Sarah Tallman, who has one of the longest-running performance careers in the Denver ballet scene, is bowing out as a full-time dancer.
“Whenever there’s something unknown in life, there’s always a fear, and the tendency is to attach yourself to the known,” says Tallman. “Dancing is the one thing I know and love. I’ve been doing it since I was five. But it isn’t actually who I am. It’s who I’m being when I dance — that’s what I love.”
Tallman was performing with Ballet Nouveau in Denver long before Garrett Ammon and Dawn Fay took over the company in 2007 (it was renamed Wonderbound in 2012).
With a Zen-like philosophy, Tallman has rounded out the demands of her dance career with yoga, spending time in the outdoors and with her pets. She’s also been focused on her own choreography, which debuts this week alongside Ammon’s as part of Cupid's Playground, which opens on February 15 for a two-week run at Wonderbound.
Tallman’s work is included in the first act and Ammon’s in the second; Cupid's Playground will be accompanied by a string quartet courtesy of the Colorado Symphony.
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“This is a big project for me,” explains Tallman. “My process started with asking myself what love is. Love is very pure and clear, in all of its forms. It can be infinite, unconditional, romantic, with a friend, with an animal, with nature, with a parent.”
Clearly, love can also exist for an art form.
Beyond this season, Tallman will continue to work at Wonderbound; she will move into a role that’s part ballet master and part choreographer, and she'll help stage some of Ammon’s works. She has, after all, been in most of them and knows his style well.
Tallman’s choreography has already graced the stages of Kent State University, the University of Northern Colorado and the Oklahoma City Ballet. These experiences have helped her answer the question every dancer faces at the end of a full-time performance career: What’s next?
“Maybe I will continue to perform in some capacity, and maybe I won’t,” she says. “The most important thing to me is to be most open to what is. Sometimes, I think I can’t imagine my life without performing, but at the same time, what is performing? It’s the fullest expression of myself. So if I’m giving credit to the performance for who I am, I’m not actually giving myself 100 percent.”
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It is this outlook that will serve current and incoming Wonderbound dancers well.
Tallman’s role as ballet master — leading classes, directing rehearsals, teaching choreography and correcting dancers' moves — will unfold largely behind the scenes, but it will impact what happens when the curtain rises.
“I feel like I’m dancing better than I ever have in my whole life. When I knew that this was my last performance season, there was a part of me that was like, 'I need to dance. This is what I require.' And as soon as that happened, it’s like I started to constrict my dancing, like I had myself in a chokehold. I had to shift out of that. The closer I come to not doing it in this same capacity, I suddenly opened up the opportunity to really just love it. Now that I’m doing it because I love it and not because I have to, it has changed everything."
Cupid’s Playground, 7:30 p.m. February 15 and 16 and 2 p.m. February 17 at the Performing Arts Complex at Pinnacle Charter School, 1001 West 84th Avenue; 7:30 p.m. February 23 and 2 p.m. February 24 at the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Avenue in Parker. Tickets run from $22 to $50 and can be purchased at Wonderbound's website.