HOLDTIGHT Company Presents the World Premier Together: un/tethered

The dance-theater company HOLDTIGHT, founded in 2016 and led by Gwendolyn Gussman, will be premiering together: un/tethered on Apr. 4. un/tethered will comprise three separate shows, each premiering in Denver throughout the year before culminating in a massive, epic work in 2025.

Gussman, originally from Denver before moving to New York, founded HOLDTIGHT in 2016, originally called Nourishment, before officially changing the name in 2019, based her work between both areas over the past 12 years, with this new project in development since October 2022. Its inspiration comes from the work of environmental scientists, eco-psychologists, indigenous communities and more.

“There’s so much neurological and environmental research around this, how we connect to people and stories, so when you hear someone tell you their authentic truth, it is so much more likely that you’re gonna be able to think of how that relates to your own life and the bigger picture than trying to root it in fact.” Gussman said about the way the show is set up and how it asks the audience to connect.

A recent rehearsal of together: un/tethered. Photo by Martha Wirth.

The concept of un/tethered came to Gussman in 2021, coming out of the aftermath of the pandemic in 2020, exploring our ties to the world and each other. The thoughts and beliefs that are entrenched in people can be untangled — the inspiration behind the name — and how there is no way to actually become untethered from the community and world built around you.

Gussman describes what being a participant in the show would look like, as it’s more involved than purchasing your seat and watching the spectacle. This show combines performing arts with participation — tasks incorporating environmental and psychological reflection, expression and ritual — bringing in the audience to take in what’s going on.

“We can’t fully untether, but what does it look like to elongate a tether, or to shorten, to strengthen – what’s happening in our own psyche and mind individually and then collectively that can really be ripe for change?” Gussman said, going into detail over the ideas behind un/tethered. “I ask a lot of the cast and the audience in terms of reflection and being able to sit with paradox.”

HOLDTIGHT also has many roots in environmental activism, focusing on people’s relationship with nature and the Earth. This extends beyond the stories told and is reflected in the full production, considering un/tethered is HOLDTIGHT’s most sustainable production. The show incorporates natural elements such as food-scrap-dyed set pieces and costumes, plus reclaimed set materials, to name a few, all dedicating itself to its messages and mission statements every step of the way.

A section of un/tethered from a works-in-progress showing at Carroll Hall in Bushwick, BK. Photo by Walter Wlodarczyk.

un/tethered seeks to invite anyone inquisitive, thoughtful and curious to explore the way HOLDTIGHT combines performance, psychology and the environment into one piece. Alternatively, anyone who hears the words “grief party” as one of the tag lines and gets curious. It’s a full immersive act that seeks to grow with the audience as it develops through the night and over time as the other shows premiere, as a display of what it means to be connected. Gussman wants people to walk in with a fully open mind so they can interpret it in their own way by the end.

“I don’t want anyone to walk in with an idea of ‘this is what I’m going to take from this’ because it takes away from an authentic experience of this highly crafted and really thoughtful piece. But it’ll make you feel alive – it’ll make you feel!”

together: un/tethered will premiere on April 4-6th, 2024 at the Studio Loft at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Tickets are available now.