connected with the local music community,” they continued.

Dance studios become backdrop for short films featuring local music

Comfortable with this new digital landscape, Ammon grabbed an iPhone 6, a Sony DSLR camera, a few gimbals and jumped at the chance to make movies.

“I've always loved film and I've always loved creating things in that media and over the years that's been incorporated into shows in different ways,” explained Ammon.

He connected with Colorado musicians from previous Wonderbound productions. It was a new way to work together and to support a shared commitment to the art scene during this pandemic.

To date, there are five Wonderbound Shorts available, with more planned for release on August 4th.

“Each of these Wonderbound Shorts are created with local musicians who are collaborators of ours. So it's another way of also kind of reminding the community of all the artists that exist in this community that are all suffering right now because all these bands can't do the regular gigs and touring that they would be doing right now so hopefully it kind of invites people into discovering some new music that they might not have heard before, or supporting those artists as well,” said Ammon.

The short films showcase songs from a variety of local musicians including Chimney Choir, Flobots, Rae McAlister, Tom Hagerman, Pan Astral, to name a few. Some films are lighthearted while most tackle heavier topics from isolation, fear, and anxiety to the effects of inequality within our communities.

Partnering with Denver’s hip-hop rock band, Flobots brought Voices of the Dead back to production. This time on the digital screen. Revisiting their collaborative 2017 production of Divisions, the artists shared their exploration of the complexities within current movements.

“When I was looking at the environment we were in and looking at Black Lives Matter and having conversations with the dancers and also conversations with Flobots, we were discussing how we could respond to the moment. The vocabulary for a lot of it is actually from the show (Divisions) that's been adapted and evolved not only for film but also for social distancing,” said Ammon.

Some scenes are chilling.

All of the Wonderbound Shorts were filmed at their studio located near the Elyria-Swansea, Clayton and Cole neighborhoods in north Denver.

2020-2021 Season to launch in October

What’s next? The 12-dancer Wonderbound company will be back in the studio August 11th and will start rehearsals for an anticipated October production. They’ll also be ready to adapt.

“We're just trying to be prepared for all eventualities. But, one thing that is really important is that we keep our artists working. And keep our collaborators working. Some of that might require a fair amount of creativity,” said Fay. “We'll just keep on evolving what that looks like day by day.”

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