Tonight I was fortunate to get a sneak peek at Boulder Ballet’s brand-new Black Voices of Dance, a stirring program that brings original works by internationally renowned choreographers Amy Hall Garner, Sidra Bell, and Gregory Dawson to Colorado audiences this winter. Shows run February 24-27, 2022, with the exciting opportunity to participate in a 30-minute talk-back with the artists after each performance. Though this run will be hosted by Boulder’s Dairy Arts Center, there will also be one performance at the Lakewood Cultural Center on March 5, 2022.
In an ambitious pivot, Amy Hall Garner’s galvanizing Come to Light was created entirely virtually. The challenge of working in an extremely physical, necessarily interactive medium while being physically separated makes the power and effectiveness of this piece all the more impressive. Come to Light addresses the relevance of movement to human experience, and reminds us that bodies hold emotions and events. The dancers display exceptional precision in transitions, as well as laser attention to even the smallest movements.
Obliterating complacency, Sidra Bell’s Developing Tongue creates and employs multiple layers of communication. Between choreographer and dancers, among the dancers themselves, and in the space between performance and interpretation, moods and meaning build upon each other in a complex and delicate structure. There is a strong sense of self-reflection, with the self as a multi-faceted entity.
Parts I-III of Developing Tongue are titled slip in like a serpent, relentless, and pulled between two ends. I am thinking of ouroboros, represented by a snake with its tail in its mouth. This can be understood as symbolizing the unity of spiritual and material, and/or the endless return that is eternity. As the dancers echo and fulfill each other’s striving forms, I consider how yearning and completion are able to coexist.
Cutting through extraneous trappings while fully embracing technical excellence, …getting to something real, by Gregory Dawson, invites the viewer to confront internal and external truths while engaging in nearly ecstatic celebration of movement. The dancers are inspiring, pushing past already extreme athletic limits to physically explore emotional– and systemic– depths.
While I might be especially struck by the work of particular dancers, I will not mention names here, but leave you to your own impressions. I will say that there was something within Dawson’s piece that made me forget everything else for a few precious moments.
This company is a strong one; the speed of much of the choreography ramps up the level of difficulty for the dancers, who are completely up to the task. At times, the intensity of action brings us to a point of transcendence, where the body and mind working at their utmost start to suggest something beyond either.
This is the first time these three master dance artists have been featured together in Boulder, CO. Stand up and take notice! Boulder Ballet plans to retain these choreographers’ works in their repertoire, as it continues to define itself as a company. In addition to “shining a light on the disparity that remains in representation of all historically excluded communities,” Artistic Director Lance Hardin points out that the company’s decision to highlight Black artists benefits “a community that is hungry for diverse dance performances.” As a longtime reviewer of Front Range arts, I look forward to seeing Boulder Ballet continue to prioritize diversity and inclusivity in their programming.
Jane E. Werle
Writer & Editorial Board
At three months of age Jane E. Werle, unable to protest, was removed from Loveland, Colorado by her well-meaning parents. In 2004 she was able to rectify this error when she relocated from Massachusetts to Boulder for graduate school. One M.F.A. and a husband later, Jane works to further the arts in the Front Range as a writer (reviewer, interviewer, curator) and enthusiast (no-shame, first-on-the-floor amateur– despite some training– dancer). Jane is also a longtime nanny and a visual artist, taking one of these very seriously and the other as a growth experience. Every child she’s cared for has experienced some form of the SDP: Spontaneous Dance Party.