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Stepping into spotlight

The Glenwood Springs-based Danse Arts Theatre Center makes its Aspen debut, performing the original production "Alice in Our Wonderland" at the Wheeler Opera House. (Digital Dimensions)
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The spring offseason has always been the time for local performers and artists to step into the spotlight. This spring, they aren’t just getting on the stage; some of them are stepping up in their creative pursuits.Following are portraits of artists and arts groups who are moving into new territory.

After a career as a dancer – which included time in New York’s American Ballet Theatre, working under Balanchine and Baryshnikov, and appearing in the first performance of “Cats” – retirement didn’t suit DeAnna Anderson.”I gained 15 pounds and started watching ‘Murder She Wrote’ – and liking it,” said Anderson, who moved to Glenwood Springs five years ago. Realizing she would rather be at work in a dance studio than sitting on a couch wondering what crimes Jessica Fletcher would solve, Anderson founded the Glenwood Dance Academy, to teach young and not-so-young students, and the affiliated Danse Arts Theatre Center, to give her students – and professionals – an opportunity to perform. The Danse Arts Theatre Center makes its Aspen debut – and its first appearance outside of Glenwood Springs – this week, performing “Alice In Our Wonderland” at the Wheeler Opera House Friday and Saturday, May 18-19. (There is an additional children’s performance, featuring only the student dancers, May 19, at 2 p.m.)The production features seven professional dancers, and students from the Glenwood Dance Academy. Joining them onstage will be a ragtag collection – accountants, construction workers and plumbers – of performers, who have never appeared in a dance number before, in the role of “bad” pirates, and the Junior Wahinis, a Polynesian dance group from Boulder.The presence of Polynesians and pirates might make viewers as disoriented as Alice herself. But this original production, created by Anderson and several fellow choreographers, is true to neither Lewis Carroll’s story, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” nor the oft-performed classical ballet, “Alice in Wonderland.” Instead, it is a re-imagined version, designed to encompass Anderson’s affection for many forms of dance. “Alice In Our Wonderland” features modern and classical ballet, jazz, tap, ballroom – and Polynesian – styles.”There’s where you see the creative license come in,” said Anderson. “There were no Polynesian dancers in the original ‘Alice.’ But it works.”Anderson’s version plays not only with dance forms and characters (here there are fairies from the four seasons, and good and bad pirates), but also with Anderson’s own past. Danielle Yost will play a twisted take on the Cheshire Cat, one that also embodies Macavity, a character from “Cats.” Yost will dance a piece lifted from the off-Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical; Yost learned the part by watching tapes of Anderson perform the part several decades ago.

Katrina Klawiter took up piano in kindergarten, but abandoned the lessons while she was barely into her grade-school years. Klawiter – now 12 and still not especially fond of sitting still – found the piano stool far too confining. “If I could stand practicing piano pieces over and over again, I probably would have,” said the Aspen Middle School sixth-grader.Singing, on the other hand, was physically liberating. Katrina could sing in the car or while walking around or just moving generally. So she sang – in preschool productions, at church, at home. Two years ago, a year after the family moved from Southern California to the Starwood neighborhood, Katrina again took up music lessons – this time, vocal classes, with longtime local teacher Julie Paxton. This time, it stuck. Klawiter won Symphony in the Valley’s Young Artists Concerto Competition, and she will be the vocal soloist for the orchestra’s performance of Franck’s “Panis angelicus.”Symphony in the Valley performs its annual Mother’s Day Concerts Saturday, May 12, at Aspen’s Harris Hall, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, May 13, at 2:30 p.m., at Glenwood Springs High School. The concerts feature two additional winners of the Young Artists Competition: violist Stephanie Mientka, a high school senior from Grand Junction, performing a Karl Stamitz concerto, and pianist Marybeth Riskey, a high school senior from Eagle, featured in a Mendelssohn concerto. The concerts will be capped by Orff’s choral masterpiece, “Carmina Burana,” spotlighting three vocal soloists – soprano Heidi Paul of Glenwood Springs, tenor Paul Dankers and bass Scott MacCracken, both of Aspen – plus a full choir.In addition to her enthusiasm, Katrina brings a wide range of tastes to her singing. “I just like singing songs that strike me,” she said, adding that she has also performed in local theater productions of “Grease,” “Annie, Get Your Gun” and, last week, “Crazy For You.” “I like classical music, and I like singing songs by Janis Joplin. And I like Disney.” Her favorite material ranges from the soft-rock classic “American Pie,” to “Think of Me” from “Phantom of the Opera,” to “Reflection,” from the Disney film “Mulan.” Her 17-year-old sister Steffi (who stuck with piano lessons) has been turning her onto Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead, though their mother, Mary, says Katrina’s soprano is not well-suited to such material.Katrina’s tendencies lean more toward classical music. Though she has taken up violin – and piano again – she wants to be an opera singer. When she walked into a voice lesson some months ago, her ear was turned by the “Voice of an Angel” CD, the debut by then 13-year-old Welsh singer Charlotte Church. Katrina focused in on two sacred tunes, “Pie Jesu” and “Panis angelicus”; she has sung both pieces at the Snowmass Chapel.This week’s concerts mark the first time Katrina will perform with an orchestra, a prospect that has her far more excited than nervous. “I’ve been listening to the CD – and that’s only half the sound,” she said. “When I go rehearse with the orchestra, it’s amazing how pretty and loud it can be.””Panis angelicus” might be the perfect choice for the orchestral debut for the fidgety Katrina. In a press release from Symphony in the Valley, she said, “I think it is a very calming song.”



Four years ago, Lee Sullivan was among several voices in “Speak Truth to Power,” a staged reading about human rights. Sullivan also formatted the light show in that first go-round.Now Sullivan, who has appeared as an actor with Aspen Community Theatre, Theatre Aspen, Defiance Community Players and Aspen Stage, is taking the reins of the production. In his first role as director, Sullivan, a 45-year-old Old Snowmass resident who works as a ranch hand, will direct the multimedia show. The Hudson Reed Ensemble, in which Sullivan has been a regular actor, presents the event Sunday, May 13, at the Wheeler Opera House.The bulk of the production is playwright Ariel Dorfman’s “Voices From Beyond the Dark,” an adaptation of Kerry Kennedy’s “Speak Truth to Power.” That 2000 book collected the words and stories of human rights leaders, including Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, the Dalai Lama and less known activists such as Bobby Muller, co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus, whose concept of microcredit has provided business capital to the very poor. Sullivan has rounded up several other local voices to complement those speakers. Former Aspen Mayor Bill Stirling will give an introduction that puts the worldview of human rights in a local context. “Hopefully, it will show that human rights aren’t so far from home,” said Sullivan. Adding their voices is the duo of singer-songwriter Frank Martin and drummer Paul Valentine, who will perform a song of Martin’s, “Walk the Road,” written for the show. The song was inspired by a quote by Desmond Tutu about determination. The two will open with a take on “Land of the Free,” by singer-songwriter Cliff Eberhardt, and will also play another Martin tune, “Always, Always.”Sullivan believes that human rights is too often thought of as a special-occasion issue. “This stuff doesn’t often get told,” said Sullivan. “And it’s strange that it isn’t in the common language of the public. If people would view their human rights like they view a paycheck or their right to vote, maybe the continuing disregard of human rights would be annulled quicker. It’s easy to take them for granted.”A Tennessee native who has lived in the valley since 1989, Sullivan is taking his first opportunity as director just as seriously. “Voices Beyond the Dark” features 12 performers, plus a video component that will project images, made by the late Eddie Adams, of each activist whose words are being intoned. He is working with his cast to help them embody the speeches.”I’m asking the actors to know what they’re reading, so instead of discovering anything, they’re capturing the public’s attention,” he said.

In her new role as the Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s children’s program coordinator, Sarabeth Berk sees her primary task as instituting an outreach program that will connect Anderson Ranch with the Roaring Fork Valley community. Interestingly, she is at least as familiar with the community as she is with the Arts Center.A native of Pennsylvania, Berk moved to Basalt at the age of 7 and graduated from Aspen High School in 2000. The visual arts were a big part of her childhood, but Anderson Ranch was not. Only when she was accepted to the Art Institute of Chicago – a direction-altering experience that followed two years as a liberal arts student at Colorado State University – did her interest in Anderson Ranch get stoked.”I got curious, really curious, seeing what they had up there,” said Berk, who attended slide lectures at the Ranch during her summer breaks from art school.Berk, 25, dabbled in art while at CSU. Curious to know how her work would be viewed at a higher level, she applied to the Art Institute of Chicago. The acceptance was a necessary confidence booster. She then went to the Rhode Island School of Design, where she earned her master’s in arts education. She spent the last year as head of the land and environmental art department at The Island School, a boarding school in the Bahamas.At Anderson Ranch, where she started a month ago, Berk oversees the children’s summer workshops. But what has her most enthused about the job is the expansion of the Ranch’s outreach effort, particularly the opportunity to introduce the arts into other areas of the curriculum in local schools.”They’ve always done outreach, but they’re extending that, building that relationship,” said Berk, who also teaches fabric screen printing for Colorado Mountain College and continues making her own art. (She is currently in a mixed-media phase, using found objects as visual diaries.) “My responsibility is to find ways to connect with the youth and the community. I kind of see myself as the arts advocate for the area, in a way.”Berk is pleased to be back in the valley and doubly satisfied that her job utilizes her abilities so well. One aspect of those abilities is her knowledge of the community she is serving.”It’s funny that I call up schools, and teachers remember my name, and now they’re principals,” she said. “I’m a product of this valley, and it shows how people can grow up here, be successful, then bring something of value back here.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com/i>


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