| Dance |

Now Showing: Garrett Ammon and Laura Ann Samuelson on dance and the arts

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For this year's Now Showing, Westword's fall arts guide (you'll find it tucked into our September 26 issue), we asked artistic movers and shakers to answer a few questions about the state of the arts, both locally and around the world. We'll be rolling out their answers over the next few weeks in pairs that combine both veterans and newcomers in similar disciplines. First up? Garrett Ammon and Laura Ann Samuelson discussing dance.

See also: THE GREAT GREEN helicopters in to the Boulder Fringe Festival

Garrett Ammon, artistic director, Wonderbound.

Ammon is the creative genius behind Wonderbound (formerly Ballet Nouveau Colorado), a dance company that blends top-notch performers with challenging, contemporary choreography. Wonderbound takes leaps regularly (the company's metaphorical logo is a running rabbit), sometimes into literary and pop-cultural realms. For Ammon and his dancers, no theme is off limits.

WestwordWhat do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?

Garrett Ammon: The world has changed in profound ways over the past many years, and society continues to transform at a stunning rate. During this evolution, artists and organizations have been navigating this new reality in a variety of ways and experimenting with innovative approaches to share their art with their communities. The reality that is coming into focus is that no single individual, organization or community can truly keep pace with this level of change. Consequently, this is forcing an important process of internal reflection for artists about what they value and where they will focus their finite energy. Artists have always been the social glue that connects communities, and I believe the value of that role has never been greater.

What could be done to improve the scene?

I think there is a lot of buzz right now about the creative community in Denver, and it has become apparent that this is one of our city's greatest assets. At the same time, Denver is in an adolescent stage of sorts: Its potential has shown itself, but we need to be patient, let it find its unique path, and not push it too much to conform to any particular ideal. Otherwise, we could inadvertently stamp out that spark of possibility.

Any artist or organization will say that word of mouth is the most valuable form of marketing. If you love something that is happening in the arts scene, the greatest things you can do are support it and tell your friends about it.

Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

I have the great fortune of working with an incredible group of dedicated artists every day -- from the dancers at Wonderbound to our collaborating artists from across the community. These individuals continually inspire me, open new doors of possibility, and push me to find more within myself.

Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?

There are a lot of people and organizations that are stepping out there and taking some big risks, both artistically and organizationally, right now. I am excited to see what comes out of this adventurous spirit. Whether all of these new approaches are deemed successful or not, they show vibrancy and an enthusiasm for change that Denver will benefit greatly from.

For more on Garrett Ammon, visit Wonderbound online.

Continue reading for our interview with Laura Samuelson. Laura Samuelson, artistic director, Hoarded Stuff Performance.

Boulderite Samuelson is a relative newcomer to the dance-performance landscape; her Hoarded Stuff Productions takes an integrated, collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach.

Westword: What do you think of recent developments in your field, and the current scene?

Laura Samuelson: In the contemporary dance field, many artists are experimenting with form in such a way that it inevitably becomes inextricable from the content of the work. They are questioning and redefining what we consider "dance," where it should be performed, and who sees it. There's a lot of interdisciplinary collaboration going on. I see artists paying great attention to the root or essence of the thing they are trying to make, and creating new structures to fit it. I also believe that the huge infiltration of video into our lives has granted artists new insight into how we look at and perceive the human body. Artists are more attuned to cultural signifiers present in their work, and are allowing them to have a hand in what they are making. I see this happening on both a local and international level. It's all very exciting to me.

What could be done to improve the scene?

In the dance and theater community, I'd love to see a greater investment and engagement in one another's work. I think we do a really good job supporting one another. We see each other's shows. We help get the word out. We are not so good at giving or receiving useful critical feedback. I think it is important to remember that as fellow artists and audience members, we are all taking part in the creative process together. The work and growth continues long after a single performance event. When I'm making my own work, there are moments in which I'm challenging myself artistically or trying something new, and I need to hear from my community about what's working and what's not. The Denver and Boulder arts scene is filled with smart and skilled artists. If we don't want to get stuck making reincarnations of the same pieces over and over again, we need to be brave enough to both ask for and receive critical feedback.

Who/what has inspired you most in your career?

In college, I studied abroad in France and was introduced to a small theater company in rural Burgundy called Au Cul de Loup. They are a sound/object theater company and build acoustic objects out of found materials that produce sound when coming into contact with a body. That is the entire premise of their company! The performances that result are incredibly evocative and otherworldly. I had never seen work like theirs before. At that time, I had many ideas about what I wanted my work to reflect, but few ideas about how to accomplish it. My time studying with them inspired me look at the physical matter I was working with. They taught me to listen to what was already happening in my process vs. focusing all attention on what the end product would look like. This was huge for me -- not because I don't think it's important to pay attention to the end product, but because if I cling too much to what it's going to "look" like, I miss all opportunities to surprise myself with something greater.

I am also incredibly inspired by the work of Brussels-based dance company Peeping Tom, French performance artist Jeanne Mordoj, New York poet and musician Shira E., red-nose clown teacher Elizabeth Baron, and the Colorado artists I have been lucky enough to collaborate with: Joanna Rotkin, Chrissy Nelson, Cortney McGuire and Adam Stone.

Who/what will you be watching for this arts season?

I'll be following the work of square product theatre. They are collaborating with Buntport Theater Company on an original work titled Peggy Jo and the Desolate Nothing that will open in May. They are also adapting SLAB, a novel by Denver writer Selah Ann Saterstrom, into a new piece of theater. Both will be fantastic.

I'll also be following the work of Boulder dance artists Michelle Ellsworth, Gesel Mason and Language of Fish Collective Arts, and writers Bhanu Kapil and Lisa Birman.

Visit Laura Ann Samuelson's website for more information.

Come back to Show and Tell tomorrow for our interviews with fashion designers Mona Lucero and Kotomi Yoshida.

To keep up with the Froyd's eye-view of arts and culture in Denver, "like" my fan page on Facebook.

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