Ellsworth will take a year of living artistically

Michelle Ellsworth
Michelle Ellsworth

From the deep woods of New Hampshire to the sunny Mediterranean island of Kalymnos, Michelle Ellsworth of the CU-Boulder Department of Theatre & Dance is going to be on the move over the next year.

In June, Ellsworth will head back to the woods of New Hampshire for a second month-long residence at the prestigious MacDowell Colony for artists, where Michael Chabon worked on his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” Leonard Bernstein penned part of his famous “Requiem” and DuBose and Dorothy Hayward tuned up “Porgy and Bess” — just a few among dozens of lofty examples.

“It feels historic and humbling to work in a place where so many great artists have created. I wrote my last piece there (in 2011),” says Ellsworth, associate professor and director of dance. “It’s an amazing experience. I have my own studio, a kind of free-standing cottage that’s big enough for dancing.”

Lunch is brought to artists — whose work spans the creative fields, from film to visual arts to poetry — in baskets but they often come together for breakfast and dinner.

“Being a professor, it’s really nice to be singular for awhile. There is no internet in the studio; you’re definitely out there,” Ellsworth says. “But you can also come together with a bunch of different artists from all over the place. It’s really inspiring to hear about all their projects.”

She will be working on a new dance piece, “Clytigation,” supported by a $90,000 grant from New York-based Creative Capital, which “supports innovative and adventurous artists across the country through funding, counsel and career development services.”

As part of the grant, Ellsworth will attend a workshop in Williamstown, Mass. this summer, where she will work with a mentor and meet with administrators and experts from the dance field.

“It’s kind of like adult supervision for artists,” she says, laughing. “They want to help you be more ambitious and connected so you can succeed.”

Later in the year she’ll spend six months on the Greek island of Kalymnos — “Where Clytemnestra hung back in the day,” she notes — to work on the new piece, which will explore “the impact war can have on legal protocols,” from the “Oresteia” of Aeschylus to post-9/11 America.

The piece is scheduled to premiere at Seattle’s On the Boards in the fall of 2014.

Ellsworth says the sabbatical will give her the opportunity to engage in pure creativity without distraction.

“I’m excited to see what it’s like to make a piece while not also working at a university,” she says.