Big ballet company set stage for Aspen – big-time |

Big ballet company set stage for Aspen – big-time

Stewart Oksenhorn

Ballet West is a big company, focused on the classical repertoire. So how is it that the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company, a small troupe that specializes in contemporary dance, owes a huge debt to the Utah-based Ballet West?Tom Mossbrucker, a co-executive director of the local company, draws a straight line from Ballet West’s summer residencies in Aspen three decades ago to the very existence of the ASFB. The ASFB has achieved enormous success in its 10-year history, from appearances at the country’s top theaters and festivals to last month’s announcement of three separate $1 million donations to kick off the company’s the Next Dance endowment campaign. Ballet West set the stage for those achievements.

“We wouldn’t have what we have here in Aspen without Ballet West, in terms of the audience for dance, the level of dance, the love of dance,” Mossbrucker said. The troupe started coming here in the ’70s, and had a residency here for several weeks every summer.”We weren’t here,” Mossbrucker continued, referring to himself and Jean-Philippe Malaty, with whom he founded the Aspen Ballet Company (which eventually became the ASFB). “But we’d hear – they’d perform in the gymnasium at the high school, have schools up in Snowmass. People would see the dancers on the street walking around, and get to know them.”

The swell of support for Ballet West’s residencies led to the forming of Ballet Aspen, which brought additional dance companies to Aspen for summer performances. That grew into Dance Aspen, a full-time presenting organization. When Dance Aspen folded in the mid-’90s, the Aspen Ballet Company – which had been created out of the Aspen Ballet School – took over as a presenting organization, and in 1999, at the request of the city of Aspen, founded the Aspen Dance Festival.Ballet West hasn’t performed in Aspen in at least a decade, but Aspen Santa Fe Ballet corrects that oversight beginning tonight. Ballet West performs a three-night stand, through Saturday, Aug. 19, to close the Aspen Dance Festival.

“Now that we’re presenting as well, we thought it appropriate, for our 10th anniversary, to pay tribute to them and bring them here,” Mossbrucker said. The performances are the latest steps in rekindling the relationship between the two companies; Ballet West presented the ASFB this fall at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City, home of Ballet West.Ballet West will give Aspen audiences something apart from what they have become accustomed to. The company, which William Christensen founded in 1963, will have 30 dancers on stage. The program features the classical pieces “Vespri” and a pas de deux from “Don Quixote.” “Vespri,” Mossbrucker said, is “what you would picture a big, classical ballet company to do: tutus, tights and tiaras.” The “Don Quixote” piece, he added, is “the true test for a classical dancer. It’s real bravura, classical technique.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is


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