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5Point Film cancels already-postponed October festival, citing COVID concerns

The pre-pandemic crowds at 5Point Adventure FIlm Festival in the Carbondale Recreation Center. (Courtesy photo)

5Point Film has canceled its flagship festival, which had been scheduled for mid-October in Carbondale and had already been postponed from its standard April dates.

5Point announced the cancellation Monday, marking the first major Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley event to do so amid this summer’s resurgence of coronavirus cases and the delta variant. The next edition of the 5Point Adventure Film Festival will be held in April.

“This difficult decision was based on the ever-changing conditions around in-person indoor gatherings while COVID-19 conditions are changing, and communities are still at risk,” the announcement states. “While the organization’s jewel in the crown event is delayed, 5Point will continue to focus on growing its educational programming and filmmaker development.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, the festival has staged popular virtual events and screenings. In place of the April 2020 flagship festival, 5Point produced a free “5Point Unlocked,” an online three-day film event for a global audience during stay-home period of the early pandemic. That event drew an estimated 20,000 viewers, far outstretching the limited capacity of the in-person 5Point fest and the nonprofit’s expectations. Nearly 50% of those viewers watched from outside Colorado, they reported.

The organization followed that with “Together Under One Sky,” a four-night virtual festival in October. The 5Point “On The Road” series also went virtual and the 5Point Earth Day Pop-Up hosted a sold-out drive-in movie event in Carbondale in April, while also going virtual for global audiences.

“Our team has continued to work diligently and with passion to bring an in-person film festival program to Carbondale in a way that reflects our spirit and brings our community together in one auditorium celebrating adventure and the essence of 5Point,” 5Point executive director Regna Jones said in the announcement. “Our decision-making process to postpone reflects the guiding principles of this organization, and while this is humbling, we need to put the 5Point and wider Carbondale community’s health and safety as our priority.”

In the past 18 months, 5Point also hasa moved educational resources online and added to its programs including the 5Point Dream Project, 5Point VOICES Youth Film Project, a free 5Point Student Reel, which also includes a film curriculum for educators to implement in schools.

Dates, format and programming for the April festival will come at a later date, according to the announcement.

Crews assist woman stranded near Hays Creek Falls near Redstone

Rescue crews assisted a woman stranded Saturday night near Hays Creek Falls after she became trapped by rising waters in the area above the falls, which are located a short distance from Highway 133 about 2 miles south of Redstone, according to a news release Sunday morning.

The 31-year-old Grand Junction resident was uninjured but needed help crossing the creek and traveling back down the mountainside. The report to the Pitkin County Regional Dispatch Center indicated that she was barefoot and wearing only a shirt and shorts, the release states.

Dispatch received the report at 6:22 p.m. Saturday; a man had flagged down the reporting party on the highway to get help.

Responders from the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District (CFD) were first to arrive and shortly thereafter requested assistance from Mountain Rescue Aspen for the technical rescue. First responders from CFD made voice contact around 7:20 p.m. Mountain Rescue Aspen members were deployed from Aspen at 7:25 p.m. and arrived at the scene at approximately 8:20 p.m.

At 8:37 p.m., Carbondale Fire crews informed dispatch that they made physical contact with the woman; they began to work their way out of the field with the woman about 10 minutes later. Mountain Rescue Aspen crews also had entered the field and assisted CFD first responders. All rescue crews and the woman were out of the field by 9:30 p.m.

CFD paramedics evaluated the woman and released her shortly thereafter.

UPDATES: Sylvan Fire containment at 10% going into Sunday night

A mosaic pattern with patches of green and black as seen from the east side of Sylvan Lake on Friday.
Special to the Daily

David Boyd with the U.S. Forest Service said containment on the Sylvan Fire remains at 10 percent as crews headed into nightfall on Sunday.

The wildfire burning south of Eagle remains the largest priority fire in the Rocky Mountain region, with 361 personnel currently working the nearly 6-square mile blaze. Although still under investigation, the fire is suspected to have been caused by lightning.

Boyd said the size on the fire remains unchanged, at 3,775 acres, but it has moved slightly.

“Some of that is growth here and there, but some of that is the mapping catching up,” Boyd said. “Weather is helping us out, a lot.”

High humidity and spotted showers, combined with the occasional downpour, have assisted firefighters in recent days.

About a third of an inch of rain fell on the fire on Saturday and Sunday morning, bringing the accumulation in recent days to nearly an inch total.

The fireline, which travels from Sylvan Lake westward to the powerline road, represents the first bit of containment from crews.

“Ten percent of the line is where we want it to be,” Boyd said. “The weather has moderated the behavior of the fire, which has allowed us to make a lot of progress, continuing to build lines and strengthen them. We’ve got a few more days of weather like this, and that will be very helpful.”

Boyd said the overhead views of the fire show areas of smoldering, with heavy smoke, indicating that if the humidity drops again, and the winds pick up, the fire will become more active.

And some of the fires that may be taking place once the rain stops might be conducted by the crews on scene, as well, in an effort to improve fire lines, Boyd said.

“There’s some areas where we’re going to either light some areas ourselves, when the conditions are right, and have that burn to the firelines, or allow the fire to get to places where we can effectively hold it,” Boyd said. “Even though weather has been really moderate, we still have some days coming, in the coming days, where will see more fire activity.”

The wet weather can be good and bad for firefighters, as the water helps put down the blaze and helps crews build fire lines.

“But the wet, slippery conditions make the work more difficult and increase safety concerns for driving and foot travel,” said Dan Dallas, the incident commander for the Rocky Mountain Type I Incident Management Team assigned to the blaze. “Fortunately, no serious injuries have occurred thus far on the incident, and we continue to make public and firefighter safety our highest priority.”

During a Friday evening Facebook community meeting, Rob Powell, the operations section chief for the fire, noted that the resources at risk — an Xcel Energy transmission line and the Eagle and Gypsum watersheds — earned the priority designation.

The Sylvan Fire has split into two main branches. Crews are attacking one branch along the Eagle Thomasville Road, which will be the primary fire line.

“We’re working really hard on that 400 road and getting that dug in, so that the fire doesn’t push harder and higher when it dries out,” said Michelle Kelly a public information officer working the fire.

Kelly called the Sylvan Fire a “mosaic fire” with patches of green and black throughout the forest — and those green spots could become troublesome in the coming days when it is expected to dry out.

She said fire officials are always cautious about putting containment line on a map, wanting to be absolutely certain that an ember can’t cross a fire line when temperatures dry out or wind kicks up — which is what happened when the fire had its big blowup earlier in the week.

“We really want to make sure that we’re cold trailing, and that there’s not something like that could cross the road,” she said.

I-70 fully open through Glenwood Canyon; Glenwood Springs residents asked to cut back to essential water use only

A muddy Colorado River and an empty Interstate 70 can be seen from Scout Trail, but no signs of the mudslide that closed the interstate. The mudslide is within the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar. Peter Baumann / Post Independent

UPDATE 10:23 P.M. Saturday, June 26: Interstate 70 is now reopened in both directions.

While Crews with the Colorado Department of Transportation were able to reopen the eastbound lanes earlier Saturday, difficult conditions meant the westbound lanes could not reopen until later.

A mudslide Saturday afternoon led to the hours-long closure. CDOT has reported no injuries or trapped vehicles.

CDOT spokesperson Elise Thatcher said CDOT front-end loaders are having a tough time trying to clear the area of mud and sediment, which is being described as “soupy.”

The debris included small rocks but was largely composed of dirt and mud, Thatcher said. The estimated width of the debris slide is about 70-feet wide in both westbound lanes of I-70, and is approximately five to seven feet deep at the deepest points.

The mudslide, caused by heavy rain falling on the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar, came after a flash flood warning was issued at 2:30 p.m.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS RESIDENTS ASKED TO CUT BACK TO ESSENTIAL WATER USE ONLY

In an alert early Sunday morning, the City of Glenwood Springs requested residents cut back to essential water use only “due to water supply issues.”

Earlier on Saturday, the city of Glenwood Springs asked residents to suspend outdoor watering as “water crews are evaluating water treatment with current heavy rains.”

This is a developing story; check back later for more updates.

Runaway development in Glenwood Springs

We are so angry about what has been going on with developments the last few years. Small-town character is basically gone. For what is left, we need to stop developments and like a business, take stock and inventory When we do this inventory, we will see what we have and later what we need.

To most of us, we are at the critical point of no return. The further on this path we go, the worse it gets.

Glenwood has always been a very special place. All the amenities we have are at least world class. Then why are we trying to choke ourselves to death?

Our job is not to provide high-density units for the masses. Our job is to take care of the safety and welfare of our residents. Our job is to take care of our very special home. Please.

Michael Hoban

Glenwood Springs

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet to dissolve company, launch fund to support dance

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet has dissolved its locally based dance company and will not return after the pandemic, ending a 25-year run during which the organization toured the world to wide acclaim and became an unlikely trendsetter for contemporary dance both on-stage and off.

The nonprofit’s directors cited the novel coronavirus pandemic’s shutdown of the performing arts over the past year and pre-existing concerns about the economic sustainability of mid-sized touring companies as reasons for the decision.

The nonprofit will continue to operate the School of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at its five Roaring Fork Valley locations and its popular Folklorico program, with plans to host and present visiting dance companies for performances in summer and winter seasons when public health restrictions allow.

As it closes the full-time, year-round 11-dancer company, the organization will begin a new chapter through the launch of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Fund for Innovation in Dance. This new initiative, backed by the nonprofit’s existing $10 million endowment, will seek to provide resources and support for artists and dance organizations. The fund will aim to lead performing companies out of the COVID-19 crisis and support new models to create a more sustainable future for dance.

“We wanted to find a two-fold solution that will preserve what we’ve built for 25 years in our community, and also honor the legacy of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet,” said executive director Jean Philippe-Malaty.

An announcement is expected from the company Monday morning. It is likely to make waves in the dance world and to shake the arts community in Aspen, both facing a long road to post-pandemic recovery.

“We were very proud to be home-grown, we were very proud to be ambassadors for Aspen, but we were the only one doing this,” added Malaty, referring to operating a year-round company when most Aspen cultural institutions depend on outside talent. “We went the hard way for 25 years and, now facing COVID, we feel that this format of being a presenter rather than a producer will set us up better for recovery.”

Malaty and artistic director Tom Mossbrucker told dancers individually about the decision last week after the ballet’s board of trustees approved the directors’ proposal to dissolve the company and launch the fund.

The company last performed in February 2020. When the pandemic hit Colorado in March 2020, dancers were deep into rehearsals for the summer debut of a new commissioned Manuel Vignoulle work for Aspen Santa Fe — one of two new pieces that had been set to debut in the canceled summer. The company was unable to salvage its international 25th anniversary tour for 2021 as the pandemic has persisted.

Dancers had been on furlough since September.

“They knew this was a possibility, but it was difficult for each one of them,” Mossbrucker said.

The national and international dance community recognized Aspen Santa Fe for its elegance and its ambitions, both on-stage and as an organization.

The company’s legacy includes commissioning 40 original ballets and performing more than 100 by 46 choreographers. Its modest basement studio at Colorado Mountain College became an incubator for emerging choreographers and the birthplace of award-winning contemporary dance pieces.

Aspen Santa Fe earned a reputation for scouting talent, both in dancers and choreographers. In 2012, for instance, the company commissioned and premiered a new piece by 23-year-old Norbert de la Cruz III — his first — titled “Square None,” which won the 2012 Princess Grace Foundation Award for Choreography.

The company performed for loyal audiences at dance Meccas like Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts and the Joyce Theatre in Manhattan (which gave Malaty and Mossbrucker its Joyce Theater Award in 2010, recognizing them for the innovative business model and performances) and in recent years held a residency at Valley Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles and made appearances in Moscow, Venice, across Europe and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The organization was founded as the Aspen Ballet Co. by Bebe Schweppe in 1990 and became Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in 1996 when she brought Malaty and Mossbrucker on board. Over the past quarter century, the pair crafted a unique dual headquarter model, with bases and dance schools in both Aspen and Santa Fe.

Pamela Tatge, executive and artistic director at Jacob’s Pillow — the longest-running dance festival in the U.S., where Aspen Santa Fe has performed regularly since 2003 — expressed admiration for Aspen Santa Fe’s pivot to be of service to the contemporary dance world through its Fund for Innovation in Dance.

“It didn’t surprise me that these two leaders in our field, that have been so inventive and entrepreneurial, did this level of self-reflection as an organization to determine that this was the time to dissolve the company and create something new,” Tatge said in an interview Friday. “The fact that they realized the ballet company was no longer sustainable, but that they wanted to invest in these other parts of the organization, is a testament to their skill and adaptive capacity.”

Her admiration for the company’s commitment to leading the industry toward new post-COVID business models was bittersweet, though, as she will miss seeing the company on-stage.

“My god, Jacob’s Pillow audiences adore Aspen Sana Fe Ballet and have for many years,” she said. “There are few companies in this country that have the level of high artistic standards as it related to the nimbleness and virtuosity of their dancers alongside a really rigorous examination of the choreographers they bring into the company.”

For Malaty, Mossbrucker and their board, the decision was part of a deliberative strategic planning process that preceded the pandemic.

“It was not reactive, it was not panicked, it was not desperate at any point,” Malaty said. “Change is in the DNA of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.”

Touring and maintaining the company, he added, “was the most vulnerable part of what we do, though it was the crown jewel.”

Nearly half of the company’s operating budget had been funded by earned income like tickets and touring fees and school tuition — not from donations. So losing all revenue since last spring posed as steep a challenge as the company could face.

Since the fall the company has been operating in “hibernation mode,” operating with a fraction of its staff, which had been 32 full-timers, and operating its dance schools with severely limited capacity due to public health restrictions.

With an operating budget of roughly $1.5 million — cut from about $4.2 million pre-pandemic — the organization is focusing on its education and outreach efforts.

“We decided to look at our core mission and that’s what made us want to increase our focus on education, outreach and our presentation series,” Mossbrucker explained. “We said, ‘How can we fulfill our mission in a meaningful and relevant way at home while still maintaining a presence nationally?’”

The Fund for Innovation’s immediate goals are to create sustainable business strategies for mid-sized dance companies in a post-pandemic world and to support residencies for choreographers to develop and perform new work in Aspen and Santa Fe.

The directors noted that the pivot to supporting other dance companies through the new fund is just the latest evolution for an organization that has embraced change and adopted groundbreaking business models through its history. The fund is believed to be the first of its kind focused on dance.

“Nobody has done that before,” Malaty said. “We were in the trenches, we did the work, we built it and had robust audiences right up until COVID.”

The commissioned works in the company repertoire will no longer have a group of dancers dedicated to preserving and performing them. As the company did not retain licenses for its commissions — instead, granting them to the choreographer — many of its signature works already have had lives with other companies.

Signature commissioned works of recent years like Cherice Barton’s “Eudaemonia,” Alejandro Cerrudo’s “Silent Ghost,” Jorma Elo’s “Over Glow” and Cayetano Soto’s “Huma Rojo” may continue to have a life in Aspen, however, as the Fund’s residency program could include guest companies performing Aspen Santa Fe repertoire. It also could include new commissions, the directors suggested.

Those details are still developing, though, as Malaty, Mossbrucker and the board refine the fund and attempt to remain nimble responding to the needs of the ongoing pandemic-wrought crisis in the arts.

The Fund for Innovation will chart new territory in the dance world, the directors believe. And they’re proud that the organization isn’t going the way of many arts organizations that end in crisis.

“This is not a closure, it’s not a bankruptcy, we are not shutting down,” Malaty said. “We wanted to see how a dance company could evolve. We feel fortunate to have this option. All we can do is be more innovative.”

This idea of transforming into a new kind of entity to support the wider dance world, the directors hope, will honor the legacy of the company and the community that supported it passionately for 25 years.

“It’s bittersweet and there’s a grieving time,” Malaty said. “We would be proud of honoring Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in that way so that it has not been in vain — it has not been in vain for the donors, has not been in vain for the 40 dancers we had over the years and gave blood, sweat and tears. We want to honor that. … Deep down, it was the right thing to do. We find comfort in that.”

atravers@aspentimes.com