Arvada Center Blog

Denver dance scene pivots and turns: 15 years with Wonderbound’s Sarah Tallman

By Leslie Simon


As Denver grows, so grows its dance scene. For 15 years, esteemed Colorado dancer Sarah Tallman has entertained fans with her fierce ballet performances with award-winning local dance company Wonderbound. 2019 marks her final year performing as a full-time dancer, but audiences need not be worried- she will still be working behind-the-scenes creating new works and guiding future generations of Colorado dancers through her unique and powerful choreography. We spoke to Sarah about her 15-year journey with Wonderbound, having transcendent experiences while performing, and what she sees for the future of our local dance scene. Join us here at the Arvada Center on June 14-15 for Wonderbound’s production of Boomtown and see Sarah dance in her final two performances.

Sarah Tallman and Ben Youngstone, photos by Amanda Tipton

Q: What has working with Wonderbound over the course of 15 years taught you about yourself?

A: Oh my goodness… I love this question. Over the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to appear in over 30 Garrett Ammon ballets, which means there has been an enormous opportunity to explore different characters and emotional arcs that humans experience in the course of a day or even a lifetime. Through that exploration, I have observed myself navigating both the simple and the complex emotions that we all go through. They are all reminders that we are alive!

Each of these roles encouraged me to look within and explore myself. As I journeyed through creating the most authentic expressions of each of these characters and roles, it’s been an opportunity to explore the most authentic expression of who I am and how I interact in the world. The more I deepened into the nuances of who I am or who I think I am as an individual, the deeper I have been able to move through the art form. I have learned a lot about love and what it feels like to express that love. I’ve learned to be rigorous and have fun while doing it!

Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

Q: What’s your most memorable moment in working with Wonderbound?

A: Wow. There are so many moments that I have cherished; it’s difficult to distill them into one! I absolutely adore performing and have had transcendent experiences on stage where I felt really locked in with the moment. In those instances, the technique and the emotions simultaneously clicked, and I became a conduit of the work rather than a person executing moves. Those moments feel almost like out-of-body experiences, which is funny because it’s through the body that they have taken form. Those experiences make way for a connection and a deepening of our own humanity. My hope is for at least one person to feel something move within them or to ask a deeper question of themselves. I have seen and experienced these moments with my co-workers as well. It’s quite remarkable.

I also value the relationships we create with our many community education programs. Very recently, I observed a 3rd grader completely change his physiological capacity within a matter of seconds after being exposed to dance. Dance is for everybody, and to observe its resonance with the community as an audience member or participant makes for memorable moments.



Q: What will you miss the most about dancing full-time?

A: I will miss working in the studio with Garrett in the creation of a new solo, and the time with Dawn as a coach. It’s been an unexpected gift to spend the majority of my career originating new roles in brand new ballets that re-awaken the art form. These types of exchanges come along once in a lifetime. I appreciate each one of them and hold them dear to my heart.

The nature of these experiences have allowed me to sink my teeth into the work and go deeper. That’s the secret, when you find work you love, keep going. I can compare it to seeing the ocean for the first time. The ocean is beautiful from the shoreline, but when you jump in and see what’s beneath, there is suddenly an entire world beyond what was witnessed at first glance.

The rigorousness of this type of process has inspired me to create these types of relationships with future artists as I continue my journey as a choreographer. I will miss the everyday vigorous nature of dancing full-time and the connections that are created with audiences and co-artists. I will miss performing, and at the same time, I look forward to discovering new realities through working on the other side of the room as an artistic team member at Wonderbound.

Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

Q: There is an important symbiotic relationship between your writing and your choreography. Can you walk us through your process in creating a new work?

A: Absolutely! Each time I create a new work, I know a little more about what might happen throughout the process, but no two processes are alike. Firstly, I spend a lot of time with the music before I’ve attempted to make even one step. The music generally will cultivate some sort of feeling within me that will then create images in my brain and off I go. My next step is to sit down with paper and pen and just start to free-write. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not. As I step into the studio for the first time, I have an outline of the beginning, middle and end of the work. That being said, it’s just as important to not get attached to the “plan” on paper in order to give space to what comes forward once the steps are created.

I’ll often go back to the writing throughout the process. The words help me to envision and create textures, nuances and concepts as the ballet begins to unfold. The next steps are sort of rinse and repeat. At the end of the day, I take what I have learned in the studio and start to form pieces of a puzzle until it’s complete. I lean into the dancers’ artistic voices and interpretations to help further the process and together we begin to make connections.


Q: How does your yoga practice affect your dance practice?

A: I first became a student of yoga at a summer program years ago. I initially fought the training, but then realized it allowed me to experience and understand technique in a different way. Essentially, I used it as a way of cross training. I soon discovered it also provided time to listen to my body and sense my environment differently. Yoga has helped to create a balance internally and externally which prepares me for whatever a rehearsal day or performance might bring.


Q: What changes have you seen in the Denver dance scene over the past 15 years?

A: Denver has changed so much over the last 15 years. It’s really become a city that values art and dance in particular. The level of awareness and our community’s artistic palate has become more diverse. There is no formula to what our audiences desire to experience, other than that they know it will always transcend and surprise. Art has been and will continue to be the heartbeat and grounding of a community. The more we push the envelope, the more we clearly carve a place for dance to exist. It’s impossible not to see art at the forefront of this city’s development. Simply driving down the street, one can’t help but notice the immersive quality of art. It truly is everywhere. I believe Wonderbound has been at the forefront of changing what we can do with our art form. Wonderbound’s collaborative vision has created a palpable energy, making it a stalwart for dance in Denver.

Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

Q: What changes do you hope to see in the next 15 years?

A: My hope for the next 15 years is that we continue to push the boundaries of what is being created. Curiosity, exploration, wonder. These are all important attributes that will carry Denver forward. It’s important to respect what has been and then give way to future moments as they unfold. Denver has a very real opportunity to become a destination city for art as much as it is for its environmental attractions. We can evolve a city that people come to in order to see world class dance.

The Next Big Thing- Orquesta Akokán

By Leslie Simon

The Next Big Thing- Orquesta Akokán

Mambo! You can hear the hustle and bustle of the streets of Havana on Latin collective Orquesta Akokán’s self-titled album.

Signed to the independent New York City label Daptone Records, this Cuban big band has the ethos and sound to match the rest of Daptone’s acclaimed roster of funk and soul musicians. Led by the attention-demanding vocals of José Pepito Gómez, Daptone’s first Spanish-language release is a groove-infused album of all original songs, paying homage to the old school banda gigante sound of the ‘40s and ‘50s and the mambo kings.

The Yoruba (a western African people with a longstanding community in Cuba) word akokán means “from the heart,” and it is apparent by their authentic sounds and hot-Havana-nights rhythms that they truly are making music from the heart, for the heart.

Fans of Buena Vista Social Club will love their celebratory lyrics and textured orchestral sounds, and they really get the crowd moving with driving Afro-Cuban percussion. Sounding simultaneously 21st-century-fresh and timelessly vintage, Orquesta Akokán has been met with critical acclaim and bigger crowds at every show. Their album of mambo, salsa, and cha cha sounds was recorded live in three days at the legendary Areito Studios in Havana and released last spring, with the band touring the United States for the first time then as well- even playing the Lincoln Center!

Fiery, upbeat, joyful, infectious – Orquesta Akokán’s music will find a special place in your heart and their rhythm will stay in your bones. This summer sees them making appearances throughout festival season all over the United States and Europe, exposing them to ever-increasing audiences. See them at the Arvada Center Summer Concert Series this year, and you can say you “saw them when.”

Grab a dancing partner and see Orquesta Akokán at the Arvada Center on June 29th!

Physics meets movement: 3rd Law Dance/Theater

Who knew that dance could teach you a science lesson?

By Leslie Simon

Photo by Annabelle Denmark

3rd Law Dance/Theater has been considering the physics of movement for almost two decades. Beginning their life at the start of this millennium, this award-winning dance company creates conceptual performances that explore current societal events through metaphors and the freedom of dance.

3rd Law Dance/Theater asked their audience for their favorite moments and then dug back through years of original choreography to put together a retrospective of their work. They bring this piece of artistic history to the Arvada Center on June 1!

Collaboration is key as 3rd Law combines the input of current Artistic Co-Directors Katie Elliott and Paul Fowler, the lasting influence of Co-Founder Jim LaVita, their dynamic troupe of dancers, and influence from the physical spaces that dance pieces are specifically created for. We spoke with Katie Elliott, 3rd Law Dance/Theater’s Co-Founder and Artistic Co-Director, to find out how they work, what we can hope to see in the future, and the physics behind the whole thing.

Photo by Catrine Turillon

Q: What is the genesis of 3rd Law? Can you explain the principle behind the name?

Katie Elliott: Isaac Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion – every action has an equal and opposite reaction – is the philosophical and physical backbone of the company.

3rd Law Dance/Theater is an award-winning contemporary dance company that has been pushing the boundaries in movement, media, visual art, digital construction, theater and music since 01.01.01, the first day of the new millennium.


A: What is your creative process when creating new work?

KE: At 3rd Law Dance/Theater the creative process is dynamic and collaborative, the push and pull of ideas is alive between choreographer, dancer, and composer. Equally important is the connection with the audience through the power of live, in-the-moment performance – a cornerstone of the company’s vision.

Photo by Annabelle Denmark

What are some of your favorite moments since the company began in 2001?

KE: All of our favorite moments have grown out of all the different communities and collaborators with whom we have connected. Highlights include: Boulder Bach Festival, The Denver Art Museum, Denver Botanic Gardens, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and a variety of individual artists.


Q: What do you hope to see for the future of 3rd Law?

KE: Expanding the communities we’ve built through our Dance for Parkinson’s Program, Open Space showcase of Colorado choreographers, our classes serving the beginning to professional level dancer, and our educational outreach programs which support young art makers.


3rd Law Dance/Theater performs a retrospective of their work in the Arvada Center Main Stage Theatre on June 1. Come celebrate Colorado dance – tickets are on sale today!

Heather Gray Photography

8 songs to get you ready for summer

By Leslie Simon


Summertime and the living is easy at the Arvada Center! This year’s 2019 Summer Concert Series features some crowd-favorite rock and pop legends, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, local dance troupe favorites, and a couple who are in a genre all their own- Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo. So roll down the windows, let the sun hit your face, and turn the volume up as you listen to the following great tunes- you may even hear them this summer at our outdoor amphitheatre.


  1. Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo “Heartbreaker” – July 15

The breakthrough single from her debut album, “Heartbreaker” has hard rock guitar riffs and sassy, confident sneers that are every bit as relevant and fresh today.

  1. George Thorogood “Boogie Chillen”

Off of George’s first solo album, “Boogie Chillen” shows him at his raw, stripped-down best and proves that you don’t have to be loud to rock.

George Thorogood and The Destroyers perform August 4, part of the “45 Years of Rock” tour!


  1. Squeeze “Up the Junction” – September 6

Shot in John Lennon’s kitchen, “Up the Junction” shows a 1979 Squeeze as they straddle the line between English folk and London New Wave.


  1. Big Brother & The Holding Company “Combination of the Two”

Rare footage of the Big Brother classic from the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival when Janis Joplin was still in charge of vocals. Big Brother & The Holding Company perform a throwback to Woodstock on August 29.


  1. Orquesta Akokan “Mambo Rapidito” – June 29

Daptone Records’ resident Cuban big band collective produces a full-bodied sound with explosive brass on “Mambo Rapidito.”


  1. Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long” – August 17

Classic old footage of the blue-eyed soul legend Felix Cavaliere and his highly influential 60s band The Young Rascals.


  1. Mike Dawes “Somebody That I Used to Know (Gotye cover)”

Finger-picking mastermind Mike Dawes mesmerizes with a poignant cover of Gotye’s 2011 smash hit about breaking up. He’s performing alongside Justin Hayward on August 14! 


  1. Colorado Symphony Comic-Con “Jurassic Park Theme”

When the Colorado Symphony star conductor Christopher Dragon donned a T. Rex costume to conduct the Jurassic Park theme song, the entire internet took notice. They bring their Symphonic Tribute to Comic-Con to the Center on July 21.