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A chance to shine

Aspen Times Staff Report

The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s second performance of its 2000-2001 season, “Winter Dances,” is a journey of discovery in contemporary dance.

Comprised of four very different ballets – Nicolo Fonte’s “Everyday Incarnation,” George Balanchine’s “Sonatine,” Dwight Rhoden’s “Ave Maria” and David Parson’s “The Envelope” – the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s performance brings to the stage something for every kind of ballet enthusiast.

The most impressive element of the show is how the mixed repertoire is able to showcase each of the 10 ASFB dancers. At different points throughout the evening, different members of the company shine brightly, reminding onlookers of the individual strengths each of them adds to the company.

This is no more evident than in the first piece of the evening – “Everyday Incarnation,” choreographed for the ASFB by Nicolo Fonte. A quick-tempo ballet set to the music of Vivaldi, this ensemble ballet features seven of the ASFB dancers.

“Everyday Incarnation” shows the great physical endurance of the company and its ability to adapt to a dynamic, modern style of dance unique to Fonte. The power and strength of the piece is particularly showcased through the performances of Katie Dehler, Marisa Mackel and Sam Chittenden.

Dehler shows a great ability to connect with the audience, while Mackel’s technical strength and confidence on stage elevate the integrity of the performance. Chittenden, another rising star at the ASFB, also performs with a power and poise that is extraordinary.

Following the fury of “Everyday Incarnation” is the equally powerful, yet greatly contrasting “Son-atine,” created by George Balanchine. This is a soft, lyrical pas de deux showcasing ballet’s more classical form.

Propelled by the elegant performances of Elizabeth Johansen and Chittenden, its sweet love story captivates the audience not only with the beauty of the choreography, but the dancers as well. This is Johansen’s time to shine, and she successfully approaches the piece with a feminine, steadfast ability to charm her audience, making it hard to take your eyes off of her.

Each time she enters the stage there is a soft gasp from the audience. And her subtle flirtatious interaction with the equally impressive Chittenden brings a vulnerability and innocence to the piece. The performance last weekend had the audience cheering, “More! More! More!”

The ASFB follows the Balanchine piece with a second pas de deux, the evening’s showstopper – “Ave Maria.”

Choreographed by the ac-claimed Dwight Rhoden, “Ave Maria,” an ASFB premiere, is an intense and incredibly challenging ballet, but it’s executed with passion, commitment and precision by its two dancers, Brooke Klinger and Seth Delgrasso.

With the haunting composition of Cacini, Klinger and Delgrasso show a maturity and intimacy in the performance of their roles. Their technical execution of the piece is remarkable. At one point in the ballet, Klinger shows her capability with a long grand pli balancing on pointe. It is an act of strength and concentration unlike any other performance in the evening’s repertoire.

With religious imagery intertwined with wild passion, Rhoden’s choreography is as groundbreaking as it is timeless. The ASFB production – with costuming by Janet Cambell, paired with Klinger’s loose dark hair and Delgrasso’s untiring authority – is nothing less than stunning. Klinger and Delgrasso’s spectacular performance of “Ave Maria” is a distinct triumph for the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

Shifting gears once again, the evening closes with “The Envelope,” a humorous ensemble performance and the second ASFB premiere of the night. Touching upon comical parodies of divas and celebrity, “The Envelope” shows a completely different face of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

Its innovative and very modern approach to performance allows the dancers a chance to really show their personalities. Barefoot and free, the seven dancers, led by the engaging performances of Ethan White and Patrick Thompson, finish the evening on a lighthearted note.

“Winter Dances” on a whole is a fresh, exciting medley of contemporary ballets. The ballet selections chosen by directors Jean-Philippe Malaty and Tom Mossbrucker show the developing confidence and promise in this ballet company.

Each showcases the strengths in each of its dancers, leaving audience members asking how this company could possibly improve. Yet somehow, thanks to the leadership of Malaty and Mossbrucker, the ASFB always shows they can move forward, and they do.


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