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And they danced

Story and pictures by May Eynon
Parsons dancers Kate Skarpetowska, Abby Silba, Sumayah McRae, Mia McSwain and Elizabeth Koeppen-McDowell.
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The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (ASFB), one of the gems of the Aspen arts, hosted another season of spectacular dance this summer.The Aspen Dance Festival, a five-week series of performances by critically acclaimed contemporary dance companies from across the country, commenced with the ASFB in mid-July. Mark Morris Dance Group, Diavolo Dance Theater, Parsons Dance Company and Les Ballets Africains rounded out the season, which concluded on Aug. 18. Seats at the Aspen District Theatre were filled for nearly every performance.”Jean-Phillipe [Malaty] and Tom [Mossbrucker] have done an amazing job in bringing a variety of programs to the festival this season,” noted Brad Moore, the director of performing arts facilities at the Aspen District Theatre [ADT]. Malaty is the executive director of the company and Mossbrucker the artistic director. Among the cutting-edge dance troupes was California-based Diavolo Dance Theatre, which entranced the audience with its dramatic piece titled “Dreamcatcher.””Trust is the foundation of our work,” said Diavolo performer Lindsay Orton. “Dreamcatcher” is set on a massive steel wheel referred to as the ring – an aluminum device weighing more than 5,000 pounds. Almost always in motion, the ring is powered by the performers who spin it, hang from it, leap off it and intermittently decelerate it through disc brakes. An upper-body-intensive piece, Dreamcatcher demands the performers are perfectly in tune with their strength and timing to maintain the constant flow of movement and swift control.”We have many other dances in our repertoire,” explained associate artistic director Meegan Godfrey.Other pieces run the gamut from “Tete en l’air,” which is set on a staircase with a trap door, to “Tete au carre,” which takes place in a colossal steel cage.

For “Dreamcatcher,” the giant ring is transported in a 50-foot-long tractor-trailer rig. Designed to travel, the ring is constructed and dismantled at each location by the company and its crew. “Diavolo has been one of the nicest, most self-sufficient companies I have had the pleasure to work with,” said Moore of the ADT. “They have asked very little of us and taken care of all of the details themselves.”Next, the company heads for Santiago, Chile, followed by performances around the United States. In February 2005, Diavolo returns to Colorado’s Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek. “We love Colorado,” said Jeremy Jacobs, the company manager and technical director.”And we appreciate having plenty of oxygen bottles backstage,” added Lindsay Orton, a performer with the company. “We definitely need it at this altitude.””It’s so wonderful to host a company with a diversity of dancing such as Diavolo,” remarked Malaty. “That’s the way a festival should be – with many different types of dance.”Another Aspen favorite, the Parsons Dance Company of New York City, returned to the Aspen District Theatre in August. Comprised of nine full-time dancers who maintain a repertory of more than 60 works, Parsons Dance Company (PDC) is always a welcome addition to the summer series. (One of PDC’s most popular pieces, “The Envelope” is recurrent in ASFB’s repertoire as well.) PDC is a longtime favorite of the Aspen community, and the company likes Aspen too. “We’ve found a responsive audience here,” said dancer Matt Lawson.”We always find a warm reception in Aspen,” noted David Parsons, the company’s co-founder and artistic director. “This is also a great theater with plenty of space and correctly designed sightlines.” Parsons has enjoyed a remarkable career as a performer, choreographer, teacher, director and producer of dance, and he is currently choreographing a Broadway musical that will open in October. During their Aspen visit, PDC performed favorite pieces including “Sleep Study,” which is executed by dancers in pajamas. They artistically roll over one another, using the expanse of the stage and performing the entire piece with closed eyes. “We’re entertained and inspired by their choreography,” said dance students Hannah Gilmore and Bria Barker afterward. “It’s very clever.””This has been a fantastic season,” said Teena Shaw, a member of the ASFB’s National Council and a regular guest at the summer festival. “The ballet rocks!” For more information on upcoming performances and festivals, visit http://www.aspensantafeballet.org. Stay tuned for information on ASFB, which will make its European debut Sept. 16 in Biarritz, France, followed by a performance in Arachon, France, on Sept. 18.To contact May to send info, insight or invites, e-mail allthewaymaymay@hotmail.com


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