We had the good fortune of connecting with Isabel von Rittberg and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Isabel, what role has risk played in your life or career?
After graduating with highest honors and a degree in Latin American Studies and French, my life took a turn. My relentless desire to show the world the beauty of climbing left me restless. So I decided to combine my love for dance and climbing and founded the AscenDance Project. Though I had no experience or background in running a dance company, I knew I would find solutions along the way one step at a time. Yes, I took a risk by starting a project that could have failed. But the bigger risk for me was to ignore my strong passion and later in life regret not having followed my intuition and heart. And though my dance company has had successes, it has also presented many obstacles pushing me far outside of my comfort zone. Last year (long before COVID) we purchased a bus in order to mount the climbing wall to it and make our performance more mobile and accessible to all communities. I had no idea if it was even possible. Mistakes along the way added weeks of extra work. The detours could have been prevented, but if no one has done anything like it before, you must learn as you go. Today we are dancing on the bus. Who would have known that, due to the state of the world, this bus was going to be the only way for me to bring my art to the people. If anything, COVID has made my mission stronger.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
What sets us apart from other dance companies is that we dance on a climbing wall. Without ropes or suspension, dancers use sheer strength to overcome gravity with grace, beauty and artistic prowess. Our last performance at the Dairy Center ‘New Heights: Dancing on the Walls that Divide Us’ was centered around the idea that while contemporary political zeitgeist suggests walls are necessary to separate those of differing backgrounds or ideologies, this wall is designed to inspire connection and hope. The most recent project is our bus wall. Its creation was a true challenge. But with the support of our community it was possible. The first time we practiced on the wall in front of my apartment building, neighbors came to watch us dance. I felt so touched. This truly set the tone of what I am out to do: bring together community. Ironically, the streets have now become the only way for artists to share their work. I often ask myself why I continue my dance. It is certainly not the most profitable business to run. But then I see the little change I can make in one neighbor’s day and I am reminded of why I have chosen this path.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Lovely things that come to mind to do around the Boulder area: Going climbing in Eldorado Canyon, sitting outside of the Chautauqua Auditorium on the grass while listening to the Symphony and having a picnic, riding the bike along the beautiful path all the way to Upslope Brewing to enjoy the sunset with a delicious beer. I have really come to love Lafayette and Louisville. I enjoy their summer fairs, farmers markets and quaint downtowns with views of the mountains.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people to thank, the list goes on and on. Without the support of those who believed in my vision this project would not be alive today. Dancers, riggers, mentors, interns, friends, fans and family have all been part of making this project possible. Thanks to the organizations who have allowed us to present our work (San Francisco Festival of the Arts, Boulder Aerial Dance Festival, Ashby Stage, Chattanooga Presents, Denver Convention Center, Dairy Center, TEDxBoulder, America’s Got Talent, and most recently, Boulder Arts Outdoors and The Front Range Brewing Company) we have been able to continue bringing our dance to new venues. Our most recent bus project wouldn’t have been possible without my husband Juan Trotteyn (Patavans) and local welder Tim Omspach (VVolfy Metal Works). My dancers have poured hours, weeks, months and years of hard work into creating new choreography, pushing boundaries and always bringing their very best at performances. Those involved in the AscenDance Project truly feel like family.
ADP-1: Jose Balmaceda of Zay ADP-2, 3, 7, 8: Michael Todd ADP-4, 5, 6 & AscenDance-Boulder Arts Outdoors: Rachel Puttman