Aspen Santa Fe Ballet re-emerges as a dance presenter
Guest company Complexions will lead first ASFB program since early 2020
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet will host a performance by the New York City-based Complexions Contemporary Ballet next month, marking the locally based nonprofit’s first presentation since early 2020 and its first dance event since dissolving its own Aspen-based company a year ago.
Complexions’ 18-member company will perform “Stardust: From Bach to David Bowie” at the Aspen District Theatre on March 17, after a March 14 event in Santa Fe, N.M.
“We feel like, two years later, it’s the time has come for us to return and attempt to have a live performance,” Aspen Santa Fe executive director Jean-Philippe Malaty said Thursday.
The nonprofit dissolved its 11-member company in March 2021 due to economic and performance challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, ending a 25-year run during which the organization became an unlikely trendsetter for contemporary dance and earned international acclaim.
Throughout its history, Aspen Santa Fe also hosted a series of guest companies in the winter and summer seasons.
Since ending the company, the nonprofit has continued operation the School of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and its popular Folklorico program. Though enrollment numbers are down due to COVID-19 precautions and smaller class sizes, artistic director Tom Mossbrucker said they are running up to 90 classes per week with 500 young people enrolled in programs in Aspen and Santa Fe.
“People don’t see that,” Mossbrucker said. “But that’s what we’ve been focused on along with getting back to live performances.”
Education programs have continued to be impacted by the pandemic in ways that the leaders did not foresee, while fundraising has slowed. So they have remained focused on keeping those programs going, and on bringing live performances back. When Malaty and Mossbrucker closed the performing company last year, they launched an initiative they hoped would help fund other dance companies weathering the pandemic crisis with grants from its $10 million endowment. They have not yet begun giving grants.
“The ideas we had at the beginning have been put on the back burner until we could re-establish our strong operations at home,” Malaty said.
Nearing two years since the pandemic first led to local cancellations, it continues to disrupt the local and international performing arts industry. Malaty and Mossbrucker said that frustrating fact reaffirms their belief that the responsible thing to do was dissolve the company.
“As time has gone by in the pandemic, we’ve realized more and more that we made the right decision,” Mossbrucker said.
Since the company dissolved, some of its members have continued performing locally, including a trio of dancers working with the Aspen Fringe Festival and former company member Laurel Wynton founding Dance Aspen with former colleagues from Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. They gave their premiere performance at the Wheeler in September and are due for their next on March 4.
Looking ahead, Aspen Santa Fe’s leaders hope the Complexions show March 17 is a celebratory return of its presenting program.
“It will be uplifting and high-energy,” Malaty said of the Complexions program featuring music by David Bowie. “We felt that was a good way for us to return.“
Complexions has a long history of performance in Aspen, most recently in 2013. Founder Dwight Rhoden was also the first guest choreographer to create work on the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company in 1997, beginning a tradition of original creations and commissions that helped make the company’s reputation as an incubator for emerging choreographers and the birthplace of award-winning contemporary dance pieces.
Beginning this new phase of Aspen Santa Fe with Rhoden, they hope, may send it on a similar trajectory.
“We feel Dwight has been a good luck charm for us,” Malaty said.
They are not yet announcing any additional future programming or guest companies for this spring or summer, though they said tentative plans are in place.
“We’ve been very cautious in our approach,” Malaty said.