A Maltese, Poodle and Chihuahua are running around the hallway outside the dance studio of the Colorado Ballet. The black Marley floors are sprinkled with sports bags and discarded clothing. The 14 dancers, in various compositions of sweats, leotards, flowing skirts, headbands and buns, are chatting in huddled clusters and stretching. Always stretching.
There, on the sidelines, is Sandra Brown—mother hen to this flock of lean muscle and supreme talent. She kicks her legs, twirls with outstretched arms and then directs a concentrated stare at the television screen, which is playing a taped rehearsal of her choreography for this year’s Director’s Choice performance called “The Last Beat.”
“The biggest challenge is to put something on that will inspire the dancers and the audience. ‘Director’s Choice’ is so important because it feeds them; It feeds their souls,” Brown says.
“The Last Beat” will use all Colorado talent for the music, lighting, costumes and of course, choreography.
“I was listening to the band Devotchka, which means ‘girl’ in Russian, playing live on Valentine’s Day last year, and I said, ‘This is it.’ I try to emulate a full, cohesive circle of music and dance,” she says. “I take the music home, and I plot out time slots: These 30 seconds sound like a solo, or these 30 seconds sound like a lift. I work out what I hear in the music and what I want to portray. Then I bring my notes down into the studio and work it out with the dancers’ bodies.”
Brown (who trained at the American School of Ballet, danced for the American Ballet Theatre, was on Broadway, in the film “Center Stage,” and performed in and choreographed numerous performances) certainly knows what she’s doing. And if great choreography starts in the scribbled notes of a purple, Five Star spiral notebook, then so be it.
Brown says that this ballet is a tribute to the men and women who serve our country and to those who wait at home.
“We have several wars going on, and there is a big disconnect in our society,” she says. “So if the audience takes away a bit of awareness then I will have done my job.”
To an uneducated outsider, this rehearsal seems a bit unusual. It seems too relaxed, too full of small dogs and loungewear to be anything too serious, right? Wrong. It turns out that this calm is a convincing veil beneath which hide people who are true experts at what they do. With the first hint of a melody, there is an explosion of muscle, movement, and, well, dance. What springs to life is pure and chilling: It’s grace personified; It’s dance at its most beautiful.
“There is not a day that goes by where I don’t get inspired,” Brown says. “I get to look at live, moving art with incredible artistry and incredible music. It’s a life experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I don’t need anything more.”