Wilderness Workshop offers a different way to connect with nature in Carbondale | AspenTimes.com

Wilderness Workshop offers a different way to connect with nature in Carbondale

Geneviève Joëlle Villamizar
Special to The Aspen Times

Alya Howe's passion shines in her communication. Her growls, moans and sighs are the intersect of bedroom and barroom as she lays it all out. Her eyes invite. Her body, arms, head move with the power of her ideas and intentions.

That will show up in "Nature in Translation," an outdoor dance performance traversing ancient, arid juniper-pinyon-sage forest. Choreographed into the land, the performance and live music move through and around the artwork of Charmaine Locke and James Surls. The event, commissioned by Wilderness Workshop, will take place on Locke and Surls' Missouri Heights property.

"I have been talking to James and Charmaine for over a decade about doing a piece up there," Howe said. "Their space is phenomenal, inspiring. I adore both of their works for different reasons, but they both speak to nature; consistent observation of nature; the archetypes that hold our environment, archetypes that speak to creation. For me, in dance, I like to align to the archetypes of what's important in life."

Wilderness Workshop has partnered with Howe on past events, including a poetry slam and a storytelling event. That's allowed the organization to see firsthand how these aims connect with its core mission.

"Since we partnered on the other creative events, WW has seen the power creative mediums such as spoken word, stories and fine art have in communicating the deep experience one can have with the wilderness," said development director and Artist in Wilderness Program Director Rebecca Mirsky.

Howe's desire to connect nature with art grew out of a life transition.

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"Back in the late '80s, I think I was having a performing-dancer career crisis. I was in airports, new theaters, new cities. I grew up as a kid running in the wild in England, in Hartfordshire, which was expansive farm and forestland," Howe said. She and her three siblings were pushed out the door until dinner time.

She missed that. Travel for teaching and choreographing left her without community. But when she encountered the work of naturalist and tracker Tom Brown, Howe rediscovered that connection to the Earth. The young dancer soon found herself taking Brown's course in the States.

"The thing that touched me most was Tom Brown's sweat lodge. I really heard the Earth. Heal me. Relate to me. Connect to me," she said. She eventually became caretaker to his land. She witnessed the illegal clear cutting of 200-year-old cedar swamp. The remaining trees, she felt, were screaming to her. From there, she choreographed her first environmental piece, "Trees."

This Wilderness Workshop event is another way to express her connection to the land.

"I so appreciate Wilderness Workshop. They are actionable in what they do, with Thompson Divide, how they keep us in the loop about things," Howe said. "They are constantly growing their outreach into the community, taking them into wilderness, arts in wilderness."

The performance will take the audience on a journey throughout the property. As the audience walks a stone path, the sun will begin her dance beyond the western horizon. Nature and her wonders will be the set: the play of light across the mountains, sage and forest, the weaving of instruments and night sounds.

Wilderness Workshop seeks to protect the area's natural resources through research, education and legal advocacy. That goes beyond obvious activities.

"It is also our responsibility to hold space for our community to engage with the wilderness in many ways for all," she said. "Not everyone connects with nature through a backpack or backcountry skiing or a mountain bike, which is why it is essential we create events and opportunities that celebrate the creative form to express and inspire this connection, as well."

If you go

Nature in Translation

Friday, 6:30-8 p.m. Alya Howe combines dance with a soundscape by Mateo Sandate, David Starbear Avalos and David Alderdice. The performance will incorporate art by James Surls and Charmaine Locke, whose property will host the event. Wear comfortable shoes, as some walking is involved in the interactive performance. Wilderness Workshop commissioned the event, and a reception will be held beforehand for its Maroon Bells Circle. That high-level supporter network accounts for more than 65 percent of the organization’s funding and has access to a number of intimate events throughout the year.

4381 County Road 103, Carbondale | $15 | wildernessworkshop.org/dance

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