Contempoary-dance company Wonderbound is used to performing at intimate venues, often with a smaller band like activist hip-hop act the Flobots. This Friday, May 12, the troupe is sizing up in both sound and movement with its newest production, Mayhem.
Mayhem will be performed at Boettcher Concert Hall in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, and will be accompanied by the Colorado Symphony. The performance will showcase a smorgasbord of Wonderbound artistic director Garrett Ammon's works: excerpts from Snow with Jesse Manley and his band, Gone West with the Ian Cooke Band, and Boomtown with Chimney Choir. These are all pieces the company has presented before, this time radically reworked to scale.
"We've had the pleasure of working with all of these musicians as individual groups over the years," says Ammon. "This is a cohort of some of our favorite collaborators inspired by the Turnover the Keys program that Ian Cooke Band was part of. With all the bands we've worked with, we've talked about, 'Wouldn't it be amazing if this section had full string orchestration?' That's always a fantasy that comes into our thinking, especially when beautiful melodies come forward and you naturally start to imagine it in that way."
The musicians working on Mayhem have had the opportunity to revisit their songs, breathing the power of the Colorado Symphony into their work.
"When we play a show, we think, 'What is it going to sound like? Who will be there? What is the aesthetic of the performance?'" says Kevin Larkin of Chimney Choir. "To imagine the night in that space, you change things – add or take away. Being in a band with sixty people is a lot different than being in a band with five people. Modifying our arrangements to incorporate ourselves in Boettcher allows us to think in a different capacity. What sound will carry?"
Over several weeks, Larkin and bandmates Kris Drickey and David Rynhart of Chimney Choir consulted with Tom Hagerman of DeVotchKa, who has a long history of playing with the orchestra, to understand how the scoring would work. The musicians found these meetings with Hagerman to be constructive.
"For us, a lot of the wonderful part of this experience has been in scoring our own music, which means learning this whole language of transmitting the ideas and what we hear in our heads to something that is communicable," says Drickey. "Tom acted as a scoring mentor. He understood how to communicate efficiently when we were bogged down in our own ideas. He helped us learn the software to take on this level of music. People go to class for a year sometimes to learn the software and then don't ever get to hear it performed live. We are learning on the fly, and we get to do that with the best of the best."
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The dancers, too, enjoy a different perspective and energy, both in the music and the venue. Amy Fogarty, in her second season with Wonderbound, looks forward to sharing the stage with so many musicians.
"There is going to be so much musical magic happening right there on stage with us, and as a dancer, that in itself is such a humbling experience. I'm going to have to tamper my own energy."
Ammon agrees. "The last time the dancers were on stage with this many musicians, they had their energy pushing them forward. It is an incredible experience. What a thing to see these different parts of the creative community come together in such a wonderful way. You're going to have an evening of some of the best musicians of all stripes in this community all together in a single evening, and that is pretty remarkable."
Mayhem, 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 12, Boettcher Concert Hall, Denver Performing Arts Complex. Tickets start at $15 and can be purchased online at Wonderbound.