Neapolitan with three parts chocolate
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet presented a repeat of its August performances on Friday night — minus the gala element. Three pieces, by three European-style choreographers (one of the three, Nicolo Fonte, is American who spent many years dancing in Spain for Nacho Duato’s Compañia Nacional de Danza) offered an opportunity to appreciate, once again, some up-to-the-minute ballet choreography and brilliant dancing.
Aspen Santa Fe, under the direction of Tom Mossbrucker and Jean-Philippe Malaty, is staking an unusual artistic claim among small-to-mid-sized regional ballet companies in America. There is a commitment to commission and perform works by some of the most cutting-edge ballet choreographers around and to pretty much ignore everything else. The directors have also put together a lean and mean arts organization, spending a lot of time on the road and casting dancers who can endure working at an extremely intense level.
A repertory concert by a different company might include one piece in AFSB’s genre — a dance by one of its young hotshots. But classical works would accompany it, in order to provide balance and context. There are no Balanchine ballets in Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s current repertoire. The annual Nutcracker production is the only nod to the classical repertory all year. To watch ASFB, one would think that the quirky modern dance-influenced works offered by these three choreographers represented everything that was happening in ballet. Of course, that is not the case.
However, the 10 dancers of the company looked beautiful performing highly physical, pointe-shoeless works by Cayetano Soto, Jorma Elo, and Fonte. If only the works presented weren’t so similar to one another in style. It becomes almost difficult to think about them separately. The music, lighting, and choreography establishes differences between the dances, but each contains a similar attention to quirky gestures, sharp-edged partnering, group energy, and expansive physicality.
How strange to became jaded to dynamic, virtuosic, endurancetesting, full-throttle dancing. Still, after a while, without many pauses to show off a line or let stillness have its say, one becomes inured to the flamenco-like grito of it — the shout.
Soto’s Uneven, commissioned last year and debuted during the company’s summer season, features short cello lines by a soloist (Kimberly Patterson, in this case) performed against prerecorded loops of string music. In this dance, a twitchy, asymmetrical assemblage of shapes and athletic partnering, it seemed perfectly logical that the lighting design would feature spotlights that shined, annoyingly, directly into the eyes of the audience.
The women of the company danced with a certain wildness that was exciting. Katherine Bolaños, Katie Dehler, and Samantha Klanac were highly articulate. The men — William Cannon, Sam Chittenden, Seth DelGrasso, Nolan DeMarco McGahan, and Joseph Watson — were in charge of engaging those feminine energies. The duets which occurred were highly charged and risky-looking. Solos, handed out generously by Soto, usually served as contrast to other action on stage rather