Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

United in Orange Friday: These Broncos ballerina costumes are tutu much!

And we thought the Broncos orange cowboy hat that Mayor Michael Hancock sported yesterday as grand marshal of the Stock Show parade downtown represented the ultimate cultural collision in couture. But just a block away, an icky icon has been gussied up in honor of "United in Orange Friday." Finally, a use for Fred Kummer's hideous ballerinas!

Inspired by Broncos fever, a sales assistant at the the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel went home one night and created costumes for the five, eighteen-foot-tall ballerinas that stand at the entrance to the hotel: orange tutus, orange leg warmers and Broncos headbands.

It's a definite improvement, as you can see:

The sculptures are the work of artist Ruth Keller Schweiss, who was commissioned almost two decades ago to create the ballerinas out of wire mesh, wire fabric and hardware cloth covered by epoxy clay. She described the sculptures as "an uplifting spirit in exultation" and study of grace. Those who realized what the dancers replaced called them an outrage.

The hotel stands on the spot once occupied by the I.M. Pei-designed hyperbolic paraboloid, which served as the entrance to the old May D&F department store. But then St. Louis developer bought the property and wiped the historic building off the map in 1995, replacing it with the Adam's Mark Hotel (with a $25 million assist from the Denver Urban Renewal Authority). But because Denver's 1-percent-for-art program applies to all city construction, Kummer did include some art in his project that had so unartfully destroyed a downtown landmark: those hideous ballet dancers.

Kummer is long-gone, and the hotel he built is now a Sheraton. But the ballerinas remain -- and in their new costumes, they've never looked better. (And they'll probably look better still after you down a few Orange-tini's in the hotel's 16Mix Cocktail Lounge.)

Here's the announcement from the mayor's office of other "United in Orange" events today. Hold onto your hats!

Broncos fans in Denver, the region and throughout the state are encouraged to wear orange on Friday in advance of the team's Saturday afternoon game against the Baltimore Ravens at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

In addition, the Denver Broncos will host a "United in Orange" Pep Rally for the AFC Divisional home game on Friday, January 11th at Sports Authority Field at Mile High from 5 - 8 p.m. The rally will be held on the Sports Legends Mall on the south side of the stadium and will be free and open to the public.

The City and County of Denver is showing its support for the Broncos by:

Placing a friendly mayor-to-mayor wager with Baltimore's Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Friday, Jan. 11;

Lighting the City and County Building with orange and blue lights beginning Friday;

Illuminating with orange and blue lights the DIA sign on Peña Boulevard and several large LED signs along 14th St. in orange and blue lights;

Displaying "United in Orange" on the Denver Convention Center billboard and on all Denver Smart (parking) Meters;

Greeting DIA passengers with a Broncos message from John Elway on the train, hanging banners and adorning DIA employees and ambassadors with "United in Orange" buttons; and

Encouraging downtown building owners and businesses throughout the city to display orange and blue lights and Broncos signs.

Adding to that support, the Downtown Denver Partnership, VISIT DENVER and the Denver Art Museum are:

Lighting the D&F Tower in orange and blue lights;

Setting the Denver Art Museum's titanium-covered Hamilton Building aglow in orange and blue lights;

Hanging Broncos banners along the 16th Street Mall and in Larimer Square;

Broadcasting 850KOA's live game coverage over the Southwest Rink at Skyline Park sound system for ice skaters to enjoy; and

Offering free skating and skate rentals at Southwest Rink to skaters who wear orange or a Broncos gear! The rink opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Early risers can get free lessons and skate rentals from 8 to 10 a.m.

United Airlines, the official and exclusive airline of the Denver Broncos that flies the team to away games all year long, also is:

Supporting "United in Orange Friday" and encouraging their employees to don their best Broncos garb;

Hosting Broncos mascot Miles at DIA on Friday to greet customers; and

Adding a spirited "Go Broncos" in their in-flight announcements.

From the archives: "Snap! Jack A. Weil showed us how the West was worn."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun