Wonderbound Goes Into the Woods

Strathmeyer rehearsing Winter. Amanda Tipton, Courtesy Wonderbound.

For many ballet companies, December means Nutcracker time. But this Dec. 10-18, the Denver-based troupe Wonderbound presents the world premiere of Garrett Ammon's Winter, a multi-sensory ballet bringing audiences the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the season. For Pointe's bi-weekly newsletter, we spoke with company member Meredith Strathmeyer, who plays the magpie in this immersive ballet.


How would you compare this experience to a standard ballet?

It's our first time doing something with all five senses. It won't only be movement and live music, but the audience is going to be helped along the way. There will be little boxes of curated foods on our patrons' seats. And there will be winter scents from a Denver parfumist in the air and some truly melt-your-mind graphics that will be projected on all the surrounding walls in the theater.


Is there a narrative thread to Winter?

From what we know so far, in the beginning there's a main couple and they're heading home after a holiday cocktail party when the magpie steals away the beautiful young woman. The man wakes up to find her gone and goes on a search to find her. Along the way he is drawn into the forest and encounters all these woodland creatures.


How would you describe the movement?

My character is the magpie, a great big bird. Like a lot of ballet dancers, I saw Swan Lake at a young age, so I've always had this desire to be a beautiful bird onstage. But the challenging thing with Garrett's choreography is that he wants the exquisite and ethereal along with the awkward. I'm having to move from a statuesque-like woman-bird into a hopping magpie--bow-legged and bent with cupped feet.


What else is challenging about the piece?

I'm manipulating a 10-foot wingspan. It's like the biggest cape you've ever seen, with slightly flexible molding in the wings. And then we're doing partnering work so that's been a challenge, as well—not to poke anybody's eyes out—but to still really own the length in that wingspan.

News
Ballet West in rehearsal for Le Chant du Rossignol. Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West.

Ballet West opens its season October 25–November 2 with a triptych of works from George Balanchine's early choreographic career with Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Highlighting the program is Balanchine's 1925 The Song of the Nightingale (Le Chant du Rossignol), never before seen in the U.S. This ballet is not only the first piece that a then-21-year-old Balanchine made for the Ballets Russes; it also marks his first collaboration with Igor Stravinsky, and features costumes by Henri Matisse. To bring it to Salt Lake City, Ballet West is working closely with Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer, who reconstructed the work for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in 1999.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Stella Abrera in Le Corsaire. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.

American Ballet Theatre announced today that, after 24 years, beloved principal dancer Stella Abrera will retire from the stage this coming summer. Her farewell performance will be June 13, 2020, at the Metropolitan Opera House, dancing the title role in Giselle.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

Keep reading... Show less