Looking for classic ballet with tutus and Swan Lake and the whole bit? Keep looking. Or better yet, catch that on your next vacation.
If you're interested in explosive, powerful, expressive and energetic contemporary dance forms presented by athletic artists, however, you need look no further than the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
With a reputation for commissioning new works from rising choreographers, this year the company celebrates two decades running, and executive director Jean-Philippe Malaty says that's likely to be the ongoing course for dancers who split their time between the two mountain cities, as well as touring to dozens of locales each season.
"In our 20-year existence, we have commissioned 30 new ballets, which is a remarkable amount," Malaty tells SFR. "We have created a unique identity for the company, and so now the company is really in high demand, because if you want to see those works by those choreographers, we are the only one to perform it."
That avant garde identity matters greatly, he explains.
"It's important to us. America didn't need another generic dance company, and so when we set up to start this ballet company, we really wanted to have a unique identity and a unique sense of aesthetic, and we want to represent the communities where we are from," he says, noting that the approach resonates more with time.
"We really have played a role in educating the audience and developing a taste for contemporary ballet. I'm sure it was not the case when we first started, but I think we have built up the brand, and people trust that they are going to see great dance, and they have acquired a taste for it."
The upcoming season features three works, including the July 10 world premiere of a commissioned work from Alejandro Cerrudo of Spain, currently in residence at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. That one is so new that as of press time, it still doesn't have a name.
Cerrudo worked with the company in November to experiment with phrases and movements, and he's due to meet with dancers again next month. Malaty says the name might just wait until the choreographer sees how the production, including light design and costumes, is living up to the vision.
Also scheduled for July and September performances are 1st Flash by Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo and the return of Beautiful Mistake by Cayetano Soto.
Soto's work is a "fan favorite," Malaty says, in part because it's the third work for the company by the choreographer, also from Spain.
"He has a good understanding of our dancers' strengths, and he is also able to really tap the essence of the company and the forward-looking ethic," Malaty says. "I would say it's a very edgy work. He's from Europe, and that's kind of what contemporary dance looks like in Europe, and we don't have an opportunity to see that in this country very often. It's abstract, and it has a very cool side to it. It is very popular with the younger crowd, and it is visually stunning, with light and design."
Yet ASFB's role in Santa Fe isn't all modern. Dancers from the company's ballet school in Santa Fe also participate in the annual Christmas-season performance of one of the most famous classic ballets, at least for American audiences.
"We are not a classical dance company; we don't do full-length story ballet. We don't do Swan Lake. We don't do Sleeping Beauty. That's not who we are," he says. "We do have the exception that every year we do The Nutcracker, and that is as classical as we get. That is our gift to the community."
Why give that gift?
"That's an opportunity for the students to dance side by side with the professional dancers and to be inspired to be in a professional production—to one day dream of being the Sugar Plum Fairy. So that is the one exception that we make once a year."
In another nod to tradition, the company also recently took over management of the Juan Siddi Flamenco Company, an ensemble of 13 dancers and musicians that plans shows on July 12, 21, 26; August 1, 29; and Sept. 5.