Collaboration hits the mark
ASPEN The second shot in the Aspen Music Festival’s summer of collaboration was fired Monday night, as the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet made its debut in the Music Festival’s Benedict Music Tent. As with last month’s appearance by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the African percussion ensemble Odadaa!, which Jazz Aspen Snowmass co-presented, the latest effort hit the mark.The program opened with Grieg’s “Norwegian Dances,” a series of pieces for four-handed piano by Simon Trpceski and Antoinette Perry. It was a perfect entryway into an atypical night – the four-handed technique was a novel experience for some listeners, and the pianists handled the material with flair and a sense of humor. Moreover, Grieg’s music put the audience in the mind of dance, and served as a reminder that classical music – some of it, anyway – was made to be danced to.The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company then took the stage to perform Nicolo Fonte’s “Left Unsaid,” with live accompaniment to the solo violin music of J.S. Bach, played by Espen Lilleslåtten. It was the first time the company danced to live music in nearly a decade, and what a treat it was. In the context of a dance performance, the music came very much to life. Live music resonates differently than recorded music, sounds and feels different, and the effect here was enormous. The dancers seemed to respond with a magnificent performance of Fonte’s piece, which employed all the athleticism and agility of the company. As the title suggested, “Left Unsaid” addresses issues of communication; the final move – two dancers in chairs, with two other dancers forcing them to look each other square in the eye – was funny and filled with meaning. The applause was huge – for the performance, for the collaboration, and for Brooke Klinger, a founding member of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet whose retirement from professional dance had been announced.It mattered only a little that the second dance piece – “Pointeoff,” by Jorma Elo, set to solo piano music of J.S. Bach/Busoni – was off-kilter, with the dancers seeming a half-beat out of step with one another. This could probably be chalked up to the music component; the three musicians who took turns on the piano bench – Euntaek Kim, Antonio Fermin and Leanne Regehr – had been pressed into emergency service four days before the performance.The show ended with a musical performance, of Sarasate’s “Navarra,” which maybe half the audience (including me) skipped.The Music Tent may have been tough on the dancers, who didn’t make customary entrances and exits, and had to put up with a hard surface under their feet. From the audience’s point of view, however, the tent – especially as packed as it was – made a surprisingly effective dance venue. The spare lighting and stage design, combined with the spaciousness of the tent, added a dramatic element that worked. The sight lines from my seat – far to the side, and most of the way up – afforded an ideal view of almost the entire stage.Just before the first dance number, Aspen Music Festival president Alan Fletcher and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet artistic director Tom Mossbrucker expressed a common desire to pair up again in the future. If the dancers are up for it, so am I.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
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