Garrett Ammon on Perpetual Beauty, Wonderbound and the power of beauty
Ballet Nouveau Colorado has been putting together some of the most innovative collaborations we've seen -- so it's appropriate that the group is moving forward with a new name and new digs. Before the company completes its transition to Wonderbound, though, it will present one more show under the BNC name: Perpetual Beauty, which opens Friday, April 19, at Pinnacle Charter School's Performing Arts Complex, and runs through Sunday, April 21. We recently caught up with artistic director Garrett Ammon to ask about this collaboration with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the company's new name and the power of beauty.
A still from Perpetual Beauty.
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Westword: Can you talk about the significance of the title Perpetual Beauty? What was the reasoning for choosing that name?
Garrett Ammon: I think names are funny things sometimes, because you kind of have to look out a long way from when the show is going to happen or even when the dances are being created and anticipate on some level where you're headed with that program. One of the things that I landed on was the inspiration behind the first half of the evening, which is the ballet that I created for the collaboration that we did back in January called Journey of the Human Spirit, with Central City Opera and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the Newman Center and the JCC. That work was created with the intent of being the second half of the evening for that show and the first half of the evening for this show, and it was really focused around pulling the audience back out of this fairly dark opera -- it is a comedy, but it's a very dark comedy, and lifting us back out of this dark place and celebrating our humanity.
I think that really helped inspire the title in just thinking about that lineage that we carry from generation to generation and our effort as human beings to bring beauty into the world. And I knew that that work would help inspire what the other half of the evening would be, and would set us up in a context. I also think that I really wanted a name that captured the idea of coming together with musicians from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra -- they're such beautiful musicians, and they bring a whole other dimension to the experience.
What can you tell us about the second half of the show?
The second half of the show -- it was kind of an adventure. We started looking at what did we want to pair to make this a nice, rich evening, and we looked at a lot of different options as we talked with the symphony. They brought forward Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings," and at initial glance, I didn't consider it because it is actually one of George Balanchine's most famous ballets, and so most choreographers don't touch it because it has this legacy behind it. And it is really celebrated in that way in the dance world.
But as I circled back to it, I gave it another listen, not really thinking about it in that context and listened for its beauty as a piece of music, and then I said to my wife, "You know what? I think this could work." Because my aesthetic as a choreographer is so completely different than the Balanchine aesthetic that I didn't feel any concern of referencing that or anything. And I also knew I would have a completely different take on it. Although I've seen that ballet, I never danced it, so it's not engrained in my head. So I said, "You know what, it's getting close to a century since he choreographed it, I think we can engage this in an honest way that will really be wonderful." And I'm so glad I did. I had no idea what a pleasure it would be to create it -- I actually started creating it right when we moved into our new space, so the work ended up being a christening for the new space.
Can you talk about the new space and the transition from Ballet Nouveau to Wonderbound?
We've been in the space for about a month now, and we've had ideas about what it might be like to be down there in this new environment and new neighborhood for us, and I think it's exceeded any of our expectations. We love the space, we love the natural light and the openness of it, and we also are thoroughly enjoying having people come in and visit, see some rehearsal, open the garage doors -- and whenever the weather's warm enough we have those doors open, so that way passersby, whether walking or in their cars, get a chance to have a little bit of some unexpected beauty enter into their life for that moment in time. It's really been inspiring. It's a reaffirmation of why we engage in art, and so I think that's really thrilling for us.
We've had some people come on the set who've never been to a rehearsal before, and they've said, "I understand the name now," because you really are wonderbound when you're experiencing it. And that's really what it's about. We knew going into it that the name was not the easy choice. But we kind of tried to look out longer term and say, "We really want to have a name that can at least attempt to capture the essence of the idea of what we do, which is trying to capture people's imagination and take them on a journey." And so I definitely feel like it's the right choice. And what I hope over time is that the Denver community and beyond know that name for that, and not even necessarily it being a dance company, and that's why we didn't put "dance" or "ballet" in the name -- because it's really more about the experience as a whole rather than what medium or mediums we happen to be working in. And every project we do now is a collaboration with some other medium. So it is far beyond a dance performance.
Is there anything else people should know about this weekend's show?
One other thing is that it's been a tradition for us that we always announce our upcoming season at our final production; we like to give our audience the first peek into what plans we have, so that's another part of what people will have to look forward to: seeing what projects we have coming up for the next year.
For more information or to purchase tickets for this weekend's performances, visit wonderbound.com.