By Christine Benedetti | November 20, 2015 | Culture
To celebrate its landmark 20th anniversary, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet looks back to keep looking forward.
Spanish choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s Silent Ghost will be one of a trio of new and contemporary performances commemorating Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s 20th year.
Commissioning works by emerging choreographers has always been part of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s identity, and it’s a testament to that identity to note where the company’s past roster is now. Many of the choreographers ASFB has worked with have gone on to secure resident positions at very esteemed companies— Cayetano Soto’s placement with Ballet BC in May 2015 is only the most recent.
“We love to say we found Soto frst,” says Jean-Philippe Malaty, ASFB’s executive director.
Others include Alejandro Cerrudo at Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Jorma Elo with Boston Ballet, and Nicolo Fonte with Utah’s Ballet West. Over the years, each has created distinct pieces exclusively for ASFB, and fnding new posts hasn’t kept them from continuing to do so.
In fact, Soto’s third commission debuts in February for the offcial opening of ASFB’s 20th season (the holiday performances of perennial family-favorite The Nutcracker, on December 12 and 13, don’t open the season, despite coming earlier). Created specifcally for the anniversary year, the Barcelona-born, Munich-based Soto’s piece will highlight a winter program bolstered by Alejandro Cerrudo’s Silent Ghost, which premiered last summer, and a company debut by Brazil’s Fernando Melo.
“An easy [choice for this season’s program would have been] to bring back our favorites of the past 20 years, and it’s pretty standard to commemorate those for an anniversary,” says Malaty. “But we’ve never done what other companies do. We always look forward, and that’s created a unique identity for the company. We commission so many great new works. Why change now?”
ASFB was founded in 1996 as Aspen Ballet Company and School by Bebe Schweppe, who recruited Malaty and Artistic Director Tom Mossbrucker, both former Joffrey Ballet dancers, like Schweppe herself, to run it. Her vision for an acclaimed dance program in the middle of the Rocky Mountains may have seemed like an illusion at the time, but it’s been realized today. ASFB has since doubled its number of dancers to 12, developed a hybrid business model with Santa Fe, continued to commission innovative and adventurous works, and toured to some of the most prestigious stages in the world.
“For a long time, we had the mentality of ‘one season at a time.’ But before we knew it, we were not a start-up anymore. We were a role model,” says Malaty. “We went into uncharted territory, and we don’t have a blank slate—we have a track record.” Aspen District Theatre, 335 High School Road, 970-920-5770
photography by rosalie o’Connor