The grace and fluidity of rock climbing inspired Isabel von Rittberg to combine her passions; climbing, dance and music. She founded AscenDance Project in January of 2006. AscenDance performers come from various backgrounds such as Gymnastics, Parkour, Rock Climbing and Dance. Incorporating movement from different disciplines allows the dancers to push their boundaries and create new and innovative choreography on the wall.
Isabel Jessica von RittberG
Founder, Artistic Director, Dancer
Isabel Jessica von Rittberg grew up in Wuppertal-Beyenburg, a small historical village in Western Germany. Her father is German; her mother was born in Montana. Isabel was raised bilingually. As a child, she danced ballet, played the piano and spent more time on horseback than on foot. Her summers in the Rocky Mountains instilled in her a love of nature. Isabel graduated with a BA in Latin American/Iberian Studies and a French minor from the University of California, Santa Barbara. There she also began climbing. In preparation for her senior thesis, Isabel spent a year in Santiago de Chile. While living and traveling in South America, she performed African-Brazilian dance and further developed her rock climbing skills. The grace of rock climbing captured her attention.
The urge to convey the beauty and fluidity of rock climbing led her to start the AscenDance Project in 2006. She has created a genre that unites climbing, dance and music, performed on a vertical wall. Since the founding of AscenDance Project, Isabel’s troupe has given numerous performances throughout the United States. After her appearance on national television in 2010 (America’s Got Talent) AscenDance Project has gained international recognition. The company is now based out of Boulder, Colorado.
Managing Director, Dancer
While growing up in Illinois Gordon was a competitive gymnast. The sport of gymnastics was a perfect outlet for his adoration of movement and desire to perform. This affinity for movement has influenced all aspects of Gordon’s life. He moved to Boulder, Colorado to pursue a degree in Integrative Physiology and was logically drawn to rock climbing. The fluidity and control required for climbing, as well as the inspiring landscapes, captivate him. After over a decade coaching climbing and gymnastics Gordon found his new home in the technology industry as a software engineer. In his free time he practices yoga, cycles, goes trail running, climbs, and enjoys the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
Director of Marketing, Dancer
Jenna grew up in New Canaan, Connecticut where she began her formal ballet training at the New England Academy of Dance. After high school, she went over to the dark side and discovered modern dance, eventually leading her to earn a B.S. in Kinesiology-Dance at Indiana University. While attending IU, she had the opportunity to perform the works of Paul Taylor, Martha Graham, Anna Sokolow, Elizabeth Shea, Laura Poole, and Martha Wittman. After dancing with Thomas/Ortiz Dance in New York City, Jenna ventured to Boulder, Colorado in order to pursue her lifelong affection for writing and outdoor sports such as skiing, hiking, climbing, and biking. Joining AscenDance has brought her full-circle, and allows her to holistically engage a passion for creative and expressive movement.
Chris Hopper was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado. He began studying classical piano at the age of 5 which sparked in him a love for music that has continued until this day. He now gigs professionally with various bands on keyboards playing everything from jazz, funk, hip hop, and jam band to world music. Chris was also a gymnast and freestyle skier growing up and continues similar movements through the practice and teaching of parkour. Chris’ love for the mountains drew him to rock climbing; his passion for movement and music inspired him to begin tap dancing. Chris brings a musicality and strong athletic background to the AscenDance troupe. He has developed a powerful, yet intricate style on the wall.
Kelsey grew up in Wyoming, Ohio and has always had a love for movement. After years of primarily horseback riding, playing outside, and dabbling in dance, she joined Ohio State’s ballroom dance team. This started her interest in movement partnerships and performance. In 2011, her love for the outdoors led her to Colorado where rock climbing, running, and hiking took over. The Ascendance Project immediately intrigued her as it combined her persistent interest in dance and new obsession with climbing. In addition to dancing with the Ascendance Project, Kelsey also enjoys practicing acrobatics, adventuring in the great outdoors, and spending time with her variety of pets.
Kara Nicole Turner graduated from CU Boulder in 2015 with a BA in Dance and an emphasis in Sociology. She grew up as a gymnast and acrobat, hence, she is most comfortable upside-down or on her hands. Kara has worked with a variety of acknowledged choreographers. She professionally danced with Rennie Harris' Hip-Hop Company “Grass Roots Project” for three years. The company focuses on hip-hop for a social cause. She has taught acrobatics, tumbling, and multiple styles within hip-hop at a wide range of studios. Currently she teaches at Premier School of Dance and Dual Star Academy of Dance. During the day, Kara is an office manager at Insights, Colorado Assessment and Therapy. On the weekends she is a part of a strong non-profit organization called Queenz of Hip-Hop. Kara has continuously enjoyed being a part of Ascendance. She loves fusing modern forms of dance with climbing. Her strength has allowed her to apply her dance skills on the climbing wall. Kara looks forward to continue exemplifying movement in a new way.
Sarah Luk was born and raised in San Jose, California. She attended the University of Florida where she earned a degree in nursing and a minor in cello performance. Since then Sarah has performed professionally with the Boulder Chamber Orchestra and played for events in the Denver Boulder area. Sarah is also an avid rock climber and very passionate about movement and music. Ascendance has given Sarah the opportunity to express her passions in a perfect combination.
Steven THanh Wong
With an overabundance of energy, Steven spent most of his time as a child either flipping around in gymnastics or playing the piano. After moving from sunny Southern California to the Bay Area to attend UC Berkeley, he observed that the strength, flexibility and coordination acquired from gymnastics translated well to the modern dance technique courses he took and loved. In 2005, Steven graduated with double degrees in music and architecture and continued refining his technique at the Oberlin Dance Commons. Sensing that the movement involved in rock climbing is analogous to dancing on a vertical plane, he quickly picked up and became enamored with the sport. As a member of the AscenDance Project, Steven is thrilled to meld and further explore his passions: music, climbing and dance.
Juan Manuel Trotteyn (Pata)
Logistics Specialist, Head Rigger
Juan Manuel Trotteyn (aka ‘Pata’) was born and raised in Mendoza, Argentina. His father introduced him to mountaineering at a young age, but he quickly fell in love with sport climbing and started competing. At 18 years, he won Nationals and shortly after started route-setting for competitions. After his very first trip to Spain, he realized that’s where he wanted to live. For twelve years, Pata was based out of Cornudella de Montsant, Cataluña, the heart of Spain’s most stunning sport climbing. He has established new routes and also became involved in the local bolting community. Today, Pata lives in Boulder, CO and owns a van conversion business, PataVans. He has been very involved in the planning of the AscenDance Touring Truck which will feature a climbing wall along the side and a built out interior for dancers to sleep, cook and live. He believes that this truck will allow the troupe to bring their dance to places and communities that normally would not be exposed to such unique performances. In his free time, Pata climbs on rock or flies his paraglider.