A magnet for choreographers

The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet presents a unique blend of contemporary and classical dance.

By ORI J. LENKINSKI
March 25, 2011 15:14
4 minute read.
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet dancers

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet 520. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Bebe Schweppe founded the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in 1996 in Colorado. A former dancer, Schweppe established the Aspen Ballet School in 1990.

Today, the school provides dance training for some 500 students yearly and hosts a Mexican folklore outreach program. Six years after opening the doors to her academy, Schweppe called upon Tom Mossbrucker and Jean Philippe Mataly to direct a professional company in Aspen. In 2000, the troupe officially made a second home in Santa Fe, splitting their year between the two cities. The company will officially premiere in Israel on Tuesday with one show at the Haifa Auditorium.

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Immediately following, ASFB will continue on to the Herzliya Performing Arts Center for four additional shows.

Since its inception in 1996, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet has been a repertory company. ASFB is a magnet for internationally acclaimed choreographers, drawing them away from the familiar studios of New York, London and Paris to the Wild West. In 15 years, ASFB has presented 24 ballets by the world’s top creators, including Twyla Tharp, Ohad Naharin and Moses Pendleton of Momix.

Unlike many directors of similar companies, neither Mossbrucker nor Mataly is a choreographer. Both enjoyed long careers as dancers; Mossbrucker with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, and Mataly with the Los Angeles Classical Ballet, Ballet Hispanico and others. In a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, Mossbrucker explained that while he feels passionately about good choreography, he does not want to create it himself. “Because neither one of us choreographs, I can’t rely on myself to make new pieces for the company. We present four new ballets every year.”

Thankfully, the serene scenery and seasoned dancers of ASFB are a huge draw for any choreographer. “Some of our dancers have been in the company for over 10 years.

Our newest has been with us for four. Aspen is beautiful and quiet. We give the choreographer the whole day to create, and they really get immersed in what they’re doing. It’s a great place for choreographers to work.”

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For their Israeli debut, Mossbrucker and Mataly put together a mixed program, which will introduce local audiences to the unique blend of contemporary and classical dance for which they have become famous. The evening will include: Stamping Ground by Jiri Kylian, Red Sweet by Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo and Where We Left Off by Nicolo Fonte. Though Elo and Fonte will not accompany the dancers to Israel, this tour also marks their official debut in the country.

Mossbrucker and Mataly spend a great deal of their time searching for the fresh talents to present. “We are always looking for something new...

the next great or interesting choreographer. When we see it, we know it. When we saw Fonte’s work for the first time, we just knew. We were on the phone calling him right away. The same with Jorma Elo,” said Mossbrucker.”

Though the changing programs ASFB presents each season keep their audience engaged, the downside is the lack of personal connection visiting artists have with the 10 dancers of the company. “The dancers have to be a blank slate for all the choreographers they work with. They have to strip everything down and fit the choreographer’s vision. What we’ve tried to do is create relationships with choreographers.

Single choreographer companies foster strong relationships with dancers. We try to make that here.

Nicolo knows the dancers very well.

He knows their strengths and weaknesses. If we had a resident choreographer, it would be him.”

Where We Left Off premiered in February and is the eighth ballet Fonte has made for ASFB.

Over the past several years, Elo has risen to the top of the dance charts.

He is the house choreographer for the Boston Ballet and has been commissioned by many international troupes, including New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater.


Elo’s work combines sharp, technical movement with flawless musicality.

“Elo has had a long affiliation with ASFB,” said Mossbrucker. “This is the third piece he has done for the company, and we are honored to have him. He’s from Finland, so it was difficult for us to get a visa for him. We weren’t able to commission him for a long time.

The thing I like about his work is that he uses the same vocabulary, but the pieces look different on all the dancers.

It looks completely different on our company than on American Ballet Theater or Hubbard Street. He creates for each company.” Red Sweet was commissioned by ASFB in 2009.

The third piece in the program is the oldest, made by Kylian in 1983.

“It’s nice for the audience to see a mixed program, and this is a very interesting one,” said Mossbrucker.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet will perform at the Haifa Auditorium on March 29 (for tickets, call (04) 835-3506) and at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center on March 30, 31, April 1 and 2 (for tickets visit www.hoh-herzliya.co.il or call 1-700-70-2929).

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