In step: Spectrum brings big city dance to C’dale |

In step: Spectrum brings big city dance to C’dale

Jessica Cabe
Special to the Aspen Times
Jennifer Kuhn, director and choreographer of Sirens Dance, will be premiering new work at the third annual Spectrum Dance Festival at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. today.
Courtesy of Peter Gilbert |

In 2012, residents of the valley were presented with an opportunity more akin to big cities when Carbondale’s Dance Initiative introduced the inaugural Spectrum Dance Festival. The annual event offers the chance to watch performances from professional dancers and enroll in workshops taught by some of those same professionals, as well as local and regional dancers and choreographers.

The third annual Spectrum Dance Festival takes place today through Sunday at various times at the Thunder River Theatre and The Launchpad. Ticket options and more information can be found at

Dance Initiative founder Peter Gilbert said the festival was introduced as a way to better serve the community.

“We started the Spectrum Dance Festival in 2012, recognizing that more professional dance would be a good thing to introduce to the community, in part to allow the dancers and choreographers to see professional work,” Gilbert said.

“Not everybody can fly to a class. They have family and jobs and commitments, so they can’t take a week off to travel to New York or California or wherever. So we started bringing teachers in and conducted workshops at the festival.”
Peter Gilbert,
Carbondale Dance Initative founder

This year, the festival kicks off at 5:30 p.m. today with performances from Wildheart and Sirens Dance, two of the Front Range’s emerging contemporary dance companies. The performance repeats at 8 p.m.

Saturday boasts both workshops and a break dance competition. The battle, which starts at 5:30 p.m., shows Colorado crews competing in front of judges Asia One, The Diss and Bboy Text, with music from DJ Ya Chi, MC Focus and Carbondale’s African Drums. The event will also be highlighted by a performance from King Charles, who is internationally known for his mastery of Chicago Footwork. King Charles will also host a workshop from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

“Primarily that’s the most important part of the weekend is he’s going to share his style, his Chicago Footwork style, with our community,” Gilbert said. “He was just in Japan teaching and showcasing his style. He’s off to Europe I think shortly after the end of this year. He is well-known. He was written up a couple of times in the New York Times. Their critic, Alastair Macaulay, called him ‘brilliant.’ So people who are movers, whether you’re young or not so young, should take his workshop on Saturday afternoon at the Launchpad in Carbondale. I think the people who take the workshop will really enjoy watching him move and trying to adopt the style that involves some dance steps. To see it is quite extraordinary.”

Other workshops in contemporary jazz, choreography, modern technique, hip-hop and contact improvisation will also be taught throughout the weekend by Front Range teachers Kat Gurley, Patrick Mueller and Kristine Whittle, as well as teachers from the valley.

Gilbert founded Dance Initiative five years ago as a way to grow the dance scene in the valley. Gilbert said despite Carbondale being a rich location for the visual arts, dance had been lacking.

“Dance Initiative was founded in 2009 in recognition that dance was kind of underserved in the community, and especially dancers and aspiring choreographers who wanted to continue to demonstrate their abilities and art,” Gilbert said. “So we provided, initially, a venue for dancers and choreographers to create works of their own. It was successful, and we went from there.”

In 2010, Dance Initiative began offering $1,000 grants for involved dancers who wanted to attend a specific program or workshop to continue their dance education. In 2012, the Spectrum Dance Festival debuted. And just last week, Dance Initiative’s new home, the Launchpad, opened. Its spring-loaded floors will take performances and workshops at this year’s festival to the next level.

“This year, we get a space that is set up for dance,” Gilbert said. “We didn’t have that before. Most of our spaces were in the Third Street Center. The floors were not proper for all types of dance; they were hard wood on top of concrete. The floors in the Launchpad are sprung floors, and that provides cushion for all forms of dance. We’re very happy.”

Gilbert said his goal for the Spectrum Dance Festival is to offer an entertaining and educational weekend for locals who otherwise may not be exposed to dance. He also wants to grow Carbondale’s reputation as a town that fosters a healthy dance scene.

“Not everybody can fly to a class,” Gilbert said. “They have family and jobs and commitments, so they can’t take a week off to travel to New York or California or wherever. So we started bringing teachers in and conducted workshops at the festival.”

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