In a town that consistently punches above its weight vis a vis the arts, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is a leading light, and on the heels of its 20th anniversary, the multifaceted company continues to raise the bar (perhaps even the barre?) on local culture.
Its mere presence has gone a long way toward educating Santa Feans about dance (it also encompasses two educational programs, the School of ASFB and ASBF Folklórico), yet the organization is decidedly reluctant to dictate meaning or interpretation to its audiences. “We don’t want to intellectualize dance,” ASFB Executive Director Jean-Philippe Malaty says. “We take a step back from that approach. We believe dance is a very visceral experience, and that is how you respond to it.” As a result, he and his colleagues prefer to let dance to speak for itself, allowing it “to provide an escape, to provide beauty, to provide the pure human spirit of expression.” At the same time, however, he adds, “We feel it’s important for us to have an audience that’s been exposed to different styles.”
That’s where ASFB Presents comes in. One of the country’s largest dance-exclusive presenters, it brings roughly a half-dozen companies to perform locally each year. “It’s important to provide a well-rounded experience for our audience,” Jean-Philippe says. “Usually we bring in a dance company that’s different from what we do.”
Since ASFB Presents was created in 1999, it has hosted companies from the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago to Paul Taylor Dance Company and Twyla Tharp to Mark Morris Dance Group, as well as international ensembles like the Peking Acrobats and Les Ballets Africains. The practice, Jean-Philippe says, is unusual in the field. “It’s part of the hybrid model we have,” he explains. “It’s a great collaboration with our colleagues in the field—giving back and helping another dance company. It keeps us on our toes. There are few other dance companies that bring other companies on their turf.” (Then again, ASFB has always done things a little bit differently. Founded in 1996 in Aspen, Colo., the company expanded its reach to Santa Fe in 2000, creating a dual-city company model.)
On Feb. 28, through ASFB Presents, the organization is bringing Pilobolus to Santa Fe to perform its new show, Shadowland. “We have always been very fond of the work of Pilobolus,” Jean-Philippe says. “They are an American icon in the dance world, and we’ve brought them to Aspen and Santa Fe a number of times over the past 20 years. The exchange went even a little bit deeper when we took one of Pilobolus’s ballets [Untitled] in our repertoire.” Continue reading