DanceAspen’s Winter Program continues to innovate with program at The Wheeler |

DanceAspen’s Winter Program continues to innovate with program at The Wheeler

DanceAspen artists rehearse for the Winter Program at The Wheeler.
DanceAspen/Courtesy photo

DanceAspen’s much-anticipated winter program has finally arrived.  

Premiering Friday and Saturday at The Wheeler Opera House, its program will include the debut of contemporary dance performances by three notable choreographers: Penny Saunders, Yin Yue, and Sebastian Kloborg.  

Additionally, audiences will experience new pieces by in-house choreographers and DanceAspen dancers Matthew Gilmore and Blake Krapels, as well as the premiere of the artistic dance film “Paradise Paradox,” directed and choreographed by local DanceAspen member Madeline Scott.

“What makes DanceAspen different than other dance companies is that we don’t have direct specific artistic director leading us every day,” said Scott. “It is self-run, and it is up to the integrity of the artist to maintain their technique and the details of the choreography throughout the season. I think that fosters a lot of heart and passion from the dancers to be able to have their voices heard.”

Blake Krapels and Madeleine Scott rehearse for the Winter Program.
DanceAspen/Courtesy photo

DanceAspen was established in 2021 when the pandemic upended the lives of local dancers who were performing with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. They found themselves jobless but didn’t want to abandon the lives they had built in the Roaring Fork Valley — thus DanceAspen was born.

Former Aspen Santa Fe Ballet dancer and now-DanceAspen Executive Director Laurel Winton set out to build a company that was creatively inclusive, putting the power back in the hands of the dancers themselves, including giving them the opportunity to choreograph their own works alongside outside choreographers, which is almost unheard of in the dance world.

“That’s another aspect of working in dance Aspen that is very different from other larger companies around the world,” said Scott. “We’ve had pieces that have been choreographed by our own dancers, and that is very rare. Just having these opportunities gives us a very strong sense of friendship and family, and we connect on a very deep level. We don’t take it for granted. It’s an inspiring place to work.”

Anthony Tiedeman and Kaya Wolsey with choreographer Penny Saunders.
DanceAspen/Courtesy photo

Scott is no stranger to being part of a small, tight-knit community. Originally from rural Beresford, South Dakota, she wanted to dance, but her technique was so bad her mom took her to a ballet class at the closest professional dance studio she could find in Sioux Falls, she remembered.

She recalled feeling out of her element and so lost on that first day but knew it was her calling, nonetheless.

“They were speaking in French,” she said. “They asked me to hold on to a ballet bar. I was so freaked out. But the challenge itself of being out of my home was just thrilling to me. And so I came back the next week and the next week after that. And, you know, I walked out of that first class and I said, ‘Mom, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.'”

That journey brought her to the Roaring Fork Valley as a guest artist with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in 2015, where she spent several seasons until the pandemic changed her circumstances.

She said she fell in love with this valley within her second season here and cultivated a close group of friends who “felt like family” to her, so the timing was right to move here full time when DanceAspen began.

While dance will always be her first love, Scott is also dabbling in filmmaking — a skill that will be on display in this weekend’s performances in the form of an artistic dance film shot at the Hotel Jerome’s Bad Harriet speakeasy, “Paradise,” which she choreographed and directed.

A shot from Madeline Scott’s dance film “Paradise,” captured by Carl Zurthurst with dancer Matthew Gilmore.
Courtesy DanceAspen

The film is inspired by the concept known as the Paradise Paradox, which she described as the complicated relationship between the wavering status of mental health and the revered lifestyle in the mountains.

“I’ve been working with filming and producing screen dances or dance films for the past nine years,” she said. “What I find very intriguing about dance on film versus stage is that you can tell a story from very different perspectives. On stage, the audience are seated there stationary and see one perspective only; but with the camera, you can get so much more motion and a lot of detail. Just the flip of a hand on camera can tell so many different stories from that close of a perspective, so I’ve always really loved it. And I’m very grateful for the opportunity to create in this way.”

If you go…

What: DanceAspen Winter ProgramrnWhere: The Wheeler Opera House, AspenrnWhen: Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.rnMore info and tickets:

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