Aspen Santa Fe Ballet This Weekend Will Make You Rethink Dance

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

Work from dance companies that ventures beyond traditional genre definitions has become more mainstream recently, but if you still think of your yearly pilgrimage to the “Nutcracker” when you think ballet, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company’s performances this weekend, Feb. 27-28, presented by Dance St. Louis at Touhill, might be the perfect way to help you rethink ballet. ALIVE found out a little more about the NYC-based ASFB and what they have in store for STL when we chatted with Artistic Director Tom Mossbrucker.

"Return to a Strange Land," courtesy of ASFB and Dance St. Louis.

“Return to a Strange Land,” courtesy of ASFB and Dance St. Louis.

1/ ASFB is more than pirouettes and pliés. “Ballet” is in the name (paying homage to the dancers’ classical ballet training), and while you can expect the female dancers to dance pointe, ASFB labels itself a “contemporary dance company.” It’s a broad term that encompasses the scope of their repertoire, which draws upon a group of choreographers from around the world to create a unique style blending classical ballet, contemporary grace, a European aesthetic and rugged, all-American athleticism.

 

"Return to a Strange Land," courtesy of ASFB and Dance St. Louis.

“Return to a Strange Land,” courtesy of ASFB and Dance St. Louis.

2/ Expect intense partnering, deep emotion and a study in contrasts. ASFB commissioned “Beautiful Mistake,” by Barcelona-born, Munich-based choreographer Cayatano Soto, and Mossbrucker says that the piece, their fourth from the much sought-after Soto, really encapsulates the spirit of the company. “It’s extremely physical, articulate and complex, especially in partnering,” he says, adding that it pairs great emotional weight with its almost acrobatic physicality. Set to dreamy New Age music, “the movement itself is very harsh and aggressive and angular and has a great dynamic, in total opposition to the music,” Mossbrucker says. “It almost looks at if the two pieces were separate and came together.”

 

"Beautiful Mistake," courtesy of ASFB and Dance St. Louis.

“Beautiful Mistake,” courtesy of ASFB and Dance St. Louis.

3/ The program is set to showcase how contemporary dance has evolved. Need a talking point for a dinner party? After this performance you’ll be able to describe how the origins of contemporary dance tended to be “sparse and architectural,” in Mossbrucker’s words. He cites the program’s middle piece, “Return to a Strange Land,” choreographed by Jirí Kylián in 1975, as a prime example of this early style. From there, it’s become more emotional, like in “Beautiful Mistake,” but also like in the other piece of the night, “The Heart(s)pace.” Choreographed by Brooklyn native Nicolo Fonte and set to an Italian composition, it premiered last year and presents yet another remarkable contrast to the darkness of “Beautiful Mistake” with bright lighting and exuberant movements. Pass the Bordeaux, darling.

To find out more about Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s performances Feb. 27-28, check out Touhill’s website.

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