Over the last 17 years, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (ASFB) has forged relationships between choreographers, dancers, and audiences, and earned international renown for its eclectic, energetic repertoire. But nowhere has it been so enthusiastically received as its hometown of Aspen.

“We’re so lucky to have a large audience in Aspen,” says ASFB Executive Director Jean- Philippe Malaty. “We have a relationship with our audience here that’s not possible in a bigger city.”

This winter, Aspen audiences will experience a new chapter in ASFB’s growth as it adjusts to notable departures of veteran dancers, and new arrivals. Both Nolan DeMarco McGahan and Seth DelGrasso retired this year (the latter after 17 years), and the March performance will be the final home performance for Sam Chittenden, who has been with the company for 15 years. Paul Busch and Craig Black will return for their second year, and newcomer Peter Frank, formerly with the Houston Ballet, will also join the company.

“It’s a new era,” says Malaty. “It’s a stretch that dancers stay so long. It’s always difficult when they leave, but there’s a repertoire created for them so you remember them. Now we’re starting to see new blood. It’s inspiring and rejuvenating to look at an older ballet like Samba with a new cast and fresh interpretation. We’re very lucky.”

This February and March, a highlight of the winter dance schedule is a three-night program featuring ASFB dancers. The lineup stages works by internationally renowned choreographer Jiri Kylián; Alejandro Cerrudo, resident choreographer at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago; and Trey McIntyre, artistic director and cofounder of the Trey McIntyre Project in Boise, Idaho.

Return to a Strange Land, a new piece for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, was created by Kylián in 1975 as a tribute to his mentor, John Cranko. Performed en pointe, it has a more traditional appeal. Commissioned by ASFB, Cerrudo’s Last is returning after a premier last summer. It’s an entertaining, abstract piece with dramatic music by Henryk Górecki. McIntyre’s Like a Samba is a signature piece for ASFB that premiered in 1997. Also performed en pointe, it features songs by Astrud Gilberto.

“It’s a dichotomy, looking back onstage but moving forward,” says Malaty. “People will have the chance to see new and old ballets, new performers and artists, and see how the company has changed.”

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s 2012- 2013 Winter Dance schedule.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
The Nutcracker
December 15 (2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) December 16 (1 p.m. and 5 p.m.)
Adults and children of all ages will marvel at the magic of this sumptuous production with its magnificent sets and cast of 60 dancers, actors, and circus artists.

ASFB presents
River North Dance Chicago
January 26 (7:30 p.m.)
A fusion of modern, jazz, Latin, and popular dance, River North’s popularity has catapulted it from a local Chicago dance “group” to a nationally recognized, professional company.

ASFB presents
Dance for Kids-River North Dance Chicago
January 26 (4 p.m.)
Kids of all ages will delight in the lighthearted, humorous movement showcased in this hour-long matinee—the perfect way to introduce them to the magic of dance.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
February 15 & 16 (7:30 p.m.)
A groundbreaking program featuring Jiri Kylián’s poignant Return to a Strange Land, Alejandro Cerrudo’s striking new ballet, Last, and Trey McIntyre’s seductive Like a Samba.

Encore! Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
March 16 (7:30 p.m.) A repeat performance of the February show.

All performances are held at Aspen District Theatre. Tickets are $25, $54, and $74, and are available at Aspen Show Tickets: 970-920-5770 or 866-449-0464, the box office (Aspen Show Tickets at the Wheeler Opera House), and aspensantafeballet.com

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