Patchwork of artistry |

Patchwork of artistry

Sarah Dixon
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Small and sophisticated, diverse and modern, unique and fresh – not unlike the cities it hails from, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company has made an astounding impression on critics nationwide. The eclectic dance company comes to the Vilar Center stage Tuesday.

Established in 1996 in Aspen, the company joined forces with the Santa Fe Festival Ballet. In what is described as a “joint venture” rather than a merger, the two establishments retained their own locations and identities, pooling primarily their artistic personalities. The result is a patchwork of artistry.

The company’s diversity is represented in a number of ways, the most obvious being its dual residence. Yet even more artistically diversifying is the fact that the show features the work of many different choreographers.

“Our performances are unique because we don’t have one choreographer,” said executive director Jean-Philippe Malatay. “It’s more like a museum, showing the work of many different people.”

The Vilar Center performance will feature several different pieces by contemporary choreographers. Two of the pieces were commissioned for the company, making for a one-of-a-kind show. And, with tough critics like The New York Times hailing the small cast’s performance as “a breath of fresh air,” viewers are promised a spellbinding evening.

Spellbinding and, according to Malatay, dramatically modern.

“We are a small company with 11 dancers who dance contemporary ballet,” he said. “We do not do ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ that’s not our style. It’s really a cross between modern dance and ballet.”

The performance opens with a dance titled “Ave Maria,” choreographed by Dwight Rhoden. Having served as principal dancer for the esteemed Alvin Ailey ballet company, Rhoden brings his experience and success to the stage.

Also featured is the critically acclaimed piece “Noir Blanc,” a masterpiece of illusion and creativity. Commissioned for the company by Moses Pendleton, founder of several renowned dance troupes including Pilobolus, the piece has met with rave reviews.

“It should be the hit of the evening,” said Malatay. “It’s not so much dancing as movement based on illusions. It’s very theatrical, lots of special lighting. It’s very entertaining, different from the first pieces.”

The piece features dancers clad in outfits of both black and white, and lighting which renders impossible telling where one dancer ends and another begins. The effect, according to New York Times reviewer Anna Kisselgoff, is “both obvious and delightfully deceptive.” Newsworld reviewer Sylvaine Gold classified the performance an “otherworldly masterpiece.”

The show closes with another piece commissioned for the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. Titled “Fluctuating Hemlines,” the piece was created by Septime Webre, director of the Washington Ballet company.

“It is a creation for us – only one of a kind, for us to perform,” Malatay said. “It is a high energy, full company piece, with the girls on point, very athletic closing ballet of the evening.”

And the athleticism, says Malatay, is one of the defining characteristics of the company.

“They are very outdoorsy, very active and athletic,” he said of the dancers. “And you can see the influence on stage. It’s a unique company. And the husbands in the audience won’t fall asleep – I can guarantee you of that.”

After months of performances across the nation including the acclaimed New York City debut in June, Malatay says it feels like “we spend more time elsewhere than at home.”

It’s good to have them back.

Come see the spectacle next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $45. Visit for more details.

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