ASPEN SANTA FE BALLET
October 24, 2014
Closing in on its 20th anniversary season next year, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is a company that has thoroughly embraced the contemporary. With its two home bases, an ongoing quest for innovation, and dedication to commissioning and licensing diverse 21st century ballets, the eleven dancer company has met much choreographic talent. This week the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet returned to The Joyce Theater for its seventh season, presenting the works of Cayetano Soto, Jirí Kylián, and Nicolo Fonte.
Beneath muted lights, two couples take off in a whirl of slicing limbs and flared fingers, ferocious in their in execution. Cayetano Soto's "Beautiful Mistake" marks one of the company's recent (2013) commissions, showcasing the dancers' technical strength and athleticism. Before long others enter the space allowing transitions to new encounters and groupings; the mood is serious with a hint of seduction. Perhaps most curious about the presentation of Soto's work is its placement in the program, as it was by far the pinnacle of the evening.
Soto's choreographic style is notable; each movement is compelling in its articulation and asymmetry, which the dancers own in their precise performance. Bouts of silence compliment the intermittent pauses in the movement that showcase far more than stillness and rather off-kilter balances. In particular, senior dancer Samantha Klanac Campanile emerges as a stand out performer, proving practice really does make perfect.
From the adventurous place "Beautiful Mistake" leaves us, Jirí Kylián’s "Return to a Strange Land" shifts to a much more subdue and melancholy atmosphere. The formal structure of alternating duets and trios is colored by intricate lifts which unfurl into images of bodies as momentary sculptures. Dancers in pale blue and nude colored leotards carry out the fluid movement phrases against stark backdrops. This simplicity is challenged just once with a section performed before strewn autumn leaves. The musical accompaniment, four emotional compositions by Leos Janacek, is performed live by Pianist Han Chen. Knowing this work was created in 1975 to commemorate Kylián’s mentor John Cranko, adds a more personal lens to the experience.
Closing the program was Nicolo Fonte's "The Heart(s)pace," another commission which just premiered this past February. It's a lighthearted work pairing Ezio Bosso's high-energy score with color, movement patterns, and smiles. A white scrim stage right creates an immediate sense of space, as if the dancers are partially encased in a room. Seah Johnson's dynamic lighting brings the work from an initial point of passion and intrigue with the stage doused in red, quickly contrasted by piercing white lights, and then evolving to color-blocked panels of red, pink, and orange and white circular patterns splayed across the side scrim.
The movement bounces between spurts of ensemble work in unison to simultaneous solos and a few briefly separated from the group. Occasionally the dancers collect in a "v" pattern center stage or return to the floor, balancing on their backs with their legs lifted upwards. Dancer Seia Rassenti shines in a passionate pas de duex that leaves her alone (only briefly), standing and staring forward, in a hallway of white light across the foot of the stage.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Jennifer Thompson