There’s a fairly common misconception about the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (ASFB) that the esteemed dance company’s executive director, Jean-Philippe Malaty, would like to clear up.
“People might think that we don’t perform a lot, or that we’re doing just one performance [this winter],” Malaty said. “They’re not always aware that we perform elsewhere, and they should try to catch us at home when they can because we have a very busy touring schedule.”
That opportunity to catch ASFB on its home turf comes tonight when the company presents a one-night-only performance of fan favorites from its repertoire at 7:30 p.m. at the Aspen District Theatre. The varied program features the jazz-inspired “Tuplet,” Swedish phenom Alexander Ekman’s multimedia exploration of rhythm; Fernando Melo’s perspective-bending “Dream Play”; and acclaimed dance maker Jorma Elo’s electric “1st Flash.”
“Every time we put a program together we try to take the audience on a journey, and we try to come up with three ballets that are different in concept or style,” Malaty said.
The program begins with “Tuplet,” described by Malaty as “a study of music and rhythm and not so much about movement.” The piece uses projections and video to complement the dancers, who are called on to create their own musical rhythms with their bodies.
“It’s a very different side of our dancers, for sure, where they almost become instruments,” Malaty said.
The innovative “Dream Play,” second on the program, also uses video by filming the dancers live as they dance and projecting the image on a giant screen behind them, so that the audience sees “two perspectives of the movement and the dance being created. One is by the dancers, and one is the image created through the camera.”
The nightcap, “1st Flash,” which hasn’t been seen in Aspen in years, is an ASFB classic that is “more of a traditional dance piece. It’s a very athletic, very powerful and very physical piece that has been in our repertoire for many years and is really a favorite.”
“Our dancers are very versatile; that’s what the company’s known for,” Malaty said. “So we want to showcase that strength with every program we do and stretch the spectrum of what they’re capable of doing.”
It’s a program of real crowd-pleasers that will only see one crowd here in ASFB’s home base, and it makes a lot of Aspenites wonder just what the dance company is doing with the rest of its time. Locally, this winter ASFB has staged “The Nutcracker” and hosted guest dance companies during Gay Ski Week, but that’s just a fraction of what the globe-trotting trope has been up to.
“What the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet does, really, is touring,” Malaty said. “The majority of our performances during the year don’t take place here. People always ask us whether we perform more in Aspen or Santa Fe, and the answer is that we perform more in Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Houston and Tel Aviv than we do at home.”
The dancers have just gotten back to Aspen after a trip to L.A. (their second of the winter), and after tonight’s performance they’re off on a big tour that will include Santa Fe and Scottsdale, Ariz., before a week-long run in New York City and a two-week sojourn to Israel for five shows in Tel Aviv and three others in cities around the country.
Malaty said the ASFB dancers won’t get a “well-deserved break” until the beginning of April, after which they’ll start gearing up for an equally busy summer. In the meantime, though, they’ll be back on their home soil tonight and able to rest their weary bones in their own beds.
Even if it is only for one night.