International Composition for Dance Competition

The date winners will be selected is now TBD.

The Colorado Symphony along with Wonderbound, a contemporary ballet company here in Denver, are seeking original compositions for a collaborative performance premiering in Denver, Colorado. Two world premiere dance works will be created and performed live by the Colorado Symphony and Wonderbound. Composers may submit compositions for one of the two choreographic narratives, and two winners will be selected.

As the ballets will be world premieres, the process will be a highly collaborative endeavor. This collaboration harkens back to the golden age of artistic partnerships such as Sergei Diaghilev and Maurice Ravel or George Balanchine and Paul Hindemith. The choreographers, Wonderbound Artistic Director Garrett Ammon and Wonderbound Associate Choreographer Sarah Tallman, will work with the composer and the Colorado Symphony regarding expansion and revision of each work, which will ultimately be 35-45 minutes in length per piece. Composers are encouraged to explore multiple musical themes in their initial 8-10 minute submissions, as the work submitted by May 31, 2021 will not be the final product.

Wonderbound's Henry Maximilian McCall and Amy Giammarrusco in Garrett Ammon's With Your Help with the Colorado Symphony. Photo by Amanda Tipton. 2019.

Wonderbound's Amy Giammarrusco and Ben Youngstone in Garrett Ammon's Madness, Rack, and Honey with the Colorado Symphony. Photo by Amanda Tipton. 2018.

To be eligible to win, compositions must be submitted for the instrumentations as outlined below. Any submissions that fall outside of these guidelines will be disqualified from the competition. Along with national premieres, each winner (one per choreographic narrative, two total) will be awarded a $7,500 cash prize.

  • This contest is open to everyone!
  • Applicants may enter up to one (1) original composition of their own that is an unpublished, un-premiered work, and does not infringe upon the copyright or other right of another work or person. (Arrangements will not be accepted).
  • Composition Specifics (applicable to BOTH categories):
    • As the ballets will be world premiere works, the choreographers have provided narratives to inspire composition. Compositions must fit within one of the two narratives provided below.
    • Instrumentation: 1 flute, 1 oboe, 1 clarinet, 1 bassoon, 1 horn, and strings (
    • Initial composition should be 8 - 10 minutes in length. The complete work, if selected, will be 35-45 minutes in length.
    • PLEASE NOTE! You may submit a previously written work as long as it is unpublished and un-premiered and uses some or all of the above listed instrumentation.
  • Entries submitted after May 31, 2021 will not be considered.
  • Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19 and indoor operations, the previously scheduled debut of selected works is TBD.
  • The date winners will be selected is now TBD. Winners will be selected by the International Compositions for Dance Competition Panel comprised of:
    • Kevin Puts, Pulitzer Prize winning composer
    • Andrew Litton, Music Director, New York City Ballet
    • Austin Wintory, Grammy-nominated composer
    • Christopher Dragon, Resident Conductor, Colorado Symphony
    • Garrett Ammon, Artistic Director, Wonderbound
    • Sarah Tallman, Associate Choreographer, Wonderbound
  • Compositions will be reviewed anonymously.
  • Once winners are selected, each composition will undergo a collaborative expansion and revision process with Wonderbound and the Colorado Symphony to suit the needs of the performance.
  • Winners whose works are selected will be invited to attend the premiere. Domestic travel and lodging will be provided.
  • Plagiarism of copyrighted material is illegal. It is the responsibility of the composer to assure that submitted compositions are not copyrighted.
  • World premiere of composer's complete work choreographed by Ammon and Tallman performed live by the Colorado Symphony and Wonderbound
  • $7,500 USD Cash Prize
  • Domestic round-trip, economy airfare to Denver, Colorado via United Airlines for the premiere.
  • Hotel accommodations provided for premiere date.

Submit Composition

Upload your composition files using the form at the bottom of this page.

Submissions must include:

  • Completed form — all fields are required.
  • Full score (as a PDF) without your name.
  • Audio recording (live recording, synthesized notation software, or MIDI – MP3 format) without your name.

Composition Narratives

As a dance maker, I intend to create a connection through the landscape of music and movement. I aim to take the artist and the viewer on a journey visually and emotionally. I use classicism as a point of a departure and am influenced by the abstract as a vehicle to communicate while creating character and narrative. I find excitement in the challenge of juxtaposing primal instinct alongside refined technique. My work is influenced by the theatrical and guided by the human spirit. Counterpoint, rhythms and patterns influence my movement as it provides a roadmap to a conversation between not only collaborators but also through character development and relationships within an unfolding story. I love creating characters and events that are illustrated through both music and movement.

The composition will ultimately contain 4-5 movements differing in tempos and textures while also exploring themes/variations that give voice to tone, character, and an unfolding plot. At least one of the sections should feature a melodic, romantic themed adagio.

Characters and integral scenes that will be featured include:

  • A woman – she loves her radio, Rothko, and birds
  • A man – searching for love, somewhat transient
  • An orphaned bird – appearing in her memory or reoccurring dream
  • A friend/friends
  • A life changing event
  • A radio – a comforting voice

I have written a series of narrative poems for this work and have included two as references for character, theme and place.

  Poem #1

The first poem depicts a young woman in the midst of a memory or reoccurring dream. The memory is a continual catalyst for her quest.


  Poem #2

The second poem describes a man whose voice she first believes to hear on her radio and who she believes visits her when he comes through town. The place is somewhere in small town America between the late 40s-50s.

I am looking for a collaborator who is willing to bring these poems to life and to contribute to an unfolding story.

I love telling stories. In dance, as in music, they offer an opportunity to examine characters and situations from a new perspective, to move beyond the “he said, she said,” and look under the hood, as it were.

In Edna Ferber’s The Afternoon of a Faun we follow a young and enigmatic car mechanic as he wanders Chicago on an afternoon off from his work at the Ideal Garage. As a lover of poetry, mythology, music, and dance, the story immediately struck me—in the course of twenty-one pages she takes a beloved (and perhaps well-worn) subject and imagines it anew with fantastic visuals, sounds and textures. Ferber was inspired to write the story in 1921 after going to the symphony:

Just why the story of a garage mechanic on his afternoon off should have appeared in so many short-story anthologies in the past twenty-five years is a baffling question. William Allen White and I were strolling along Fifty-seventh Street one brilliant New York spring afternoon. We had just heard the New York Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall play The Afternoon of a Faun.

“Might make a nice story,” I said, still under the spell of the sensuous music. “tough young kid with his girl in the park on a hot summer afternoon.”

“Write it,” said Bill.

So I did.

Stephen Mallarmé’s 1877 poem, L'Après-midi d'un faune, inspired Debussy to compose a bucolic environment filled with streams, sun, and sky. What does Ferber’s Cityscape sound like? For this project, I am looking for a partner and collaborator who can help bring Ferber’s story to life on stage. The final composition and ballet need not follow the story’s action scene by scene, nor linearly, could be placed in a later time-period if preferred, and could be influenced by a myriad of sources and inspirations.

I have provided Edna Ferber’s 1921 short story as well as a collection of writing, music and dance from throughout history that is related to the story.


In addition, I have provided The Dancing Girls, another short story by Ferber published in 1920. It shares similar motifs and themes, but places much of the narrative in dance halls (mentioned in passing in “Faun”) before and during WWI.


Reference materials:

  • The Pan and Syrinx tale from Ovid’s Metamorphosis
  • L'Après-midi d'un faune, Stéphane Mallarmé’s 1877 poem in original French and English translation
      Download #1    Download #2
  • Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, Claude Debussy’s 1894 symphonic poem in both sheet music and recording
      Download     Watch
  • L'Après-midi d'un faune, Vaslav Nijinsky’s 1912 ballet
  • L'Après-midi d'un faune, William Faulkner’s 1919 poem
  • Afternoon of a Faun (excerpt), Jerome Robbins’ 1953 ballet

Music referenced in Ferber’s The Afternoon of a Faun:

  • There's a Long, Long Trail a Winding, Stoddard King and Alonzo "Zo" Elliott’s 1913 song
      Watch #1    Watch #2
  • My Mammy, Walter Donaldson, Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis’ 1918 song
  • Gimme Love, unfound, possibly fictional—contains jazz measures stolen from Mendelssohn’s Spring Song
  • Songs Without Words, Book 5, Op. 62, No. 6, Allegretto grazioso: Frühlingslied ("Spring Song") (A major) 1842-44, Felix Mendelssohn
  • Tommy Toddle, unfound (possibly fictional)

Enter the Competition

The submission period has ended.

Header Image Caption: Wonderbound's Nayomi Van Brunt and Evan Flood in Sarah Tallman's I Didn't Hear You, I Was Away with the Fairies with the Colorado Symphony. Photo by Amanda Tipton. 2018.

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