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30 years of Aspen Dance Connection

Chung-Fu Chang, a guest artist with Aspen Dance Connection, performs recently. (Contributed photo)
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ASPEN ” Aspen Dance Connection, a Basalt-based nonprofit, celebrates 30 years in 2008, and organizers expect growth in the near future.

Fran Page, founding member and longtime executive director, takes a small salary (just $1,000 in 2006) for her efforts to raise funds, attract volunteers and put together an annual showcase.

But Page plans to pay herself more and bring on two paid staff members in coming years, as part of a larger effort to pump new energy into dance and community outreach on the Western Slope, she said.



“We started in 1978 with eight choreographers who wanted to present their own original work,” Page said. And since then, the nonprofit sponsors an annual winter showcase, summer festival performances and lecture demonstrations at area schools.

Aspen Dance Connection nearly tripled its budget in recent years to $27,000 in 2006, according to Internal Revenue Service documents, and more than $30,000 in 2007, according to Page.




But the executive director expects a budget of more than $50,000 in coming years, money she said will go to staff and to local choreographers.

“We’re planning on growing the organization,” Page said.

The bulk of Aspen Dance Connection funds come from grants, Page said, including annual pledges from the city of Aspen, the town of Snowmass Village, Basalt and, most recently, the town of Carbondale, as well as corporate underwriting for events. The Colorado Council on the Arts, Aspen Thrift Store and many other foundations also make regular donations to Aspen Dance Connection.

“We have really strong community support with the towns and the schools,” Page said.

Area schools make contributions for lecture demonstrations, and ticket sales and member contributions make up the rest.

“Last year, we did nine performances for 4,000 kids between Aspen and Parachute, and for another 1,000 people in the libraries,” Page said.

The Aspen Dance Connection also “connects” students with teachers and dancers with appropriate choreographers, Page said.

“We kind of guide people to the different studios.”

A review board chooses a theme and selects various local choreographers for the annual showcase each winter. (The show played this year on Feb. 1 and 2 at the Wheeler Opera House.) The nonprofit pays choreographers to be part of the annual showcase, and in return they recruit and pay their own dancers, Page said.

“We’re really supporting people that live in Colorado and who create here,” Page said.

The most recent show at the Wheeler integrated sculpture and film with dance in what Page called a “rich, creative atmosphere.”

The annual dance showcase tops out expenses ” some $13,000 in 2006 ” and other costs include performances in schools, master classes and use of office space.

“I just love dance,” said Page, a one-time professional dancer in New York. “Every human can express through their body. To me, it’s the basic thing. You don’t need anything but your body to express. It’s kind of spiritual.”

But dance sits somewhere at the “bottom of the food chain” artistically and for funding, and Aspen Dance Connection fills in that gap by supporting local choreographers and students of dance.

“It’s the only surviving group in Colorado that’s supporting independent choreographers,” Page said.

cagar@aspentimes.com


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