Mixing dance styles, artistic visuals and a sprinkle of the unexpected, Denver’s newest dance company, Symbiosis, is hoping to shake up the Front Range scene.
The newly established company comes from choreographers Braeden Barnes and Ryland Early. A Chicago native, Barnes trained at the esteemed Joffrey Ballet and has worked professionally with Balletmet and Billy Elliot the Musical, and is currently employed by Visceral Dance Chicago. Early, who began his training at the ripe age of eight, has performed with the likes of Houston Ballet and Salt Lake City Ballet, and is now in his second season with Boulder Ballet. The duo met years ago, dancing alongside one another at Nevada Ballet Theater.
“A year ago, we were talking about our five-year plan; where we would be based, what we would do,” explains Early. Sharing a similar artistic vision and even performing each other's choreography over the years, the thought of forming a dance company was definitely a far-off dream for the two. Or so they thought. Days after their conversation, they were determined to make it happen. “Braeden calls me and says, ‘Let's just do it now. Why are we going to wait?’” says Early. So in the fall of 2017, the artistic company was formed.
Symbiosis, a nonprofit, gives both dancers a creative outlet during their off-seasons. But instead of forming a traditional company for ballet — a discipline at which they both excel — the new company hopes to reframe what a dance event could be.
“Symbiosis is unique, because we want to change how we view dance in today's world, and what the audience expects going into a dance show,” says Barnes. “With a Symbiosis show, you won't know what you are going to get in the performances. We want to create the unexpected in our shows.”
Instead of sticking to one art form, Symbiosis crosses genres from contemporary to tap, with more styles on the horizon for future performances. For this collaborative effort, both Barnes and Early have recruited dancers from all over the country. Out of the nine dancers in the company, only three are local to Colorado, including Early. Barnes and Michelle Meltzer are Chicago-based. Guest choreographer Jason Parsons lives in New York. Another dancer resides in Orange County, another in Idaho. Two weeks before the curtain rises, the dancers will finally unite to prepare for the first performance, Imprints, which will explore the way we leave impressions on one another. “When a loved one is no longer in our lives, it takes time for that person to heal. In a way, we try to forget the memory or imprint they left,” says Early. “Imprints goes in-depth on the relationship of how we imprint ourselves to each other and the world, what is the impression we give to others, and how we carry that impression through our lives.”
The first performance will be held in an industrial warehouse in Lincoln Park. In lieu of a formal center stage and tiered seats, audiences will sit in a U-shaped loop around the stage, at eye level with the performers. Above the audience is a projection screen that will show videos and candids compiled by photographer Caleb Alvarado. Contemporary-themed duets and group numbers ground the show, with a few interjections of various styles, namely a tap-dancing solo.
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Thanks to the close proximity of audience and performers, the setup of Imprints encourages interaction. Audience members are more than welcome to snap photos and videos to share to social media. During the last act, the dancers will perform on a canvas, muddied up in clay. Even the audience is encouraged to get a little messy.
By way of movement, multimedia and breaking the fourth wall, Symbiosis hopes to breathe new life into the art form.
"At Symbiosis, we strive to create work through different art mediums that dance companies today are not doing," says Barnes. "Symbiosis gives me an opportunity to create outside the realm of a dance concert and to make shows that are an art experience involving dance."
Symbiosis presents Imprints, July 13 to 15, 885 Wyandot Street, $12.