Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is one of America’s best repertory ensembles. That was once again evident on Saturday night at The Egg in a mixed bill that proved that this is the little company that could.
The 10 dancers demonstrated their can-do versatility, along with their charm and vivacity in the best program of The Egg’s dance season thus far. The evening included two works specially made for the troupe, one by daring Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo and another by Momix mastermind Moses Pendleton. The evening also included William Forsythe’s entrancing pas de deux “Slingerland.”
But the surprise of the evening was the company’s staging of Twyla Tharp’s “Sue’s Leg.” The piece looks as dapper as its first showing in 1975 — a grand feat as often Tharp’s older works look brittle when plugged into a program of new works.
Kudos go to the quartet of dancers — Seth DelGrasso, Samantha Klanac, Nolan DeMarco McGahan and the sprightly Emily Proctor. Set to songs by Fats Waller, the piece is a tribute to the 1930s, with references to the dance marathon craze. The dancers maintained the jaunty, casual attitude (trademark Tharp) while dishing up a super cool mix of classical and modern dance. Proctor, dancing the solo that Tharp created for herself, was just the right combination of saucy and sweet.
The company was terrific in all of the works, which is a tribute to Artistic Director Tom Mossbrucker, a former Joffrey Ballet dancer. As a member of this venerable American repertory company, Mossbrucker learned to respect and strive for correctness when staging historic dances. The Joffrey also embraced the new. Thus the Joffrey, and now Aspen Santa Fe, continues to intrigue with its balance of preservation and creation.
Mossbrucker commissioned both the opening and closer for Aspen Santa Fe’s program, both of which were stunners. “Red Sweet,” by Elo, instantly informed the audience of the company’s might. The dance, to urgent string music by Vivaldi and Biber, followed Elo’s winning formula — dazzle the crowd with busy, sharp and hyper-rapid movement that is punctuated by quirky, but human gestures that remind everyone, that yes, these are people, accomplishing these amazing, breakneck feats. The dance was pure eye candy that generated whoops from the audience.
“Slingerland,” by Forsythe, was equally enchanting, mainly for the tension it created between its dancers, Katherine Bolanos and Sam Chittenden. Wearing a stiff, misshapen tutu, Bolanos was all legs and arms as Chittenden drew her in and away from himself. Throughout the two stayed connected, like magnets that both attracted and repelled. Set in shadowing lighting, a favorite of Forsythe’s, the duet had a forbidden voyeuristic feel. No one could or would look away.
The evening concluded with Pendleton’s “Noir Blanc,” a work similar to all of this choreographer’s pieces, bewildering for its illusion and imagination. Set to a collage of Mid-eastern sounding music, the dance featured all 10 behind a scrim and lit in black light. With only parts of their costumes illuminated, the dancers appeared otherworldly. And while the piece didn’t really fit the company’s model, it again underscored that Aspen Santa Fe can do it all and do it well.