A conversation with Garrett Ammon and Alex Ketley
Ballet Nouveau Colorado's innovative season draws to a close this weekend with a program of four brand-spankin'-new pieces, one by BNC artistic director Garrett Ammon, one by company artist Jason Franklin, and one each by guest choreographers Maurya Kerr and Alex Ketley. We caught up with Ammon and Ketley to discuss the show -- titled Rarities & Oddities -- which opens tonight and plays through Sunday.
Photo by Chris Golden Sarah Tallman, Sean Watson, Julie King, Jason Franklin, Damien Patterson & Elizabeth Towles in Rarities & Oddities rehearsal.
First, our conversation with Alex Ketley, whose segment of the show involves -- yes, really -- dancing panda bears.
WW: How did the idea for this show first take hold in your consciousness?
AK: I think the genesis of it, for the most part, was just so much of my work and kind of looking out at the dance landscape. I think it's really fantastic that there's so much really serious work, but I kind of wanted to work on a project where I just was as ridiculous as possible, and I felt like panda costumes were kind of a good avenue for that, and so I was knocking that around. But it's been an interesting project, because ridiculous only goes so far. The challenge of the project has been threading this euphoric, fun aspect of the work with more rigor and finding the balance between those two things. Because I think having a bunch of people jumping around in panda outfits is kind of a one-liner, it doesn't particularly fascinate me in any way. I've worked with generating different emotional states within the performers, which kind of translates outward to the audience.
I was just in Ballet Liepzig in Germany and was doing this very intense work, and swinging that pendulum all the way to the other side coming here, really wondering about happiness and euphoria -- and just as an artist, it really taps into a different part of your creative self, the same way it does as a person. You can think very seriously and in-depth about something, but sometimes creativity is about letting go of something and having this very strange and fun template. I thought it was really smart that Garrett and Dawn (Fay) kind of framed the show for an audience, saying, "This is the weird aspect of what choreographers would think about," because if it weren't framed like that, the audience would think, "This is a lot of really strange work." But giving choreographers the opportunity to say, "This is a really strange idea, I want to knock around with it," and giving audiences an entryway into that is important. And I've seen all four pieces now, and they're -- I think they're strange, but everybody was really deeply invested in the work, and I would say also that it's not avant-garde strange, it's just -- they're these sort of odd temperaments for a performance.