For the final performance of Wonderbound’s 2013-2014 season, artistic director Garrett Ammon and Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop executive director Michael J. Henry collaborate for the third time to produce “Gone West”—a cross between Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and a KOA campground.
Sound like an unusual concept for a ballet? It sure is. But with these two creative talents at the helm, expect only the extraordinary.
“I went car camping with my family last summer, and you are in this almost pretend neighborhood for a while,” Henry says. “I was talking to Garrett about how interesting it would be to write about the mix of temporary characters who are forced to interact.”
Henry has written 11 new poems for “Gone West,” most of which function as a sort of dramatic monologue for each character in the ballet.
While poetry will certainly lend a fantastic new element, Denver musician Ian Cooke has collaborated with Ammon and Henry and will be playing live music during the performance, all of which he wrote. He will play piano, cello and sing while his band plays the guitar, bass and drums.
Private Freeman, a dancer who has been with Wonderbound for three years, says that, “I love live music because of the spontaneity of it. When you have all the other elements at the same level, live music heightens everything and helps it all come together.”
Ballet, poetry and live music seem like a natural fit, and yet they are rarely encompassed in the same performance.
Sarah Tallman, who has been with the company for 10 years and plays the narrative role of Ariel, the woodland nymph in this performance, says that, “I really thrive on these kinds of things because everything becomes very theatrical. It gives a lot of texture to each individual dancer so we learn a lot about who we are in addition to the steps we are given.”
Using things like a picnic table, rope, flashlights and green rugs, the props for this performance are inspired. And yet, beyond the fantasy created and the artistic collaboration, the ballet hints at a deeper message.
“Ultimately, this performance is about relationships,” Ammon says. “How do people with preconceived notions of those who live differently from them come to terms with the idea that we share a human element—that the things we value the most in the world are usually the same.”
Ammon’s choreography in “Gone West” is exemplary of all his work: He always goes beyond dance.
“I like to think of classical ballet as superhuman. You are watching bodies do these unreal feats of perfected beauty,” Ammon says. “When I look at the work that I do, I try to go the other way, toward the ultra-human. I try to accentuate the thing that are not perfect in us and explore the things that make us human.”
Inspired yet? Want to introduce yourself to whomever you’re sitting next to in the theatre? We do.
“We are on this imperfect journey of understanding ourselves and how we relate to other people. That’s not always pretty in the traditional sense of pretty, but I think it’s beautiful,” Ammon says.
But if raw emotion and humanity doesn’t do it for you, tweet at the characters in “Gone West” and see if they can change your mind.
@NatureNymph_GW - Ariel, played by Sarah Tallman
@TheCaretaker_GW – Avery, played by Damien Patterson
@TheBoy_GW - River, played by Colby Foss
@TheGirl_GW – Vanessa, played by Julie King
@ItalianMama_GW – Giada, played by Meredith Strathmeyer
@ItalianPapa_GW – Giovanni, played by Corbin Kalinowski
@InsideBoy_GW – Jacob, played by Brandon Freeman
@CamoDad_GW – Hank, played by Danny Ryan
@TheWife_GW – Rebekah, played by Marian Faustino
@FlyGal_GW - Jackie, played by Amanda Copple
@FlyLady_GW – Jessi, played by Candice Bergeron
@iancookemusic – Ian Cooke and his band