What do political conventions and Ballet Nouveau Colorado have in common? The element of fanfare and presentation of a dream. Where the former can be bloated with bluster, the latter is a heart-wrenching, lean and graceful plunge into the deep end of truth. What better way to wrap up two weeks with the RNC and the DNC than spending an evening with the BNC?
I sat down for coffee with Ballet Nouveau Colorado Artistic Director, Garrett Ammons, to talk about the upcoming reprise of the critically acclaimed Carry On with Paper Bird at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. His calm exterior belies an inner energy that beams and bursts forth with passion from his quiet demeanor. It is invigorating to be in his presence as the conversation dances from gender politics to timeless love to the relationship between the land and sea.
Known for his stimulating choreography and collaboration with other artistic disciplines, Ammons explains the experience with indie folk group, Paper Bird.
TS- The phrase artistic collaboration is tossed about like a ballerina.
GA- (laughs) Yes, and it looks a lot easier than it is. People talk a lot about artistic collaboration, but it's not always approached from the same perspective of equality.
TS- How so?
GA- Say an idea that sparks my interest, either because someone has approached me with it or I've been inspired by their work; you walk into an initial exploratory meeting and it's clear one side has already made up their mind about what the collaboration is and how the other side fits into that vision. I think that happens a lot with artistic endeavors. For me, it's a little slower to develop; listen to an idea and seeing if it sparks something in me. Rarely do I come up with my part until I live with it, roll it around for a while. Creating the piece with Paper Bird, we had conversations to discover what we felt the piece could be and what emotions, sounds and images would capture what we found. It was a very fluid process, very natural.
TS- That shows in the performance.
GA- We're still working on it.
TS- Oh, I thought it was perfect, just perfect.
GA- But now it's better. We've made some changes, mostly because we all enjoy working on it and when that opportunity came around, it became much more interesting than rehearsing a remount.
TS- I didn't know Paper Bird before I saw the show the first time; I have to say, I fell in love. You are very well-suited artistically.
GA- We are. What I know about myself, what I really do -- I organize space. That's what I do in every part of my life, really. In Carry On the space is very western; flat and open, like the prairie.
TS- And timeless.
GA- It is, and seasonal.
I continue to expound on how this glorious dance performance seemed intricately woven into the strains of the brilliant Paper Bird, gushing with expletives and images as I relive the experience to the man who created this dance. He was kind, listening intently, nodding on occasion, and rather than affirm or rebut, he seemed to enjoy the variance of my impressions. I finally stopped; blushing and uncharacteristically quiet. "I love to hear what people get from my work." I should have ordered decaf.
Looking to describe the piece to you, I quote myself in this descriptive:
The multi-media dance piece lifts us, transporting the viewer completely, to another time. Set to original and complex music by the homespun Paper Bird, sound, music, design and projected image are woven together beautifully, reminding us that there was a moment when we were truly connected. It is a monochromatic, prairie fairy tale, a spare and soaring dream of love lost and found. The exquisite choreography plays with threads of longing and open spaces, loneliness and the sweet water of desire.
Friday night's performance of Carry On with Paper Bird at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House is presented by Arts & Venues Denver as part of the Western Arts Alliance Annual Conference Performance West series. If you haven't got your tickets, click here and get them now. You will thank me later.