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By Erica Prather

Do you ever find yourself, mid-conversation, escaping in your mind to a far away place? Call it daydreaming, call it gapping out, or maybe…just maybe…you’re with the fairies.

Dancer/choreographer Sarah Tallman’s “I Didn’t Hear You, I Was Away With The Fairies,” one of the two works presented in Wonderbound’s Madness, Rack, and Honey (opening April 27), was inspired by a line in a novel she had read.

“For me, naming the ballet comes first. Being ‘away with the fairies’ happens in my own life as well, it’s a joke between my husband and I,” laughs Tallman.

“Just the act of sometimes catching yourself in another place or space than the one you’re currently in. I view the dancers as the fairies, the fairies themselves being poets.”

Sarah Tallman, Evan Flood, Conner Horak, and Ben Youngstone in rehearsal for Sarah Tallman’s “I Didn’t Hear You, I Was Away With The Fairies.” Photo by Amanda Tipton.

The role of the poets and the interaction they have with one another are inspired by the selections Tallman was reading while creating her work – Four Quartets, by T.S. Eliot, I Carry Your Heart by E.E. Cummings, Dreams, by Langston Hughes, and Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver, among others.

Evan Flood, Conner Horak, and Ben Youngstone in rehearsal for Sarah Tallman’s, “I Didn’t Hear You, I Was Away With The Fairies,” Photo by Amanda Tipton.

“The dancers are not just humans in the ballet, they are conversations, they represent different feelings that come forward in the piece. The thing that all the poems held was an idea of nature, they speak to the collective consciousness, which was the perfect to weight this music that could potentially could be really cartoony.”

And the music? Like Artistic Director Garrett Ammon, whose ballet occurs in the first half of the program, Tallman chose Mozart, working with his “Divertimento No. 11 in D Major.”

As with all Wonderbound performances, live music plays a large role in this production, featuring over 20 musicians from the Colorado Symphony, the largest ensemble Wonderbound has ever accommodated on stage with the dancers. They will be “on a six foot high platform that spans the width of the stage – floating in black,” says Ammon.

Concertmaster Claude Sim and musicians from the Colorado Symphony perform in Garrett Ammon’s Seven Deadly Sins in 2016. Photo by Amanda Tipton.

Ammon’s piece, “Madness, Rack, and Honey,” is set to “Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra.”

“It was one of the first times a composer really gave the viola a prominent role,” says Ammon. “The lead violin and lead viola have a call and response relationship throughout the work, which is a lot of fun. The entire makeup of the orchestra was very innovative for the time Mozart created it, it has a mixture of horns and strings and oboe.”

Garrett Ammon and Smuin’s Erica Felsch in rehearsal for Ammon’s Madness, Rack, and Honey in 2016. Photo by Chris Hardy, courtesy of Smuin Contemporary American Ballet.

“Madness, Rack, and Honey” was originally commissioned by Smuin Ballet of San Francisco in 2016, when Ammon was invited to create a work as a guest choreographer. Even while creating the ballet for Smuin, Ammon kept in mind the ability to translate the work onto Wonderbound dancers.

“I choreographed the work on 10 dancers for Smuin, so I could bring it back to Wonderbound. I also consulted with the Colorado Symphony during the process, to make sure we could work with them when we staged it in Denver.”

Like Tallman, Ammon was motivated by poetry in the creation of his work, that of Mary Reufle. While the title was certainly inspired by Reufle’s series of poetic lectures, Ammon’s work breaks away at that point into unique territory. He spent time listening to Mozart’s Sinfonia and ended up compiling a poem set to the cadence of the music and using a random word generator. He then created choreography based on that work.

Both acts are light-hearted and quirky, but the area they perhaps divulge in the most obviously is the costuming. Tallman’s piece is “a color palette that is just like me,” she says, “avocado green and salmon pink, citrus orange, and yellow. Bright but on the earthier side.”

While Ammon’s work features the dancers in couture inspired shades of grey. “I was inspired by newspaper print,” says Ammon. “The costumes are wild – fantastic textures. The women are in bustles, and the men wear high waisted plaid pants as well as hats. Because of this, there is a lot of hat work that happens between dancers.”

Smuin’s Erica Felch and Ben Wamer in Garrett Ammon’s Madness, Rack, and Honey. Photo by Chris Hardy, courtesy of Smuin Contemporary American Ballet.

Amy Giammarusco and Keston Meyer in rehearsal for Sarah Tallman’s “I Didn’t Hear You, I Was Away With The Fairies.” Photo by Amanda Tipton.

Dancers move with hats in Ammon’s piece, and in Tallman’s they interact with chairs as colorful as they are.

“The chairs are not just chairs – they create a landscape, and they were their own source of inspiration in creating the piece” says Tallman.

The evening could very well be named Poetry, Mozart, and Quirk – both pieces touching on these shared themes, but expressing them in variations unique to Tallman and Ammon. Audiences will no doubt feel the thrill of spring April 27-May 6 with the lighthearted nature both pieces conjure in Madness, Rack, and Honey.

Madness, Rack, and Honey runs April 27 – May 6 at two Denver area venues.

Friday, April 27; 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 28; 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 29; 2:00 p.m.

Performing Arts Complex
at Pinnacle Charter School
1001 W. 84th Avenue
Denver, CO 80260

Saturday, May 5; 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 6; 2:00 p.m.

PACE Center
Parker Arts, Culture & Events
20000 Pikes Peak Avenue
Parker, CO 80138

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