DanceAspen will premiere its new winter program at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen on March 17 and 18 at 7:30pm. This production will feature three original creations from world-renowned choreographers Penny Saunders, Yin Yue and Sebastian Kloborg. The performance will also feature works from local in-house dancers Matthew Gilmore, Madeline Scott and Blake Krapels.
DanceAspen was founded in 2021 after the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company was reduced in response to COVID-19. Starting from scratch, executive director Lauren Winton began by working on getting the company on its feet, while dancers volunteered their time and talent. DanceAspen was able to break into the dance scene and make a name for itself thanks to community support. Since its inception, and first Wheeler Opera House performance in the summer of 2021, the company has grown its outreach for both local and international collaboration.
Winton, along with Scott and Kraples, sat down with The Sopris Sun to discuss what audiences can expect, how it has been working with talents from all over the world, and what they are most excited about for the upcoming performance.
Winton is originally from San Francisco and has a career stretching from the Joffrey Ballet School to Broadway and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. She said that their winter production is going to be a “great combination” of talent.
“We’re looking forward to the next step in our identity as a company, which is melding these global, international names with the talent that we have locally. Exposing them to these global names and people, these really good choreographers to work with, it adds to their artistic imagination and skills, and it’s a great opportunity for us to build those international aspects into our very local company,” Winton stated.
She expressed excitement over the talents they will be collaborating with and touched upon Yin Yue, who will be incorporating her trademark dance style, “FOCO,” which she created in her home city of Shanghai, China. This dance style blends a “dynamic fusion of Chinese dance, folk and contemporary movement,” said the DanceAspen press release.
Along with Yue, Penny Saunders, a recent residency collaborator, will be performing her piece, “In Mind,” which was created during DanceAspen’s residency at the University of Utah. Then, there’s Danish choreographer and freelance dancer, Sebastian Kloborg. Winton has worked closely with these artists during her dance career.
“A lot of the people that I end up bringing are either people that I have personally connected with, worked with in my career or met through my training, or other people that the other artists have known from school or their previous professional experiences … It’s like one degree of separation. There’s always a friend connection or work connection that makes [these collaborations] happen,” Winton said.
Kraples shared Winton’s excitement. “Something special about DanceAspen is that there are six dancers,” he said. “So it’s an intimate company, and when a choreographer comes in, I think it’s really clear that we feel that, and they feel that it is a very welcoming environment to have the artists play … I’m grateful for that.”
The program will also feature an original film shot locally in the Bad Harriet Cocktail Lounge in Aspen’s Hotel Jerome. The film will be directed by DanceAspen’s Madeline Scott and will feature many talents. The film, titled “Paradise,” will be the first large-scale production from DanceAspen based on the “Paradise Paradox,” a phrase coined by mental health professionals in reference to the high rates of suicide in these Rocky Mountains.
“This is my second full year in Aspen, and around the time of January every year — leading to the X Games weekend particularly — I get so rundown working multiple jobs to continue to work and exist in this community,” Scott told The Sopris Sun. “I started doing some research and looking into it to see if I was feeling alone in that and came to find out it is a very common phenomenon.”
As she was researching the topic one day, a song came on the radio that completely “juxtaposed” the heavy topic. It was at that moment that everything clicked for the film’s production, she said.
For more information on upcoming events, or to buy tickets to the upcoming performance, www.danceaspen.org/events
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