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Boulder Ballet Explores Mental Health With Its New Season



With its newest season, “Amplify,” Boulder Ballet will tackle one of the most complex challenges facing society right now: Mental health.


In particular, the ballet’s 41st season will explore—and support—a growing effort to improve mental health within the dance community.


This theme will carry through the four mainstage productions the ballet is unveiling for 2023-24.


The first is “Connection” on Sept. 23 at Chautauqua Auditorium, a program that encompasses four works that will explore the “social and environmental dimensions of wellness,” according to Boulder Ballet.


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“These dances demonstrate the lightness and darkness within humans and their effect on relationships,” per the ballet.


“Connection” will include Caili Quan’s “To Become Like This” and Amy Seiwert’s “The Devil Ties My Tongue,” as well as world premiers from Wonderbound’s Sarah Tallman and Boulder Ballet artistic director Ben Needham-Wood.


Needham-Wood will be unveiling “Sun and Steel,” which is inspired by the writings of Japanese author Yukio Mishima. The piece will explore Mishima’s quote: “I am one who has always been interested only in the edges of the body and the spirit, the outlying regions of the body and the outlying regions of the spirit.”



For its season opener, Boulder Ballet is excited to return to Chautauqua Auditorium, the iconic 125-year-old building situated in the shadow of the Flatirons in Boulder.


“You can feel the history from the moment you step through the doors,” says Needham-Wood. “The wooden frame, the open air—it’s a venue that adds a majestic quality to an already beautiful art. I will never forget sitting in that theater last season as the company dancers took the stage, and the energy from the audience completely surged through the dancers’ veins.”


READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide to Colorado Chautauqua


Also mark your calendars for the Boulder Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker” with the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, which is scheduled for Nov. 24-26 at Macky Auditorium on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder and Dec. 2-3 at Vance Brand Auditorium in Longmont.


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In March, Boulder Ballet will unveil its winter production, “Mindfield,” which explores how the physical body can affect mental health. Those performances will take place March 8–10 at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder.


Boulder Ballet’s spring production will include “Les Slyphides,” as well as three classical pas de deux by Michael Smuin, Val Caniparoli and Christopher Wheeldon. Those performances are scheduled for May 17-19, also at the Dairy Arts Center.



Together, all of this season’s productions will contemplate the eight dimensions of wellness—physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, environmental, financial, and vocational—and explore movement as a powerful tool for healing.


Ben Needham-Wood is directing the Boulder Ballet’s newest season. The ballet named Needham-Wood its new artistic director in August 2022, and he shepherded the group through its 40th anniversary season last year.


Needham-Wood is an Emmy Award-winning choreographer, as well as a filmmaker and a dance educator. Most recently, he spent more than 10 years working in performance and arts leadership in the Bay Area.


Image by Amanda Tipton Photography | FB- Amanda Tipton-Photographer | IG – @amandatiptonphotography


He also recently launched a nonprofit called Redirecting Dance, through which he uses dance to bring awareness to critical social issues. In particular, he’s been studying the link between movement and mental health.


“Dance has been many things in my life—a passion, my career—but most importantly it has been a means to understand myself and connect with others,” he says. “The isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed just how important those connections truly are.”




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