A Gothic Folktale - As Wonderbound moved into mid-October, we put the finishing touches on our production of "A Gothic Folktale" with Colorado Singer/Songwriter Jesse Manley and Denver Illusionist/Mentalist Professor Phelyx and moved into the theatre.
The transition to stage is always a pivotal moment in the evolution of a new production; best laid plans are always disrupted when they finally meet reality. In a show that brings together so many mediums (music, illusion, dance and theatre as well as film and live video projection), focusing in on the most important elements and letting anything superfluous fall away was the first priority.
By opening night on October 18, the cast, crew, musicians, designers and staff had managed to weave Wonderbound's most technically complex production ever into a seamless evening that transported the audience to a different time and place.
As we moved through our two production weeks, some wonderful press hit that continued to help spread the word about the show:
John Wenzel wrote a feature story about one of our longtime and beloved company artist's journey back to the stage after hip replacement surgery: Denver Post -- Wonderbound's Meredith Strathmeyer learns to walk again, then dance.
Carrie Saldo produced a feature television story about the making of "A Gothic Folktale" and Wonderbound's new home at Junction Box: Rocky Mountain PBS -- Arts District: Wonderbound.
And, Tracy Shaffer published an interview that we had recently done after a rehearsal at Junction Box: Huffington Post -- Wonderbound Gets the Jump on Inaugural Season.
In addition, Colorado Public Radio's OpenAir released three videos from an in studio performance of music from "A Gothic Folktale" by Jesse Manley and His Band:
"Millie and Christine"
"Everything That Is"
National Innovation Summit for Arts & Culture - From October 20-23, 250 arts leaders and funders from thirteen communities convened in Denver for EmcArts' National Innovation Summit for Arts & Culture. The inaugural conference, titled "Leaving the Shore," included workshops, talks, and in-depth discussions focused around innovation and adaptive change as well arts experiences by Denver arts organizations.
Between weekends of "A Gothic Folktale," Wonderbound had the pleasure of hosting an arts experience for conference attendees at Junction Box on the night of October 22. Guests were treated to a beautiful spread of food by Footers Catering before we got rolling with the program by sharing our story of organizational transformation as well as some of our experiences in the neighborhood since we moved to Junction Box. Professor Phelyx graciously joined us for the evening, and he got the performance part of the evening rolling by doing some of his amazing mentalist work with assistance from our guests.
Wonderbound's artists shared several selections from the production in full costume as they traded the stage with Phelyx. We concluded the evening by bringing the entire Wonderbound team to the stage for a discussion with our guests about creative placemaking, organizational restructuring, collaborative creation, and the role of arts funders in supporting innovation.
Historic Denver Annual Awards Dinner - On October 23, my wife Dawn Fay and I made our way down the street to Denver's amazing Brown Palace to attend Historic Denver's 43rd Annual Awards Dinner. We were there to cheer on Community Coordinating District No. 1 President and Urban Market Partners Owner Amy Harmon as she accepted the Ann Love Award for her transformation of 1075 Park Avenue West into Junction Box and Wonderbound's home. Seeing Amy be recognized by her peers for such a daring move was a great source of pride for us. Congratulations Amy!
Watch the awards video: Vimeo -- Historic Denver: Community Preservation Awards 2013.
If You Dream. If You Love. If You Wonder. One Year of Becoming Wonderbound - At the beginning of Ballet Nouveau Colorado's (BNC) 2012-2013 Season we had the pleasure of meeting Photographer Eric Robert Dallimore. He was interested in doing a photography project of the company using a variety of antique film cameras. We happily welcomed him into the studio and theatre to shoot the company as we created and staged each of our productions. Along the way, it became clear that he was documenting a defining period in the dance company's history as we made our transformation into Wonderbound. Eric made a particular choice not to develop any of the film that he shot until the season ended, leaving it a mystery to himself and all of us what he was capturing.
On November 1, Eric unveiled this body of work to us and the community for the first time when he opened his exhibit, "If You Dream. If You Love. If You Wonder. One Year of Becoming Wonderbound," at Leon Art Gallery, just one mile southwest of Junction Box. For the exhibit, Eric narrowed thousands of photos down to a select sixty silver gelatin prints that he developed and framed himself. The result is the most intimate and caring portrait of a dance company I have ever seen. The entire Wonderbound family came out for the event and four Wonderbound Hares put on a performance to music by the Flobots.
The City of Denver Closes Triangle Park - As the city, neighborhood associations, service providers, police and local business owners continue to work to improve Denver's northern downtown neighborhoods, a big step was taken on November 1. Denver Parks and Recreation officially closed Triangle Park, which is adjacent to Junction Box, with fencing and signage that reads, "The park is closed for now, but we're planting a brand-new Denver Urban Garden community and a fresh start for Triangle Park. Sprouting in Spring 2014!"
Triangle Park has long been a haven for illegal activity and violence. It is also located between three homeless shelters, creating a difficult environment for already vulnerable members of our community. Though this is a complex issue that affects many community members, it is important that the challenge is being approached head-on with creative new solutions.
Before I Die: International Day of Walls - In September 2012, before Junction Box had been made a reality, Community Coordinating District No. 1 (CCD No. 1) organized the creation of a Candy Chang "Before I Die" wall at Sonny Lawson Park. Wonderbound (then Ballet Nouveau Colorado) joined CCD No. 1, Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design, Denver Rescue Mission, St. Francis Center, Redline, Denver Parks and Recreation, Five Points Business District, Curtis Park Neighbors, Ballpark Neighborhood Association, Urban Market Partners, Councilman Albus Brooks and Councilwoman Judy Montero for a "Cultural Potluck" with the community when it was installed.
The following December, the wall moved to Civic Center Park next to the McNichols Civic Center Building and on April 4 2013, CCD No. 1 proudly hosted Candy Chang for a talk at RedLine.
On November 5, Volunteers from CCD No. 1, led by Adam Kuperman, installed the well-traveled wall at Junction Box to coincide with International Day of Walls, an event organized by St. Martins Press to celebrate the release of Candy Chang's Before I Die book which documents the hundreds of "Before I Die" murals that have been constructed around the world.
The wall has filled up quickly with thoughtful, humorous and often touching sentiments like, "Before I die I would like to be a better dad."
Israel's Liat Dror Nir Ben Gal Dance Company - From November 5-9, Wonderbound was honored to host Israel's Liat Dror Nir Ben Gal Dance Company at Junction Box. For five days, the two companies worked together in preparation for a collaborative performance on November 9, during the Mizel Arts and Culture Center at the Jewish Community Center's JAAMM Festival.
We all became fast and close friends during the process which culminated in an enthusiastic sell-out performance at the JCC's Wolf Theatre. We look forward to continuing this international relationship and hope to take Wonderbound to Israel in the not too distant future.
Check out my Q&A with Erica Prather about the project: 303 Magazine -- Wonderbound Collaborates with Israeli Dance Company Liat Dror Nir Ben Gal.
During their residency, Liat Dror Nir Ben Gal Company Artists Michal Arazi and Avital Ifargan taught a master class for Colorado Conservatory of Dance students at Junction Box. During the class, the students learned basic concepts of acro-balance and improvisation.
A New View at Junction Box - From the beginning of Junction Box, sharing our art form with the community has been an important part of our vision, and we knew the building's garage doors would play a major role. On November 11, just as the weather has been getting cooler, our new doors arrived. We are all thrilled at how significantly they have changed the environment by adding even more natural light and further removing barriers to the outside world.
Wonderbound Community Programs - From November 13-15, we had the pleasure of taking Wonderbound's artists all over the metro Denver area to share our love of dance with 5,500 underserved elementary age students. The week began with two performances at Denver Ballet Guild's annual Showcase of Dance. The same day, we headed to National Jewish Health's Morgridge Academy where we danced for and with students who struggle with medical problems that cause frequent absences from regular school environments. During the program, Wonderbound Company Artist Meredith Strathmeyer shared her personal journey as a dancer with asthma and her recovery from hip surgery. We continued the week with interactive performances at Pinnacle Charter School, Pleasant View Elementary School, Westview Elementary School and Semper Elementary School.
Ballpark Neighborhood Association Neighbor of the Year Celebration - On the evening of November 13, Wonderbound had the pleasure of hosting Ballpark Neighborhood Association at Junction Box for their annual awards. After a performance by Wonderbound's Sarah Tallman and Brandon Freeman, the association presented their Watchdog of the Year Award to Ireland's Finest and their Neighbor of the Year Award to Snooze. Congratulations to our neighbors on their honors.
Mayor's Awards for Excellence in Arts & Culture - On the evening of November 14, I was honored to head to the Studio Loft at the Denver Performing Arts Complex to accept the Arts Innovation Award during the Mayor's Awards for Excellence in Arts & Culture. I feel deeply fortunate to have had my wife Dawn Fay, the entire Wonderbound family, and a large contingent of our most beloved community members and collaborators there to share the evening. Congratulations to my fellow award winners; Café Cultura (Youth Arts Award), the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival (Impact Arts Award), Darla Rae (Global Arts Award), Art Students League of Denver & Denver Public Library (Unique Collaboration People's Choice Award), and Golden Triangle Museum District & Plein Air Festival (Creative Neighborhood People's Choice Award).
As I prepared my remarks for the Mayor's Awards, I reflected on our community and the countless people that have joined us on our adventure. Though no amount of words would adequately express my gratitude, I attempted to capture the essence of my appreciation in the few minutes I had. Below is the text of my remarks from that night.
Thank you Mayor Hancock, Denver Arts & Venues and the Mayor's Awards selection committee for this honor. It is humbling to be standing here this evening because I think this award belongs to a great many people.
First and foremost, my wife Dawn Fay. For fifteen years, we have lived and worked side by side, sharing in every beautiful, challenging, thrilling and mundane moment in life together.
In the summer of 2007, Dawn and I packed up our life in Memphis, Tennessee and headed west. It seems like a lifetime ago, but I remember well driving our 24 foot moving truck, car in tow, right through Downtown Denver at rush hour. In so many ways, the anxious wonder and nervous excitement that we experienced that day has never left.
That winter, our love affair with Denver really began when we attended the 2007 Mayor's Awards for Excellence in Arts & Culture. On that night, we were introduced to two organizations that are examples of the rich cultural community we live in: Lighthouse Writers Workshop and Curious Theatre Company. The following year, we would have the pleasure of collaborating intimately with these organizations.
Over the past six years, multi-medium collaborations have come to define our dance company and we have taken remarkable journeys with the finest performing artists, musicians, visual artists, writers and photographers we have ever known. These artists, too numerous to list right now, create without concern for new trends or fashions dictated from the coasts. They are content to forge their own path and develop their own voice, with the mountains as their muse and the past, filled with hardship and hope, as their canvas. These people have changed us at our core and drive us to ask more of ourselves each day. They have opened worlds to us and left us dumbfounded, unable to fathom our own great fortune in knowing such remarkable human beings.
Colorado knows well the rich resource it has, and values the arts so deeply that it has put multiple agencies to work to deepen the impact of its creative sector. Few communities can boast of having even one agency as effective as Colorado Creative Industries, the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, Denver Arts & Venues or any of the numerous agencies in counties, cities and towns across the state. Resident in each of these agencies are individuals who work hand-in-hand with artists, organizations and businesses to better our community. They are our cohorts and advocates, but they always work without the honor of a curtain call.
Interwoven in this community are the funders and supporters, foundations and individuals who provide the resources and expertise that enable us to do our work. A year and a half ago, Bonfils-Stanton Foundation went above and beyond the call of duty and opened the door to the transformation that our organization has undergone. Through innovation capital, countless hours of consultation and a readiness for risk, the vision of Wonderbound came into being.
During this transformation, another remarkable human being entered our life. Amy Harmon is not just an urban in-fill developer and community advocate, she is a product of this beautiful city -- raised on art and community, and nurtured to embrace adventure. It is through her will and determination that we now call the historic post office garage at the corner of Broadway, Arapahoe and Park Avenue West our home.
By our side throughout this journey, have been our dancers, staff and board. We are blessed to be surrounded by their talent and passion everyday. They are fearless, and they are remarkable. They dare to dream big dreams, and then do the hard work everyday to make those dreams a reality. This award belongs to all of them.
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