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Jack Anderson

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet


Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street, Chelsea,
Through February 27, 2011;
(212) 242-0800,;
Reviewed by Jack Anderson, February 27, 2011

The gusto of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is irresistible. Here is a company that clearly enjoys romping through space, and the slightly offbeat repertory assembled by its directors, Tom Mossbrucker and Jean-Philippe Malaty, makes its performances more than just displays of energy. Yet it has plenty of energy to display, as was evident in the three works it chose for its latest New York visit.

The only vaguely familiar item among them was Jiri Kylian's "Stamping Ground," created in 1983 and seldom seen in recent years. Although a product of this Czech-born Dutch-based choreographer's fascination with Australian Aboriginal culture, it extends beyond the Antipodes in its scope for, when after a long introductory passage in silence, music is heard, it is a recording of a percussion toccata by the Mexican composer Carlos Chávez .

During that introduction, dancers emerge one by one from behind shimmering dark curtains. As they continue to the music, they take wide stances, lurch, sway, and appear to stake out territory for themselves. Here is ground on which they can stamp, and although danger may lurk, they are ready to accept that danger as part of existence. And who are these beings? Humans? Animals? Humans ceremonially possessed by totem animals? We can come to our own conclusions. But what was indisputable was the way the Aspen Santa Fe dancers made these figures powerful presences.

They were equally powerful in the New York premiere of "Uneven," which introduced the Spanish choreographer Cayetano Soto to East Coast audiences. Seated in a tentlike structure upstage left, Kimberly Patterson played a cello score by David Lang filled with scurrying notes. Eight dancers also scurried, entering from and returning to black curtains, always in haste, but never in apparent panic. Coiling around one another and lifted so that their bodies formed jagged shapes in the air, they made "Uneven" a strong repudiation of harmonious proportions, and thereby aroused curiosity about what Soto's other ballets might look like.

New Yorkers in recent years have grown to know what Jorma Elo's ballets look like. Although a New York premiere, "Red Sweet" was essentially the mixture as before. The Finnish choreographer loves to pulverize classical steps into sharp shards of movement, and this time he did it to music by Vivaldi and Biber while dancers moved across a floor glowing with strips of color, including red. The results did not appear quite as antic as usual. But, conceivably, we have just grown used to Elo's style.

The company should make sure audiences don't get too accustomed to an overall style exemplified by this program. Dancers moving always at high speed out of dark curtains: even though it's now exciting to watch, too much of this sort of thing over time could eventually grow monotonous. What might Aspen Santa Fe be like in something lyrical, or comic?

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