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Dance troupe shows off its diverse skills

Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet company mixes contemporary and traditional styles

Nicolo Fonte's "Left Unsaid" is performed by the Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet. The company will perform in Salt Lake City.
Nicolo Fonte's "Left Unsaid" is performed by the Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet. The company will perform in Salt Lake City.
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

When the Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet company prepares to perform in a city for the first time, it brings a program that shows off the company's diverse skills, according to co-artistic director Jean-Phillipe Malatay.

"We want to show what we can do," Malatay said by phone from his office in Aspen, Colo. "We are a company that mixes contemporary ballet with tradition."

The program the company will bring to Salt Lake City this weekend as part of the Ballet West season is what Malatay calls his "A-list program," to include Nicolo Fonte's "Left Unsaid," Moses Pendleton's "Noir Blanc" and Trey McIntyre's "Like a Samba."

"These three works are all different," said Malatay. "Nicolo's work is one of our most popular. We perform it everywhere we go. It's very contemporary, and it's a good work to open the evening." Choreographed to the music of Bach, the piece zeroes in on the company's trademark athleticism by using three folding chairs. "We love this work. It has been good for us."

"Noir Blanc," choreographed by Pendleton, means "Black White." "Moses, whom you know is the founder of Pilobolous and Mommix, utilizes his modern sensibility with multimedia and other various effects," said Malatay. "We commissioned this work in 2002, and it uses black lights."

The last work on the program is McIntyre's "Like a Samba," danced to the music of Astrud Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim. It was originally created in 1997 for the Oregon Ballet Theatre. "It is the most classical of the pieces we are bringing in," said Malatay. "It is also one of the few works our company does on pointe."

The Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet has a long-running relationship with Ballet West. Thirty years ago, Ballet West began holding a residency in Aspen/Snowmass. As the years went on, the residency grew into DanceAspen, a festival where classes were taught to dancers from all over the country. Dance companies would also participate and perform various works.

However, with the rising costs, Ballet West stopped going to Colorado. At the same time, the Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet was formed. This marks the 10th year anniversary for the company. "So we decided to make this year special," said Malatay. "The board decided to splurge and bring Ballet West back to Aspen next year.

"As part of that exchange, Ballet West, since it had to drop its fall performance, has decided to bring us in to fill that spot. So, it's beneficial to both of us."

Ballet West artistic director Jonas Kage said the idea to bring Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet to Salt Lake City was hooked to the audience. "We had dropped the fall concert," said Kage. "And in doing so, we left the audience hanging. So we thought it would be nice to bring the dance company in ourselves to give the audience a different dance experience as part of our season."

Talks with Aspen/Santa Fe began last spring, said Kage. "It's a nice company, and we have a connection with them throughout our history. I've seen the company perform a few times, and they have worked with good choreographers. Moses Pendleton, Trey McIntyre and Nicolo Fonte are good conceptual choreographers. The works they are bringing are good and show their dancers."

Next year, Ballet West will perform as part of the Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet season. "We thought we would take some of our works that their audience hasn't seen," said Kage. "We are thinking of taking some Balanchine. Their stage is smaller than ours. So we will take our smaller works. But we're still thinking about which pieces will work the best."

Kage said Ballet West and Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet will look at this initial exchange to see what opportunities will be available for the future. "We would like to do something again. We have to watch and wait to see how it works out this year."

If you go . . .

What: Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 300 South

When: Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; also Saturday, 2 p.m.

How much: $20 and $40

Phone: 355-2787