As ASFB has grown, so has Patrick Thompson
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Like the rest of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet dancers, Patrick Thompson was ecstatic about the company’s recent triumphs in New York and Massachusetts. But Thompson had extra reason for ecstasy, beyond the positive reviews and the appearances in dance-world capitals. At New York’s Joyce Theater, Thompson finally had the chance to dance for his mother.
“That was the first time my mom ever really saw me dance with a professional company,” said Thompson. “So, of course, she cried. She couldn’t believe how good I looked onstage. That was it in New York for me, more than anything else.”
Dancing before one’s mother at the Joyce Theater, and for an almost-as-adoring, sold-out crowd at the Jacob’s Pillow festival, seems like an obvious thrill. But seven years ago, Thompson was no less thrilled about joining a fledgling company, then known as the Aspen Ballet Company. Back then, the venues were less glamorous than Manhattan and Jacob’s Pillow: The company brought dance to such Colorado towns as Walsenburg, Salida, Alamosa and Montrose. It didn’t matter to Thompson.
“It was an enormous opportunity to be on the ground level of the formation of a company,” said Thompson. “You’re forming a company; you’re helping establish a new company. Plus, I knew of [Aspen Ballet co-founder] Jean-Philippe Malaty’s vision for the company, and I believed in where he wanted it to go.”
Thompson had met Malaty while training at New York’s David Howard Dance Center, where Malaty was teaching. Malaty, just becoming involved with the Aspen Ballet School, invited Thompson to dance in the school’s annual production of the “Nutcracker.” Thompson had one condition, that fellow David Howard student Seth DelGrasso be invited to fill the other available spot for a male dancer. Thompson and DelGrasso danced the “Nutcracker,” and must have made an impression. Not only were they invited back the following year, but when Malaty and Tom Mossbrucker created the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in 1996, they invited Thompson and DelGrasso to become part of the original company. Which meant more happiness for Thompson.
“I was ecstatic. Because I had spent two years doing the `Nutcracker’ in Aspen, and got a feel for the town,” he said. “I thought I could live here. It’s physically so beautiful. I grew up in New York and didn’t know what it could mean to live in the mountains.”
A Trinidad native who moved to Brooklyn with his mother and eight siblings at the age of 9, Thompson had no idea what it could mean to be a dancer until he stumbled into a junior high dance class.
“All the shop classes were filled up,” he said. “So they came around and said someone has to take dance. I said yes; no one else was volunteering. It made a huge impression. The teacher thought I had potential.”
Thompson majored in chemistry at Bucknell University and did a year-and-a-half of graduate work in chemistry at the State University of New York at Buffalo. But ballet was in his blood, and he left school to return to New York City and study dance.
Thompson’s seven years with the ASFB has been one highlight after another. He recounts the roles he has danced – “Light Rain,” in which he was coached by ASFB co-founder and co-director Tom Mossbrucker; the physically demanding “Fluctuating Hemlines”; and Dominique Dumais’ “Sans Detour,” a highlight of the recent East Coast programs – and the artistic development he has made. And he is still basking in the reception the company got in New York and Massachusetts: “That’s when I got that this company is one of the pre-eminent companies in the U.S. right now.”
But Thompson doesn’t want to look too far ahead. He can’t say how many more years he will put in with the ASFB. He’s having too much fun enjoying the moment.
“I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately, and that’s all about living in the present,” he said. “I don’t want to spend time thinking about the future or what’s going to happen. I don’t want to miss anything. I don’t want to spend my time onstage worrying about what’s coming up. Aspen and the ASFB are as far into the future as I can see.”
Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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