The Ascent of AscenDance | YellowScene Magazine

Boulder-local Isabel von Rittberg is both a dancer and a rock climber, and she remembers the precise moment, during a drive to Montana to visit her Grandmother, that she first thought of combining the two disciplines. “I was driving through the Virgin River Gorge in Utah, listening to music and looking at the towering rock walls, and I had a vision so clear and so strong that there was no way I could have ignored it,” she says. “I told my Grandma, ‘I’m going to build a climbing wall and dance on it.’” Read More...

Gordon Graham
AscenDance Project at TEDx Boulder

Ascendance Project was thrilled to perform at TEDxBoulder this year! Working from the event’s theme of “Climate & Change,” this piece is choreographed to highlight our country’s modern divisions, and demonstrate how love is the key to understanding and union. Don’t build walls. Dance on them.

Link to Video

Gordon Graham
AscenDance: A Fusion of Climbing, Music and Dance | UK Climbing

By Natalie Berry

A video has been doing the rounds on social media recently - receiving over 26,000 views so far - featuring a troupe of dancers using a climbing wall as an apparatus upon which to choreograph a dance routine. Isabel Rittberg is the founder, artistic director and a dancer within the group AscenDance - based in Boulder, Colorado in the United States.

Combining climbing moves, dance elements and music, Isabel has created a new art form which focusses on the more graceful and gymnastic aspects of climbing - there's no grunting or powerscreaming here!

I asked Isabel a few questions about her project... Read More...

Gordon Graham
Künstlerisch zum Gipfel | Top Magazin
 

Isabel Gräfin von Rittberg kombiniert Tanz mit Klettern in einer neuen Kunstform

TEXT & FOTOS | LENA REINER

Aufgewachsen ist sie in Beyenburg, doch gegenwärtig lebt sie in Boulder, Colorado. Das, so muss man zugeben, ist auch eine passendere Adresse für Isabel Gräfin von Rittberg. Denndie 32-Jährigeistdie Begründerin einer neuen Kunst- und Bewegungsform, einer Mischung aus Bouldern (einer Unterart des Kletterns in geringerer Höhe, die ohne Sicherungsseil auskommt) und Tanzen. „AscenDance“ nennt sie ihre Erfindung. Der Begriff setzt sich aus den beiden englischen Verben „to ascend“ (aufsteigen) und „to dance“ (tanzen) zusammen.

Ausschlaggebend für den Einfall war, dass sie in beiden Bereichen schon seit langem eigene Erfahrungen gesammelt hat. Schon als Kind begann sie auf Initiative ihrer tanzbegeisterten Mutter mit Ballettunterricht. Ihr Vater Hans Georg Graf von Rittberg, der ehemalige Vorstandsvorsitzende der Wuppertaler Quante AG, brachte sie zum Klavierspielen. „Meine Eltern haben mich extrem künstlerisch geprägt, auch wenn sie vielleicht nicht unbedingt eine Vollzeitkünstlerin aus mir machen wollten!“, schmunzelt Isabel von Rittberg.

Unter dem Einfluss von Pina Bausch

Die Faszination ihrer Mutter für den Tanzen sei ihr regelrecht in die Wiege gelegt worden. Mari Di Lena war, wie Isabels Mutter Gretchen damals eine der wenigen Amerikanerinnen im Bergischen, sie wurde ihre erste Lehrerin. Sie hatte auch im Ensemble von Pina Bausch getanzt, so entstand auch eine Nähe zu der berühmten Tänzerin und Choreographin: „Sie ist eine große Inspiration für mich, weil sie ihrem Herzen folgte – auch als sie dafür noch mehr Abneigung als Bewunderung erntete“.

Ihr Bruder Marcus Graf von Rittberg, der heute ebenfalls in den USA lebt, bestreitet seinen Alltag mit Musik sowie mit musikalischer Früherziehung und lebt dabei die besonders mit dem Vater geteilte Leidenschaft beruflich aus. Die Eltern sehen diese Freigeistig- und -beruflichkeit ihrer Kinder durchaus ambivalent. Einerseits teilen sie deren Leidenschaften, andererseits sehen sie die finanziellen Unsicherheit der Berufe. Letztlich aber wirkt es ein wenig so, als lebe Isabel den Traum ihrer Mutter. Sie selbst sieht eine solche Einschätzung durchaus positiv: „Ich denke, unsere Generation hat den Luxus der Freiheit, das zu tun, was man möchte“. Einen Luxus, den die Eltern und speziell ihre Mutter in diesem Alter nicht gehabt hätten.

Kreative haben es in den USA leichter

Das soll allerdings nicht heißen, dass es von Beginn an einfach gewesen sei, ihre Ideen zu verwirklichen. In Deutschland seien ihr nämlich zunächst Steine in den Weg gelegt worden, als sie ihr Projekt vor rund zehn Jahren begründen wollte. „Immer wenn ich von meinem Konzept erzählt habe, wurde ich gefragt, ob ich darin irgendein Diplom habe“, erinnert sie sich an engstirnige Reaktionen. Dabei sei es doch gerade das Besondere, dass es vorher keine solche Tanzform gegeben habe. „Amerika als Land der vielen Möglichkeiten zu bezeichnen, hat schon seine Berechtigung“, hat sie festgestellt. Zumindest sei es ihrer Erfahrung nach für Kreative einfacher, Fuß zu fassen. Die Menschen seien dort aufgeschlossener, wenn es darum gehe, etwas völlig Neues zu unterstützen. Das war der Hauptgrund, weswegen sie sich dort ihr Standbein mit „AscenDance“ aufgebaut habe und nicht in ihrer deutschen Heimat Wuppertal, auch wenn sie das zunächst vorgehabt hatte.

Der Sprung über den Teich fiel ihr freilich auch leichter, nachdem sie sich in Colorado verliebt hatte. Dennoch betont sie: „Ich fühle mich in Wuppertal verwurzelt“, und dass sie sehr gern einmal in ihrer deutschen Heimat auftreten oder eine Europatour machen würde. So hofft sie, dass sich für 2014 genügend interessierte Veranstalter finden lassen. In den USA hat sie dieses Interesse spätestens seit ihrem spektakulären Auftritt bei der NBC-Show „America’s got Talent“.

 
Gordon Graham
On Honesty in Motion | Twine Magazine
 

By Patrycja Humienik

At a ballet, I will raise my eyebrows and clap and delight in all of its aesthetic glory--oh, legs! legs!--but both as observer and mover, I am moved more by the experience of a performance. When a performance generates a new question, some feeling of inspiration, or simply tells a very good joke (the kind that produces belly-aching, ravenous laughter)--that is to say, when a performance disrupts daily routine, I am moved.There are those moments of honesty and intimacy, which I am finding increasingly more accessible in interactive performance and the fusion of dance forms.

The art of storytelling, be it through dance, writing or music, resides in that emotionally rooted space of honesty. This stays with us past the point of enchantment: for an audience member it begins, perhaps, with the arch of a back, a body swathed in lace, the teeter-totter between union and dissonance of music and movement; for a performer, it begins with the sweat, the kinesthetic sight, an unexpected moment of eye contact.

These are moments in dance that seem absurd to attempt to describe in words, when their beauty lies precisely in that which is syllable-free. As a mover, I have encountered a seeing and a speaking that occur without eyes and mouth. There is a sight that skin and breath have. Touch speaks. Breath is a reminder of continuous motion. Of rhythm. There is a boogie, there is a blues, the zest of tango, cheekbone nudging cheekbone--the zephyr of a lengthening wingspan, a blur of footwork, a hint of Twist, a Charleston kick, an undulation of the spine.

Body is a verb, and is better understood through movement than through the use of modifiers. Even so, the writer in me wrestles with words to distill meaning, to unweave stories, and to arrive at a place that is tender enough to be honest.

I would like to tell a story about community-based performance, honesty and fusion.

Imagine: you’re on a climbing wall, extending through arm, wrist and hands to reach that next hold. Now, imagine that you are also dancing.

AscenDance Project, a Boulder, Colo.-based dance and rock-climbing performing company, combines both of these. The company was founded in 2006 in the Bay Area by Isabel von Rittberg. Now located in Boulder, ADP’s company members have backgrounds spanning rock-climbing, ballet, gymnastics, Chinese pole, aerial dance, parkour, music and acroyoga. The movers, with Isabel’s guidance, collaborate on dances performed on the wall. They explore their vertical terrain ropeless.

Isabel is the founder and artistic director of AscenDance Project. This woman, in all of her sweetness, dedication and disciplined, German prowess, is willing to take risks. Risks like working to overcome gravity while wedged between canyons or sandstone bouldering. Risks like running a dance company, moreover a dance and rock-climbing company, when funds are limited, opportunities in dance are shrinking, and she doesn’t quite know how.

“I’m learning as I go,” she says laughing.

Isabel grew up a country-pumpkin in Wuppertal-Beyenburg, Germany. “That’s what I call myself, I got it wrong once, and now I say, ‘pumpkin’ instead of ‘bumpkin’. And I grew up riding little ponies without saddles, and milking cows, and watching chickens get their head cut off.”

Instilled in her was a deep love for music and dance; Isabel was taking piano lessons as soon as she could crawl up to a stool, and ballet soon after. Considering she grew up in the same town as Pina Bausch, this seems fitting. Ballet, however, did not hold her attention.

“Even though my mom and my teacher and everybody was trying to push me in that direction… it just wasn’t me,” she says. “Dance stayed in my life, though not professionally.” Isabel left Germany for the United States at 19 to find her own direction. Soon after, she found her calling to climb.

“When I started rock climbing, I re-found the aesthetics of movement asking me to create something,” she says.

In 2003, Isabel went to Chile and Argentina where she deepened her exploration of mountainous terrain. There, she connected with the climbing community over a shared passion, a love of athleticism and an appreciation for health. “The climbing world is friendly no matter where you go: It’s a safety net. In different parts of the world, the climbing community is where I land.”

But Isabel’s newfound love of climbing did not replace her connection to dance and music. “Something was starting to move in me in South America. I always talk about that time I drove through the Virgin River Gorge in Utah and looked at all the different walls left and right and how the sun was setting and how inspiring that was… but I think when I lived in South America something started moving in me. Some sort of a, God, this is so beautiful, why not make a dance out of it.”

So, she did.

For Isabel, dance and climbing are not separate. “To connect with people through your emotions, which evoke movement, and are emphasized by music, is any dancer’s dream,” she says. “It makes people cry, it makes you cry. It’s just that moment of honesty where the truth comes through. Where there’s no hesitation.”

The step through and twist over, pattern one, pattern two, swing, double-toe hang of climbing becomes, for Isabel, a dance. She says accessing dance when climbing isn’t all that difficult, once you’re comfortable on the wall. “You just have to find that freedom, confidence and willingness to express yourself. Whether it’s on the wall or on the floor it doesn’t really matter: it’s the same process.”

That process means embracing her sensitivity. Isabel says, “I feel like sometimes I’m running around on broken glass. I feel so sensitive to this world. Being able to feel it through movement or music, and accessing honesty through movement… it’s an outlet for me. It’s where I get to feel my whole self, because there is a lot going on. I am not one of those people who can just store it away.”

Music and dance have allowed her to be more honest. “When I’m on the wall, that’s where I feel safest. That’s my territory. So it gives me that space, to access through the body. Which is, you know, really all we have, that moment and that experience. I mean we have a lot in our heads, but it’s not real.” She laughs. “I think we have so much knowledge in our body. But we’re brought up in our heads. It’s pretty incredible, what we can sense.”

Isabel formed AscenDance Project in 2006. Support from her roots was slim to zilch. “In Germany I’d get asked, ‘Do you have a degree in this?’ I’d think, ‘I’m not supposed to have a degree; I’m trying something new.’ America is more open minded; Pina had offers to go to New York, you know, but she stuck with that little town she was so proud of being from. I, on the other hand, escaped to the U.S.”

Even in the U.S., however, artists must often resort to creating work “on a project-by-project basis, raising funds through crowdsourcing and fiscal sponsorships instead of forming companies, “according to Jean Davidson. In forming a fusion performing company, finances aren’t the only challenge. There remains finding the right space, the right movers, and creating work that resonates with people.

So far, it seems that AscenDance Project’s work has. The performance company reached a large audience through NBC’s America’s Got Talent in 2010, and have continued gaining momentum since.

“I think it’s because we are just honest. We are being ourselves.”

For AscenDance, “being ourselves” means collaboration across a fusion of movement modalities that integrate fluidity, precision, strength, risk-taking, and sensitivity to detail.

“We’re inventing the movement, naming the movement, and pushing limits every day. Every dancer has a different style and a different direction with it. You don’t really ever know what you’re going to get. And the music, same thing, we go through all different genres, whatever sparks inspiration. And I run with it.”

What else is there to do but run with what we have to offer, and offer it? When we tap into our sensitivity, our tenderness, we can touch one another through our offerings, and we move honestly.

AscenDance will have another workshop at their studio space, 5721 Arapahoe #C in Boulder this October 2012, and a Winter Home Season Performance. Visit www.ascendanceproject.com.
 

Patrycja Humienik is exploring honesty in motion through an interdisciplinary, collaborative project, The Exploratorium, featured Sept. 19-23 at the 2012 BolderLife Festival outside of the Kelly Barn in Boulder.

 
Gordon Graham
Looking at Contemporary Dance: A guide for the internet Age
 

by Marc Raymond Strauss with Myron Howard Nadel

AscenDance Project

Another intriguing contemporary dance presenter, AscenDance Project (www.ascendanceproject.com), a Berkeley, California-based company has its performers moving vertically on climbing walls to choreographed rhythms in music and silence, was founded in 2006. Artistic Director and founder Isabel von Rittberg (b. September 4, 1980, Haan, Germany) was driving through Utah’s Virgin River Gorge during sunset and was stunned by the red sandstone cliffs surrounding [her and] enjoying imaginary bodies dancing on the immense vertical terrain…When rock climbing, it was the continuous flow of vertical movements that generated a strong mental focus and a powerfully physical strength that allowed [her’ to gracefully overcome [her] body weight. [Her] vision of climbers executing technical and powerful movements to music was clear and strong.

As with Elizabeth Streb, Cirque du Soleil, and Momix before her, von Rittberg discovered a new and unique venue for “dance” performance.

Chapter Eleven: 2000 and Beyond: A New Century, P. 165

 
Gordon Graham
Dance-Climb fusion project moves to Boulder | Boulder Weekly

By Elizabeth Miller

Maybe you know AscenDance from the television show America’s Got Talent. Or maybe from their 2009 appearance at Boulder’s Aerial Dance Festival. Or maybe you’re getting to know them as a new neighbor on Arapahoe Avenue. The AscenDance Project moves an art form into a sports arena by blending dance and climbing — the dancers cling to holds on a climbing wall while executing their choreography. And its founder and artistic director, Isabel Von Rittberg, has officially moved to Boulder, bringing the AscenDance company to a new studio here.

Read More...

Gordon Graham