In a building that was the home of Weisco Motorcars, Wonderbound
Artistic Director Garrett Ammon has a vision. On those bright, sunny days that Denver experiences more often than not, he foresees opening the garage doors at Park Avenue West so the public can take a moment to stop and watch the dancers perform.
"We're still building out what our new reality looks like, but the goal is to make this space available to the community as much as possible," Ammon says. "We want to have people see the process of creation and we're passionate about sharing all aspects of that."
Ammon's dance company has embarked on a fundamental change in how they do all their programming. After 20 years, Ballet Nouveau Colorado
has spilt into two: The school was renamed the Colorado Conservatory of Dance and will remain in Broomfield, while the dance company is now known as Wonderbound.
During the past five years, Ammon and Associate Artistic Director Dawn Fay worked to make Ballet Nouveau bigger than your typical ballet company. The organization broadened its efforts to include contemporary dance artists and initiated collaborations with creative players of all kinds, from Denver alternative folk band Paper Bird
to the Lighthouse Writers Workshop
, a creative writing center.
Artistic Director Garrett Ammon watches dancers practice.
Ballet Nouveau's creative and collaborative shows performed well in the city, but Ammon said they would disappear from the public view for a month or two in between productions.
"For a contemporary dance company that is really engaged in those conversations about sharing creative ideas and engaging a new audience, we realize that we needed to be present in the community on an ongoing basis," Ammon says.
This notion eventually inspired Ammon to ask, "What if we did it a different way?"
"One of the most important things to me is making a real impact on people's lives and really inspiring them and lifting them up and giving them light and so forth," Ammon says. " We realized we could do so much more than what we were doing."
What's in a name? Well, everything
When Ammon evaluated all the potential new names for the dance company, he didn't turn to the obvious suspects such as ballet or dance because he felt that those words could potentially limit their audience.
Ammon decided that ‘wonder' captured in a lot of respects what they are trying to present, which is a sense of awe to the world around us, whereas ‘bound' has several different definitions including a leaping movement upward.
"It seemed really appropriate as we are on a journey of discovery, a journey of exploration, and we feel bound to our community to the people we work with," he says.
A natural synergy with RiNo
While Ammon knew that the dance company would benefit from moving into Denver city limits, he didn't have an exact location in mind.
He eventually was connected with Amy Harmon, the developer behind Community Coordinating District No. 1
, an initiative she created with Councilwoman Judy Montero, the Ballpark Neighborhood Association and Urban Market Partners to help with development of the northeast downtown neighborhoods.
"What a natural synergy to have these two organizations that, on the initial glance have nothing to do with each other to realize that they can serve a similar purpose in the community," he says.
While RiNo, is well known for its art scene and a collection of creative businesses, there's still a perception among some that it's not a safe area. Viewing the dancers through a garage window from outside.
Ammon says while some have raised eyebrows about their location, he that Wonderbound's new space will not only expose more people to the dance company, but also encourage people to explore the rest of the neighborhood, which includes art galleries, studio spaces and cafes.
"It's really again goes back to the idea of creating a space for people and engaging not only in a conversation but really in the creation of something new together," he says. "I hope to look out a couple years from now at a place we couldn't even have imagined right now."
Photos by Kara Pearson Gwinn.