This outgoing lady is the founder, artistic director, and one of the dancers of AscenDance, a crazy cool dance troupe that merges rock climbing with dancing. She performs all over, introducing a new type of dance and building community.
Isabel wanted personal branding photos to prepare for her next media campaign. She has images of her team dancing, but wants to show the more personal side of her business.
I got to know Isabel and her dancers at their studio in Lafayette during rehearsal. What a fun bunch! They were super welcoming and silly, but when it came time to rehearse each of them was right on point, performing a beautifully fluid vertical dance routine on the rock wall.
I haven't climbed in a long time, but seeing how graceful they were up on the wall sure made me miss it! Check out Isabel's story and a teaser of some of her personal branding images:
Kasey: What is the AscenDance Project?
Isabel: We're a dance company based in Boulder. Our dance fuses rock climbing, music, and choreography - performed on a vertical wall. All the performers in my company have such a diverse background, they all bring their different styles to the dance and their different body shapes and strengths and heights. I love that about AscenDance because it's a place where you can be you and express yourself without all the pressure to be perfect in many other types of dance.
We perform at corporate events, festivals, theaters, and our hope is to soon be able to travel to offer more performances to the public.
Kasey: Why are you getting personal branding photos from Fractured Frame Photography?
Isabel: I'm really trying to build a following and community around AscenDance before we launch our Kickstarter campaign next spring. I want to connect with people so they understand our message, our meaning, and why we do what we do. I want to show the human side of us.
Kasey: How did you start AscenDance?
Isabel: I've always loved dance and rock climbing, but the spark moment for me happened while I was finishing college. I was driving through the Virgin River Gorge on my way to visit my grandmother. On both sides of the road are these immense rock walls. I was listening to music and I could just envision the choreography of two dancers on the walls, swinging together and doing these movements and these dynos together. I knew it was possible, I thought it would be so beautiful to show it! At that moment I felt this strong desire to bring my vision to the world - it was a calling, I didn't have a choice.
I'm very type A, and I make plans, and I'm very German and I have to-do lists everywhere and I'm very systematic. But I also feel strongly and I'm very susceptible to things. I just feel like that sparked me and I couldn't return to the plan I had before.
After I graduated with my bachelors degree I moved to Oakland and built my first rock climbing dance wall. I had an idea in my head, but I had no idea what was going to happen. To pay for everything, I worked four jobs at the same time - I was a fitness instructor, admin at a theater, substitute teacher at a high school, and I also taught at the local climbing gyms. My parents freaked out when I told them I wasn't going to grad school, but my grandmother was my anchor point, my mentor, my really close friend. She was my person, you know?
I've built AscenDance up over the last ten years, it's my passion project. We've been on America's Got Talent, traveled to Singapore, and just recently performed at TedX Boulder. Now it seems to have a life of its own.
Kasey: What is it like to lead your own dance company?
Isabel: I wear a lot of hats. My favorite part is the artistic process of choreographing a routine. I get to come in with my ideas. For me it all begins with the music. Music touches me and makes me feel and move and cry and laugh. I'll listen to music and it just starts coming - the emotion, movements, ideas, even the lighting.
The development of the choreography is very collaborative. The wall is so specific to each person, not everybody can do the same moves. I come into rehearsal and say "I need something like this" and then each dancer will come up with their version of that. I'll often describe what I want as a sensation - maybe it's something sharp or explosive or fluid, the dancers create their own expression for the vision I'm seeing and feeling.
Then my mathematical, logical side comes in. The wall is very much like a matrix. I come up with patterns and steps and the logistical pieces that make the dance elements work.
Kasey: What are you most excited about right now?
Isabel: I'm really excited about the kickstarter campaign we'll be launching next spring. We're going to raise funds to get a truck so we can have a super portable wall that we don't need to install.
The truck will let us do more community shows that are free to the public. We bring a portable wall and there are people everywhere - hanging on the light poles, sitting on the bridges, on each others shoulders. I love the spontaneity of community events. People don't expect it - they walk down the street and see us and it blows their mind!
You get such diverse audiences from all walks of life and it seems like they can all relate and appreciate the art we do. Not only that, many of them are really inspired by it. I want the truck to be able to do more free community shows to give back to them.
Kasey: How do people react to your performances?
Isabel: After every single show, people come up to us and tell us how inspiring we are. Little kids will run up all excited and be like "I want to try that!". People have never seen anything like it and they are just blown away. It gives me goosebumps to talk to them. They come to us in tears, really in awe and really deeply touched. All ages, all backgrounds, all walks of life - so many different people can appreciate this. And we get so much fan mail! I won't do any of their letters justice, but there was this one that really stands out.
We performed at a corporate event for a huge sales company at the Denver arts complex, we were the opening act before the keynote speaker. There were thousands of sales people in their gray suits watching us, including this one guy. He wrote to us afterward and said "before the show I felt so gray, so down, I felt kinda lost and then you guys walked onstage and literally it opened my chest, it made me cry, it made me feel like there are possibilities..."
I don't know how he found us to send us this cool email, we didn't have a sign or any information available at the event. For somebody to go out of their way to find us to tell us that we impacted his life...it's so great. It's the people, the community, the outpouring of support that drives me to continue doing this.
Kasey: What is your dream for the future of AscenDance?
Isabel: My long term goal is to create a following and a community and support to be able to do bigger things, like long theater performances with a big group of performers with more intense choreography.
The rock wall truck will be a big driver for that. I want to be able to create a sustainable system between paid gigs and free community events. When we're traveling for paid events, the truck will give us freedom to do free performances for communities and schools and underprivileged neighborhoods. The truck will also open so much more possibility for outdoor events and festivals.
And then, of course my big goal. I have dreamed my whole life of bringing AscenDance back to my home country - Germany. My entire Dad's side of my family is there and I want them to see it. I want to perform at the places in my hometown where Pina Bausch (a famous choreographer) performed.
Meet the team!
I'm a musician, dancer, parkour athlete, and circus artist. I love dancing because it bridges my love of music and movement. I've been playing piano my whole life and teaching piano and playing music professionally. I've always enjoyed dancing and climbing and being outdoors. This is just the perfect combo of those worlds for me!
I've been with AscenDance for about 6 or 7 years. I used to be really into ballet. I love doing this kind of dance because having the wall is a choreographic challenge. It really releases your creativity when you have the constraints of a vertical surface and specific handholds. It's a whole other world you get to create. The vertical wall gives the audience a much more dynamic experience.
I grew up as a gymnast and I went to college for dance. I teach tumbling and acrobatics now and I also dance hip hop. I love dancing with Isabel because each dancer gets to put our own creative energy into the process.
My background is in gymnastics and rock climbing. It's a funny story, I read an article about AscenDance Project at work. The next day, Isabel came in to hang flyers for an audition. I was behind the desk, so I told her I would hang the flyers, but instead I took the fliers and auditioned myself! I ended up hanging the flyers anyway and we got more people. I've been with them for 6 years now.
"What feeds my soul and fulfills me is the drive to share my performances. We dance because music moves us. We perform because we want to share the beauty of climbing. Ultimately, we step onstage because we hope the audience will feel something." - Isabel
Isabel von Rittberg
Like what you see? Check out my personal branding gallery or send me a message below to learn how your business can benefit from a personal branding photo shoot. I'd love to get to know you and hear all about your passions.
Sending good vibes and love!
- Kasey, Fractured Frame Photography