New Ames Conservatory Sets Sights High
by Karen James
Dec 02, 2010 | 2738 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Plans Afoot to Make Telluride a Hub for the Fine and Performing Arts

TELLURIDE – Imagine a busy hub where aspiring professional dancers from all over the country – maybe even the world – come and go, studying their craft with renowned guest teachers and getting career-making exposure to company directors who hold the coveted keys to opportunity in the professional dance world.

A bustling center of artistic activity that provides dancers with visibility and access to the leaders of their profession that also encourages partnerships and exchange with local businesses and community organizations to the benefit of everyone.

That could be Telluride in the not-so-distant future if the vision of the new Ames Conservatory, which officially took over the faculty, student body, education and performance commitments of the former Telluride Dance Academy about a month ago, takes root.

Founded by former Silicon Valley recruitment and retention executive and present Telluride local Stephanie Ames, the new conservatory hopes to “reach outside of the box canyon,” as Ames put it, to become a leading advocacy for the arts and a global destination for arts education and development.

“We have an outstanding group of talented artists here,” Ames explained. “I thought it would be a great idea to combine as many programs under one roof as possible, and as many nonprofits.”

To kick-start the effort, Ames has pledged her own financial support to the project in the hope that others will join, and has been busy reaching out to build support from within the community.

“We all wish our communities to flourish; we want our children to benefit from the finest education and our interests to be realized,” she said in a press release.

“The arts, whether fine or performing, play an important role in the world. If one thinks of the arts’ influence one would realize that they provide: entertainment, shelter, beauty, education, hobby, and for many a livelihood, which is why I believe it is so important to cultivate and strengthen the arts by starting in our own Telluride.”

“It’s exciting and holds a very promising future,” said Valerie Madonia, the former Joffrey Ballet principal dancer who headed the nonprofit TDA and is now the artistic director for the new for-profit Ames Conservatory.

“This vision is more about the arts in general and it’s a much bigger vision,” she continued. “Our programming is going to be done with a much more global intent in mind.”

The shift to new business model was necessary because funding for non-profits is not as readily available as it was.

“It’s going to take a concerted effort for us to get through this economy,” said Ames, “I’m hoping in a profitable way.”

While the conservatory envisions building its year-round programming and eventually developing standalone music and theater programs, it is sticking with what it knows best, dance, for the moment.

As its community debut, the Ames Conservatory will perform a stage version of The Polar Express as an alternative to the season’s standard Nutcracker at the Michael D. Palm Theater, Dec. 10-12. Featuring special guest singer Ted Keegan, who starred in the National Tour of The Phantom of the Opera following a successful run in the Broadway production, the show will offer a preview of the high performance caliber the Ames Conservatory intends to make standard here.

“I wanted to introduce the Conservatory in an extraordinary way,” said Ames.

But perhaps even more exciting are the upcoming spring and summer dance and theater intensives being offered in 2011.

Tony Award-nominee Elizabeth Parkinson and Tony Award-winner Scott Wise will offer a dance and musical theater journey focusing on the performance quality necessary for a Broadway career in Telluride to Broadway Bound taking place June 20-July 2.

The Dancer’s Stage, taking place June 13-17 and August 1-12, will offer intermediate students ages 10-18 a mixed dance experience in ballet, jazz, modern and contemporary dance.

The rigorous “Madonia Ballet Intensives” for intermediate and advanced ballet students ages 10-18 will focus on classical ballet technique in two sessions, July 6-16 and 18-29, with daily classes in turning, jumping and point work and an emphasis on performance quality. Special guests include Davis Robertson, Contemporary Ballet Program Director at the Joffrey Ballet School, and Olivier Wecxsteen, guest instructor at the San Francisco Ballet School.

But the intensive that could stand to attract the most interest among fledgling dancers is the Telluride Director’s Choice Workshop taking place next February. At that time Gil Boggs, Artistic Director of Colorado Ballet, Glenn Edgerton, Artistic Director of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Adam Sklute, artistic director of Ballet West, will be in Telluride to conduct three days of classes with an eye to offering company contracts, apprenticeships, and summer program invitations to talented young dancers.

“It’s an opportunity to audition for three companies in one place,” said Madonia.

Rather than a single, nervewracking cattle-call audition, “You’re actually working with [the directors] for three days and you have three days to prove yourself and get to know the directors,” said Madonia.

In keeping with its intent to reach the global dance community, the conservatory and its intensives are being marketed through its new website,, and on sites such as with its multiple dance magazine channels.

“We hope to become a driving force for the arts here in Telluride,” said Ames.
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