Colorado Ballet has been going through big changes. Principal dancer Maria Mosina retired, soloist Asuka Sasaki took her place, and Tracy Jones, Morgan Buchanan and Kevin Gaël Thomas all received long-overdue promotions from corps de ballet dancers to soloists. The latest change is that Sharon Wehner, who danced with the company for 22 years, is moving on after the 2017-2018 season, opening up another principal position. Westword caught up with Wehner to talk about her time at Colorado Ballet and her future.
Westword: Why did you decide to retire from Colorado Ballet this season?
Sharon Wehner: This is a delicate question. I am actually not retiring from dancing – just from Colorado Ballet. There are many elements that go into the running of any large arts organization, including a ballet company. Although Colorado Ballet has been my home and like a family to me for my entire adult life, the truth is that it is still a business, and I am still an employee of that business. There is a board of directors needing concrete plans for the future, the artistic and financial elements need to find common ground when planning programming, and there are younger dancers in the company needing opportunities to grow and be in the spotlight.
For me, it is actually a very good time to spread my wings, both as a dancer and as a human being. I know in my bones that there are many good years of dancing left in me. However, being a principal dancer in a classical ballet company demands a tremendous amount of physical and emotional rigor. It also requires the willingness to accept all the non-dancing elements that go into being a part of the organization. The pressure to meet certain expectations as a performer and as a member of a company are immense, and the care and management of the body becomes more and more sophisticated as you get older. My body and soul are still on board as a dancer, but it is a good time for me to begin a shift in the day-to-day routine of full-time classical dancing. In seven months, it will be a good time for me to explore my dance in new ways, with different people and with a different artistic emphasis.
For now, I am looking forward to enjoying this precious time with my ballet family — to pouring my heart into the work ahead of me this season. I have the opportunity to dance some of my favorite ballets and to explore some I have never danced. For example, Romeo and Juliet will be a combination of both, as I have danced the role many times, but never this particular version. The music and character will be like visiting an old friend, but wearing a slightly different outfit, having a new conversation. Right now, I feel very grateful to be able to have this final season, and plan to savor every moment.
What’s one element you will miss the most from your daily routine?
Of course, it’s hard to know what I will really miss until I am no longer in it, but I can guarantee that one thing I will greatly miss is working with my Colorado Ballet colleagues and staff. Because I plan to continue dancing, and taking classes and such, I can’t say that I will miss the routine of training and rehearsing. Because I have made valuable friendships that I know will continue beyond the work environment, I can’t say that I will miss my friends. But I will certainly miss the regular interactions in the studio with these people — exploring and expanding our craft together every day, in our leotards and tights.
What is on the horizon?
This is a question I don’t feel ready to answer fully yet. I have my certifications as a yoga instructor, GYROKINESIS(R) trainer and Dance for Parkinson’s Disease teacher. I have been teaching ballet longer than I have been a professional dancer. In addition, I plan to continue dancing as a freelance artist. All of these will play a role in the next chapter, although I have yet to see exactly how the puzzle pieces will fit together. In terms of my teaching skills, I am very interested in how dance and movement can serve as a healing modality. For example, my Parkinson’s students benefit immensely from their dance classes, both physically and emotionally. I recently did a training in trauma-informed yoga, which addresses how yoga, movement and somatic therapies help people heal from physical and emotional trauma.
Who are you most thankful for as you depart after 22 seasons? What people come to mind who have been a great influence?
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[Laughs] I feel like it would be impossible to include everyone I am thankful for without sounding like I am at some sort of Academy Awards show. To name one or two would be to omit so many people who have watched me grow over the 22 years I spent at Colorado Ballet.
Of course, I owe my career to my teachers and coaches, my ballet masters and mistresses and directors (both current and former), who invested their time, patience and wisdom into my development as an artist, as well as the work we created to be presented in front of audiences. My partners, past and present, who have supported me both physically and artistically, given their muscle and sweat selflessly so that I could look like I'm light and easy on stage, given their emotional commitment so that we could create and express an endless spectrum of relationships on the stage.
Perhaps less obvious are the healers who have seen me through myriad injuries throughout the past two decades. Doctors, physical therapists, massage therapists, Pilates therapists, Gyrotonic trainers, acupuncturists who picked me up through the tears and low points and assured me that I would get back to dancing with perseverance and patience. And then there are the orchestra and stage crew, many of whom have become dear friends, who literally are behind the scenes, making magic happen.
Colorado Ballet will wrap up its summer season with An Evening Under the Stars, on Saturday, August 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard. The regular season will start with Attitude on Santa Fe, featuring choreography by Colorado Ballet dancers, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 8, and Saturday, September 9, at the company's rehearsal space and black box theater at 1075 Santa Fe Drive. For more information, go to Colorado Ballet online.