After closing “Love” in mid-February, Wonderbound leapt into the studio process to create “Gone West” with poet Michael J. Henry and singer/songwriter Ian Cooke. Mike, Ian and I had been meeting for a year to develop the concept for this new evening-length performance, and having worked with Mike twice before, we returned to our shared obsessions for character driven narratives and place. Our previous projects were set in an urban apartment building (“When the Power Goes Out”), and a suburban neighborhood (“Intersection”).
Inspired by a recent family vacation, Mike brought the idea of placing “Gone West” in a state campground somewhere in the Front Range, west of Denver. We talked about the diverse blend of lifestyles and perspectives that are resident in our deep purple state and what it looks like when those distinct ways of life converge in a microcosm of society where walls and roads have been replaced by tents and trails.
Junction Box was transformed as the space filled with plots of grass (green shag rugs that doubled as bedrolls), a picnic table, cooler, picnic basket, flashlights, tackle box, rope and other personal items that our characters brought with them for their family retreats.
Listen to a story about “Gone West” and hear Michael J. Henry recite the opening poem from the show: Colorado Public Radio — 'Gone West' combines Colorado poetry, dance and music on stage.
As we intensively explored Mike’s words and Ian’s music we continued to share our creative life with the community through a variety of activities and events.
MSU Art Students at Junction Box — On February 28, Wonderbound had the pleasure of hosting art students from Metropolitan State University of Denver for a figure drawing class during our regular rehearsal day. This was the third group of local art students that we have hosted at Junction Box this past year. It is always a pleasure to share our art with young aspiring artists and have their additional creative energy in the space.
ArtPlace America Summit — On March 3, I headed to Los Angeles to join the ArtPlace America cohort for two brief days. A great deal of information was shared and discussed, and I still feel as though I am unpacking a lot of the thoughts and ideas. I was most struck by was how genuine, passionate and committed each attendee is to their projects and organizations. This is perhaps the most important single take away for me, an affirmation that there is a true kinship that spans across the country that is based in a true faith that art is an essential and transformative part of our world.
Imagine 2020 — Over the past year, I had the pleasure of being a participant in Denver’s Stakeholder Leadership Group to help develop a new cultural plan for the city. While the ArtPlace America Grantees were in Los Angeles, “Imagine 2020 — Creating a Future for Denver’s Culture” was rolled out to the Denver community over the course of several days, beginning with a luncheon on March 3 which featured a talk by Charles Landry, author of The Creative City.
The official press conference was the next day on the steps of City Hall where urban in-fill developer and Junction Box owner Amy Harmon had the honor of joining Mayor Michael B. Hancock and other community leaders to share the plan with the press. The festivities culminated with a reception for the Stakeholder Leadership Group at the city’s McNichols Building on the evening of March 6.
You can watch the official video, which features Wonderbound, here: Vimeo — Imagine 2020: Denver's Cultural Plan, Official Video.
And you can read articles about the cultural plan here:
The Denver Post — Denver's new cultural plan imagines arts-first public policy.
Colorado Public Radio — Denver launches ambitious culture plan with IMAGINE 2020
Rocky Mountain City Summit — Simultaneously, the Downtown Denver Partnership held their annual Rocky Mountain City Summit on March 4 where special guest Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, gave a talk about “urban revolution.”
Read an article about the summit here: Denver Business Journal — Richard Florida pegs Denver as part of 'urban revolution’.
Radio Dances — As Colorado Public Radio neared the official launch of their new Arts Bureau, they asked us to help them explore the idea of dance on the radio. Inspired by “This American Life” host Ira Glass’ touring production of “One Radio Host, Two Dancers”, CPR asked dance artists from around Denver to create one minute pieces that could be aired on the radio.
Since Ian Cooke was already in the studio regularly for “Gone West” rehearsal, he joined us on this little endeavor, and we created “The Most of It” where company artists Amanda Copple and Brandon Freeman danced a “verbal pas de deux” while Ian played an instrumental version of his song “A Reasonable Life.”
Listen to the “The Most of it” here: Colorado Public Radio — Radio Dances: 'The Most of It' by Wonderbound.
Amanda, Brandon and Ian headed to the CPR studios on February 25 to film their Radio Dance. You can watch it here: Colorado Public Radio — Video: Wonderbound performs Radio Dance at CPR.
On March 3, the CPR Arts Bureau held their launch party at Denver’s Artwork Network where Amanda, Brandon and Ian performed “The Most of It” live. Several days later, Ira Glass joined the conversation on air during CPR’s inaugural arts show. Listen to the interview here: Colorado Public Radio — Can dance work on the radio? Ira Glass weighs in.
One Year of Being Wonderbound — On March 6, after having shown his exhibit “If You Dream. If You Love. If You Wonder. One Year of Becoming Wonderbound” at Leon Gallery and Wonderbound’s production of “Love,” photographer Eric Dallimore installed selections from the show at Junction Box. This timing was truly serendipitous as Wonderbound celebrated its first anniversary at Junction Box the following day by inviting the community over for cake.
The Hare Ball — On March 14, Wonderbound was proud to present its first major gala fundraiser at Junction Box. In honor of Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Vice President of Programs (retired) Susan France, the Hare Ball took guests on an immersive journey “down the rabbit hole.”
The evening included special performances by the Wonderbound dancers, Ian Cooke Band and a 3D projection mapping experience produced by digital artist and VJ Kristopher Collins, aka Movax.
Check out a gallery of images from the special occasion here: The Denver Post — Photos: Wonderbound’s Hare Ball.
Teaser Episode #4: Gone West — Days later, Junction Box filled with guests again as we presented our fourth Teaser Episode on March 19. During the evening Wonderbound’s dancers and Ian Cooke Band shared excerpts from the upcoming production of Gone West, interspersed by poetry from the show read by Michael J. Henry. We followed up the program with a robust Q&A with the audience.
Read a story about the Teaser Episode here: DIYdancer — Denver-based Wonderbound gets campy for ‘Gone West’.
Baroque Out of Bounds — On March 30, we had the pleasure of hosting our good friends and collaborators from Baroque Chamber Orchestra at Junction Box for one of their “Baroque Out of Bounds” concerts. Created to be “informal and interactive” these programs feature “musical explorations and conversations with BCOC musicians, programming off the beaten path, and welcoming spaces.” This program also served as a further introduction for BCOC’s audience to Wonderbound by sharing our plans to create “Marie”, a full-length collaborative production premiering in February, 2015.
Gone West — Amidst all of this activity we created the most complex and immersive production in our organization’s history by merging dance, live music, poetry (spoken recorded and projected), visual art and animation, and over sixty props into one cohesive experience. As we transitioned into April, we made the move to the theatre to bring all of the elements together.
During the week we had the opportunity to bus students from Northglenn’s Westview Elementary School to the theatre to see excerpts from the show and have their own chance to dance on the stage.
For two remarkable weekends from April 4-13, the characters of “Gone West” lived fully formed within the poetry of Michael J. Henry, the music of Ian Cooke, and the bodies and souls of the Wonderbound dancers.
Read a review of “Gone West” here: Presenting Denver — Wonderbound’s Brave New World.
Community Education Programs — After Closing Gone West, the Wonderbound dancers headed out into elementary schools across the Denver metro area. From April 16-25, we visited eighteen schools, sharing our passion for dance and love of collaboration by performing for, and creating dance with students in some of the most under-resourced schools in the region.
A Gothic Folktale CD Release Concert — On April 26, we were delighted to have a homecoming of sorts as we welcomed Jesse Manley and His Band back to Junction Box for the release of their live album from our collaboration of “A Gothic Folktale”.
The day started early with sound engineer Ron Gordon arriving at the space. He brought twenty of his students from Warren Tech High School to provide them a real-world learning experience where they could design the sound for a live concert from the ground up.
The evening began with a set from Chimney Choir, an adventurous folk/rock band who is collaborating with Wonderbound on “Boomtown: Tales from the River Valley” next season. Following them was our good friend Professor Phelyx who reprised some of his illusions and mentalist feats from “A Gothic Folktale.”
When Jesse Manley took the stage, it transported everyone involved in the production back in time. The Wonderbound dancers had the pleasure of joining the band on stage several times during the evening to revisit moments from the show.
Read a story about the CD release and get a track from the album here: Reverb — Steal This Track from Jesse Manley.
April 26 was also One Day on Earth, a “worldwide media event where thousands of participants simultaneously film over a 24-hour period.” Wonderbound company artist Corbin Kalinowski is working with The Forum Stories’ Samuel Pike to contribute a video piece of our One Day in Denver to the project.
CCI Summit — On May 1 & 2, leaders from across Colorado gathered in Salida, for the 2014 Colorado Creative Industries Summit. The two day affair kicked off with a keynote luncheon featuring our friends and collaborators Ian Cooke, Ian O’Dougherty and animator Adam Singer who created Cassowary and Fruit Bat — an animated short, book, song and documentary. Watch the animated short here: Vimeo — Cassowary and Fruit Bat.
The following morning, I was honored to join fellow ArtPlace America grantees Felicia Harmon and Megan Tracy form Loveland Feed & Grain for a breakfast panel where we had the opportunity to share our project with summit attendees.
Immediately following breakfast, Junction Box’s Amy Harmon participated on a panel with History Colorado to talk about “new ideas in old places” where she shared her experiences with developing our space and other historic buildings in downtown Denver.
Industrial Project — Each year, the artists of Wonderbound stick around after the season has officially closed to present Industrial Project, a “showcase of new and innovative work choreographed, produced and performed by the company dancers.”
This year’s production on May 2 & 3 at Junction Box exceeded all others, giving the audience an intimate new perspective on the diverse creative capacities of the artists of Wonderbound.
Proceeds from Industrial Project benefit Wonderbound’s Artist Resource Fund to aid artists as they transition out of their performing careers.
Post Derby Day Party at the Argyle — Throughout the year Wonderbound’s artists have been joining movement therapist Heather Sutton at assisted living facilities in the Denver area as part of Project Generations, an ongoing creative dialog with our elders with the goal of uncovering new artistic possibilities while creating experiences that increase physical, emotional and creative activity through dance. On May 4, a handful of Wonderbound artists made their way (with hats) to The Argyle for a special Post Derby Day dance party with residents.
Dance Mixology — On May 6, Wonderbound artists Sarah Tallman and Damien Patterson got Dance Mixology underway at Junction Box for a second year. For four weeks, these “free-wheeling creative movement workshops” give adults the opportunity to experience contemporary dance in a low pressure environment. We have been delighted to see the growing attendance at these classes.
WorldDenver — An international delegation from WorldDenver came to Junction Box on May 15 to visit with Producing Director Dawn Fay and learn about the work Wonderbound does in the community.
The delegation included members from Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Yemen, among others. Dawn got the opportunity to brush up on her French, and even ended up dancing with a couple of the members after the talk.
WorldDenver exists "to strengthen and expand the community of engaged global citizens and organizations in Colorado through education, cross-cultural exchange, and personal interaction with international leaders, professionals and students."
Denver moves forward on a New Day Shelter in the Neighborhood — The neighborhood surrounding Junction Box has long faced historical challenges around public spaces, human services, neighborhood vibrancy and economic development. The tensions around these issues recently increased again as the city moved forward with plans to build a community center adjacent to the Denver Rescue Mission with a courtyard, dining area, showers and bathrooms that will cater to the homeless population.
Read more here:
Denver Post — One Denver homeless center moves forward, while other awaits site
Denver Post — Homeless day center gets OK from Denver City Council panel
Denver Post — Denver Mayor Hancock sweetens deal for Ballpark homeless center
Denver Post — Denver council OKs $8.6M subsidy for homeless day center in Ballpark
As we spend our days pursuing our work and looking to make a difference in our world, I’m always struck by how art can reach closer to our intent than other modes of communication. And how, so often, art can bring even greater meaning when you allow it to live outside the confines of its original context.
While reflecting on the work we have done these past several months at Junction Box, I find myself returning to Mike’s closing poem from our production of “Gone West.” And so, here it is.
by Michael J. Henry
Kinship calls to us from many places
and takes many shapes.
A rising tide doesn’t lift all boats—
there’s only one boat, and you are all
passengers. When night falls, huddle
in mud as the tempest rages.
Shiver through dark half-dreams,
strange scenes where love and worry intertwine.
When the dawn comes, the sky is blue again
and the rain is gone. Continue onward,
together, in the time-worn tasks of perseverance:
ambulation and forgiveness.
If you find a rocky ledge, step carefully,
hand in hand. A sort of communion,
the splay of fingers intertwined.
Go on—as one, all of you—your walking
fed by the desire to love again those
who love you. A collective force will move
your weary bones, and though I say
this in so many nouns and verbs, it’s a simple
good and workable thing, like a cup
or a flashlight. Walk on and know
that kinship nurtures you, is keeping you
free by making all of you into one.
© 2014 Michael J. HenryTweet This