Brooklyn-based dance company Vim Vigor integrates with Perry-Mansfield program |

Brooklyn-based dance company Vim Vigor integrates with Perry-Mansfield program

From left, Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp students Gwen Tessman, Rachel Halmrast, Megan Schutz and Rachel Hickman.
Kady McElhattan

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When Christopher Compton and Tamara Dyke-Compton became the co-directors of dance at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp, they instituted a new program that they believe is entirely unique in its field.

The program brings a professional dance company to integrate into Perry-Mansfield’s Professional Intensive, and at the end of the two-week session, the students and company members perform the show they’ve created side-by-side.

This year, the visiting company is Broolyn, New York-based Vim Vigor, led by Shannon Gillen, and the products of the program — the fourth annual — will be showcased Sunday.

Vim Vigor is known as an extremely athletic, intense company, which pioneers the dance theater style, popular in Europe but relatively unknown in the U.S.

“We’re always looking for companies that are trying to push dance in a new direction,” Christopher Compton said.

Being immersed in artistically progressive ideas and being immersed in the setting of a professional dance company provides invaluable experience for college-aged dancers looking to forge a career in dance, according to Compton.

“Our ultimate goal from this is that the students really get to work within the company, and to see what it’s like to be part of that — to learn about different artistic processes, and to learn about how different choreographers and companies work,” Compton said. “We want them to grow artistically. In two weeks, it’s not that (students’) technique is going to vastly improve, but their mind can change.”

During the long days of exercises, practices, rehearsals, workshopping and conversation, that’s happened.

“I feel like I’m looking at dance in a whole different way, which I absolutely adore,” said Kayla Schutz, a two-time Professional Intensive student who’s going into her senior year at Julliard, where she’s working on a bachelor’s in fine arts in dance. “(Vim Vigor) has taught us that there’s always more to give.”

If you go

What: Perry-Mansfield Professional Intensive and Vim Vigor Performance
When: 8 p.m. Sunday, June 16
Where: Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp, 40755 Routt County Road 36
Tickets: $25 at

“This experience has pushed me way outside of my comfort zone and is pushing the limits of my mind and creativity,” said Hannah Weinmaster, another two-time Professional Intensive student and a dance major at University of Arizona. “It’s helped me find new ways to move and explore movement.”

The current Professional Intensive class includes 14 students from across the country, some in college and some recent graduates.

As artists-in-residence, Vim Vigor is given free creative reign to create a dance program for the intensive.

From left, Perry-Mansfield students Akiwele Burayidi, Hannah Weinmaster and Rachel Halmrast.
Kady McElhattan

“Being able to put on, carte blanche, whatever they want is something companies are really looking for,” Compton said.

While Vim Vigor is charged with putting together most of the performance’s choreography, Perry-Mansfield students have found ownership in the process, as well.

“I feel like I have a voice and I can input that into the piece, which is more based in how a company works,” Schutz said, “whereas when I’m at school, I’m more being told what to do.”

Perry-Mansfield’s Megan Schutz does a handstand while Kayla Schutz looks on.
Kady McElhattan

“A lot of students aren’t used to being asked how they feel,” Gillen said. “When young people get a little taste of that, they’re inspired.”

She added that Vim Vigor gains from the fact that the process is collaborative.

“We have such a strong point of view and movement language that works with people because we ask them to bring themselves into the process. Because of that, it’s always new for us too; since it’s always a collaborative space, we grow, too,” she said. “We seek, very truthfully, their perspective, and there’s a very fertile meeting point there.”

The Sunday performance includes two solos by Vim Vigor company members, a duet, a piece for Professional Intensive students created by Gillen, and a contemporary ballet for the students created by Compton.

“The dances themselves are very athletic. There’s also a strong social awareness component,” Compton said.

The performance begins at 8 p.m. Sunday, at Perry-Mansfield. The show is open to the public; tickets may be purchased at

Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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