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The Wonderbound dance company joined forces with Denver hip-hop band The Flobots for the “Divisions” show at the PACE Center on April 22. The performance emphasized hope for the future and social unity through choreography and lyrics.
PHOTO BY AMANDA TIPTON, WW

Every aspect of “Divisions” is a beautiful juxtaposition.

Playing on current social and political tensions without exploiting or appropriating them, the musical dance performance harnesses live hip-hop music and modern ballet to convey a message at once urgently meaningful and timelessly poetic.

Divided evenly into two acts, the bold yet classic choreography of the Wonderbound troupe combines with the driving music of Denver hip-hop stalwarts The Flobots to create a performance that is chaotic and frenetic one moment, harmonious and cathartic the next.

Days before the company’s April 22 PACE Center performance, Wonderbound Artistic Director Garrett Ammon said the show’s name and missive reflect the struggles between groups of people, the conflict within individuals’ public and private selves, and an overarching desire to find unity in a time of separation.

“One possibility we discussed was to name it `Unite,’ but we went the opposite direction to be more provocative,” Ammon said. “There’s a general consensus, regardless of someone’s social or political views, that things are in a very difficult place right now, but we can feel this desire to move forward and keep pushing through.”

Led by dual emcees Johnny 5 and Brer Rabbit, who either bobbed and weaved through the Wonderbound troupe or became ensnared outright in the routines, The Flobots fueled the choreography and steered the audience through the show’s journey with tight, groovy rhythms, interwoven strings and the grounding harmonies of the Spirit of Grace chorus.

Like an indoor fireworks display, the audience, the troupe’s 10 dancers swirling throughout the space as 11 musicians filled the atmosphere with terse beats and flowing harmonies from a riser on stage right.

Just as the combination of striking choreography and explosive music drove the performance, the storyline harnessed the drama of forcing disparate themes together.

Love and death, anger and forgiveness, powerlessness and hope were clearly and emotionally conveyed by the dancers’ serpentine limbs, perfectly-executed steps and unmistakable facial expressions. Act II’s “Glass Gun,” highlighting the talents of lead dancers Amy Fogarty and Damien Patterson, was especially moving.

The finale offers no clear resolution to mending the rifts between classes, groups or family members, but Ammon said the point of the show isn’t to offer easy answers. It’s to get people talking.

“There’s no statement of `we solved the problem,” Ammon said, but “it can inspire us to say `we can keep going, we can keep pushing forward to make the world better by listening to each other and sharing ourselves with each other.’”

If the standing ovation, which continued to roar beyond the curtain’s closing, was any indication, the conversations have begun.

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