The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet put on an exquisite, diverse performance on January 25, 2017, at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts. The audience was filled with excited patrons eager to see the small companies presentation of three works. Each piece choreographed by a different artist displayed the company’s ability to perform various repertoire and dance styles.
The performance began with the curtain rising slowly and a crackling noise consumed the auditorium; a solo dancer was on stage. My eyes went to her somewhat bug like shadow casting on a large scrim that cut the stage on the diagonal. The piece developed as the six dancers zigzagged in and out of the scrim cut into multiple sections drawing the audience into the other side. There were various elements of weight sharing and partnered lifts accompanied with graceful, yet detailed movements. Some movement vocabulary was insect like with stillness and a sudden jab, or twitch. The intricate movements coupled with the weaving in and out of the scrim as couples worked their way on stage made for an interesting piece. The shadowed lighting and intricate partnering was intriguing and invited the audience into the dancer’s world. The well-known Jiri Kyliån from Nederlands Dans Theatre choreographed this piece titled Sleepless. It displayed the dancer’s abilities to utilize their strong ballet technique training coupled with a contemporary weight sharing and grounded feeling.
The second piece titled Eudemonia meaning “human flourishing” was choreographed by Cherice Barton and was premiered only a few weeks prior to this evening’s performance. This fun, somewhat quirky piece revealed the ups and downs of happiness and the challenges of obtaining one’s happiness. The literal work seemed to embody the playfulness of the eight dancers through the movement and how they interacted with one another. Coupled with the music and sound, the concept of the piece was literally displayed through the movement. There were vignettes each with it’s own conception of happiness. A beautiful moment of one dancer giving all her weight to four others laid out on the floor exposed the dancer’s trust for one another as a corps de ballet. Throughout the work, one dancer embodied somewhat of a jazzy, Chicagoan Fred Astaire teaching others of happiness. Within the various vignettes, the music would couple the mood of the dancers’ happiness, or lack thereof. Ironically, the dancers were dressed in shades of blue, which complimented the blue dusk-like lighting. At the conclusion of the piece, the dancers stepped out on the edge of the stage with big smiles, leaving the audience with a sense of euphoria. A grand applause overtook the auditorium throughout intermission. This piece allowed audience members, some of whom are not dancers, a very clear path to connect with the concept of happiness and feel a mutual understanding with the performers.
The third piece was choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo entitled Little Mortal Jump, and I can assure there was nothing little about it. Dancers were dressed in gray tones, men in suspenders, button-up shirts, and socks and the women in dark tight fitting dresses while the stage lighting was dark and musky. On the contrary, the music had an uplifting tone. The dancers interacted with four large moveable wall sections on wheels. These props were used to create a more defined space on the stage. They were also used to bring two dancers above ground; through the use of a Velcro suit two dancers were stuck onto two of the moveable wall sections turning the piece light-hearted . The movement vocabulary throughout the piece was expansive. There was a constant flow of between couples, trios, and the corps interacting with the large walls. Boundaries would break either with music, movement, and/or the shifting of the large blocks on wheels. The strength and athleticism of the dancers was highly evident.
After the performance Executive Director, Jean-Phillippe Malaty, and Artistic Director, Tom Mossbrucker, spoke to the audience about the unique development of the company and how it came to have two home base cities. They pride themselves on being a ballet company, although some might argue their works are predominantly modern or contemporary. The directors emphasized that they were a corps de ballet in the sense that their pieces were often movement vocabularies with more mid-to high level movements, and the term ballet doesn’t not always imply classical. The company travels up to 25 cities in a year and are able to do so with the generous funding of supporters. When asked how the directors ensure the dancers physical and mental well being throughout an unusually high travel schedule, they said they do so with a nurturing, supportive environment that allows the dancer to feel apart of a family yet independent enough to drive their creativity. Due to the company not having a resident choreographer, which is unusual for a ballet company, Malaty and Mossbrucker emphasized the importance of the company building a relationship with outside choreographers. This works well with the company’s demanding travel schedule and also ensures the dancers confidence to learn and trust with the choreographers. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is a ballet company of eleven dancers.
Sutton Anker is originally from Littleton, Colorado. Sutton’s love of dance took root at a young age when she began dancing at a local studio. This passion carried into college where Sutton earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance concentration of Science from the University of Wyoming and recently completed her Masters of Science in Dance Science from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London, UK. Sutton has performed in various productions throughout her college and professional career including From the Ashes: A Cinderella Ballet, Duet and Power/Full (a Bill T Jones and Arnie Zane Dance Company production), The Nutcracker, Boxed Set, The Little Mermaid and Six Songs from Ellis. Her technical background includes training in ballet, release technique, Horton, modern, tap, jazz, vertical dance, hip-hop, and pointe. Alongside Sutton’s passion of performing and teaching, Sutton has concentrated her studies and interest in the field of Dance Science. Sutton has presented at several Dance Science international conferences including the 2010 Performing Arts Medical Association conference with her research Specific Stretching for Individual Needs, and the 2013 International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) Conference presenting her research Effect of Mirrors on Dancers’ Ability to Learn Movement. Sutton is excited to announce that her M.Sc. thesis, An Investigation of the Pedagogical Rationales for Current Mirror Use in a Ballet Technique Class was accepted to the 2016 IADMS Conference in Hong Kong.
Sutton is teaching in the Denver Metro area and pursuing a career in dance and wellness education. She is driven to share her passion of dance to all levels and ages of dancers and non-dancers. Sutton loves everything Colorado has to offer and plans to dance her way around the world.