Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Returns to Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival for 82nd Season Finale, Now thru 8/24
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (ASFB), one of the country's leading contemporary ballet companies, returns to Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival for the 82nd season finale. The company, dually-based in Aspen, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico, has established a mission of commissioning and performing work from international choreographers, building a diverse repertoire of tailor-made works. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, described as a company's whose "excited adulation has a tinge of wonderment that might charm the most cynical of New York dance fans" by Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times, brings three stylish contemporary ballets to the Pillow. Under the direction of Tom Mossbrucker and Jean-Philippe Malaty, the company will present Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo's vigorous Over Glow, with music by Ludwig van Beethoven and Felix Mendelssohn; the dramatic Beautiful Mistake by Spanish-born, Munich-based choreographer Cayetano Soto; and Nicolo Fonte's exuberant The Heart(s)pace set to music by Ezio Bosso. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet closes the 2014 Festival season in the Ted Shawn Theatre, today, August 20-24.
"Aspen Santa Fe Ballet was an unknown entity when they first performed at the Pillow in 2003. Now they are among the most popular companies," says Pillow Executive and Artistic Director Ella Baff. "Audiences love this company. The dancers are fresh and sharp, and perform a wide range of styles by contemporary choreographers, some of whom Tom and Jean-Philippe jumpstarted by commissioning adventurous new dances."
These performances mark the company's 5th engagement in the historic Ted Shawn Theatre. Of the company's 2011 program, Janine Parker of The Boston Globe remarked that the dancers are "shape shifters who slip between pristine classicism and the oddest of contemporary movements with unconscious ease."
The first work on this mix-billed program, Over Glow, is a lively and dynamic ensemble piece that combines Jorma Elo's lush choreography with swift balletic phrasing to a classical score by Beethoven and Mendelssohn. With female dancers costumed in electric green mini-dresses and men in bright blue trousers, the lighting design of neon colors accentuates the uplifting lively movement. In describing the work to Stewart Oksenhorn of The Aspen Times Weekly, Elo comments, "there is a strong element of dying, of death. And of something continuing despite that. When one thinks of death, you think something stops. But nothing stops. The machinery keeps on going. Is it sad, or beautiful? I don't know."
Beautiful Mistake features nine dancers in a 2013 work by Cayetano Soto. Of the work's title, Debra Levine of ArtsMeme writes, "A mistake? Nothing in this ballet - not a beat nor a move - seems less than purposeful." Soto's choreography presents a series of angular pas de deux and trios performances to a contrasting score of electronic music by Ólafur Arnalds and classical composition by Charles Wilson. The dancers' physiques are highlighted by sheer black costuming designed by Nete Joseph. During an interview with Andrew Blackmore Dobbyn of The Huffington Post, Soto reflects that "when you're working, unexpected things happen in the studio with the dance or the music and it's a mistake. But the mistake is so beautiful that I need to use it."
The Heart(s)pace, a 2014 addition to the company's repertoire, is a joyful, upbeat, and complex work by Nicolo Fonte. This piece relates to the heart, love, and even familial relations, as costume designer Christine Joly de Lotbiniere notes, "For both Nicolo and I there is a personal connection to [the heart], as both our fathers passed away very recently from heart implications/complications." Costumed in deep red leotards the ensemble of eight performers displays strong visual shapes through organically inspired movement and physical contact. Of the premiere performance Jackie Jadrnak of Albuquerque Journal describes Fonte's work as "a clever play on words that evokes both the feelings you hold within your heart and the beat of the organ's life-giving pulse."
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, was founded in 1996 through the efforts of founder, Bebe Schweppe inviting Tom Mossbrucker and Jean-Philippe Malaty to develop a small professional ballet company in Aspen, Colorado. After making an agreement with a presenting organization in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the company changed its name to Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and calls each city its home. The combination of these two home cities, each known for the depth and breadth of its artistic community, creates a unique partnership and lends a strong dance presence in each area. The company's repertoire includes works by renowned choreographers such as David Parsons, George Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Trey McIntyre, Lar Lubovitch, and Twyla Tharp.
Executive director Jean-Philippe Malaty was born in France and studied at Europe's prestigious L'École Mudra, Maurice Béjart's first school in Brussels, John Cranko's Ballet School in Stuttgart, and traveled to America to study at the David Howard Dance Center. Artistic director Tom Mossbrucker was one of The Joffrey Ballet's most celebrated dancers with a 20-year career, performing in over 70 ballets under the direct coaching of founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino. Together, Malaty and Mossbrucker celebrate ASFB's 20th anniversary season in 2014. The company is "a class act, a classic act, and an extraordinarily engaging act: it's the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet...the company has much of the pulsating energy of the old Joffrey Ballet," writes Clive Barnes of New York Post.