"Sticks and Bones" is an apropos name for the upcoming dance-and-music event from Denver Arts & Venues, the city's arts-promotion arm.

The March 8 concert at the stately, refurbished McNichols Building in downtown's Civic Center is also a stripped-down affair designed to break barriers between fine arts and the casual audiences the arts so desperately need.

"It's really wonderful to have an opportunity like this," said choreographer James Wallace, who will present excerpts from his "Orbit Obstructed" dance piece with members of the Boulder Ballet. "And it's a short performance, only 45 minutes, so the kids won't get too restless too quickly."

Boulder Ballet dancers, from left, Justin McMillan, Radoslaw Kokoszka and Matthew Helms in James Wallace’s "Orbit."
Boulder Ballet dancers, from left, Justin McMillan, Radoslaw Kokoszka and Matthew Helms in James Wallace's "Orbit." (Courtesy of Sue Daniels)

Wallace's "Orbit" will be complemented by Colorado Symphony Orchestra musicians Andy Stevens and Roger Soren performing an eclectic mix of pieces on clarinet and bassoon, respectively.

The melding of forms — along with the 2 p.m. start time and free admission — is meant to set a relaxed tone that draws people who wouldn't normally attend a fine arts performance.

"The CSO always does something for us every year, usually a free show in the park, but we wanted to do something different this year," said Niecie Washington, special events coordinator for Arts & Venues. "So we brought in not just the Symphony but a dance group, which fits with (the CSO's) ideas about artistic collaboration."


The holy grail in fine arts performances is a flawless experience, and inherent in that is the cultivation of new audiences — which is something dance, classical music, opera and other seemingly rarified forms have struggled with in recent years.

That fact is not lost on Jeannene Bragg, the CSO's director of artistic partnerships.

"I'm a huge fan of dance but it is a little bit more complicated to put a (collaboration) together," Bragg said. "But we're trying to appeal to different audiences here, and this is a natural fit. Plus the clarinet and bassoon are not your usual string quartet."

Bragg said stripped-down performances at the Denver Art Museum earlier this year helped lay the groundwork for this show, which will include the CSO musicians talking about their pieces before playing them.

"It's family-friendly stuff, but it's also something maybe your family doesn't normally see," Washington said.

John Wenzel: 303-954-1642, jwenzel@denverpost.com or twitter.com/johnwenzel

"STICKS & BONES" 2 p.m. March 8, is a free dance and music performance featuring choreography by James Wallace, dancers from the Boulder Ballet and Colorado Symphony Orchestra musicians at McNichols Building, 144 W. Colfax Ave.