Healing art: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet embraces cathartic work | AspenTimes.com

Healing art: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet embraces cathartic work

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Lynn Goldsmith/Special to The Aspen TimesCayetano Soto with the members of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company.

ASPEN The experience of art is always personal: Each audience member brings to the work their particular history, sensibility and mood, and sees the art through those filters. But choreographer Cayetano Soto believes his piece Fugaz will play on peoples past experience more than most art. The piece, which will have its U.S. debut this weekend in Up Close and Personal, a program of mixed repertory by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company, is inspired in part by the illness and death of his father. Death, at least as its represented in Fugaz, is bound to strike the audience in different ways.If you havent experienced death first-hand, you dont know this pain, said Soto at the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet studios, where he was teaching the company the dance, for four women and two men. I didnt understand it until my father died. I dont want to show it to you; you have to have an experience of it.Which is not to say that those who have not confronted death close-up wont respond to Sotos piece. But it will push different buttons, in other ways.People will notice there is something wrong, that something happens with the dancers, said Soto, a Barcelona native who has lived in Munich for a decade, and is having his work performed for the first time in the U.S. this weekend. They will think, What happened to the dancers that brought them to this situation? They get pushed to the limits till they fall, always on the edge.Fugaz, which was created in 2006, is set to music by the 20th century Armenian mystic composer Gurdjieff, a piece titled Assyrian Woman Mourners. The lighting was described by Soto described as cold.Its the saddest piece Ive ever done, he added. It was the most painful ballet to do. Because I wanted to be myself; I wanted to be honest. I didnt want it to be black, white; pathetic, placative. Its the fact of people dying of cancer.Soto believes he has hit that mark. The piece is not just sad, but happy as well, filled with the release his father experienced with his death, and with the sons gratitude that his father did not suffer long. The title, Fugaz, comes from the Spanish for shooting star, an image that came to Soto when he first heard the bad news.When they say to me, my father will die, there is no chance, I could see the whole life of my father, said Soto, who turns 34 today. I could see him already dead. Like his life was a shooting star in the sky.As much emotion, and as many different emotions, as Soto felt regarding his father, Fugaz had a second direct inspiration. It was the first dance that Soto choreographed after he retired as a dancer from the Ballet Theatre Munich. It was a period of relief and excitement: Soto had always wanted to be a creator, not just an interpreter. Moreover, he had spent three years as both a dancer and choreographer, and the double duty wore him out.To be honest with myself, I felt sad. I didnt have a job; I didnt know what would happen to me, my life, said Soto, who has become a freelance choreographer, working primarily in Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil. I wanted to express something about closing one door and opening a new one. Being sad, but also being happy.Another truth about art is that it is flexible. The experience of a piece isnt set in stone: Think of the songs you loved, say, 20 years ago do they all still sound so good?So it is with Soto. The Aspen performances of Fugaz are the first in a year and a half, and in revisiting the dance, the choreographers view of his own work has shifted.With distance I can see its become more about my father, said Soto. Maybe saying it was about my leaving the company was just a way of not getting too emotional about my father.Some days its just about, How do I make these dancers beautiful? Some days its all about my father. You go into the studio and you dont know which kind of day it will be. But I try to pull my emotions out of the studio it belongs to just me, and my family maybe. I dont have to share with the dancers my shit. I give them the pictures, but not the whole story.Returning to Fugaz has confirmed for Soto another aspect of art: It has the power to heal.It was the only way to put my devils away. It was therapy to me, said Soto about first creating the dance. And Im not over it yet. They say it takes three years.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet presents Up Close and Personal, a program of mixed repetoire, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Aspen District Theatre. Tickets are $20, $44 and $64, available at the Wheeler Opera House or http://www.aspenshowtickets.com.stewart@aspentimes.com

Ron DeJesus says that Sues Leg, a piece by choreographer Twyla Tharp, is the kind of piece you need to see more than once. Its layered, humorous, witty, clever. There are things you dont pick up right away.DeJesus is one of the lucky ones to have extensive exposure to Tharps 25-minute tribute to music of the 1930s. DeJesus was a dancer with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in the 90s, when the company had the exclusive rights to perform the piece. Tharp put Sues Leg on the shelf for nearly two decades after those rights expired just as she had taken the work out of the public realm soon after its premiere, in 1975.Now DeJesus has the chance to look at the piece again. The retired dancer is working, on behalf of Tharp, with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company to stage the work for programs of mixed repertory tonight and Saturday at the Aspen District Theatre. They will be the first performances of Sues Leg since Hubbard Streets in 1990.Despite the rarity of Sues Leg, it has become a legendary work in Tharps catalogue, the first dance commissioned from her. While looking for inspiration, the budding choreographer went into a New York City warehouse and found stacks of old 45s: pianist Fats Waller, roller-rink music, the standard I Cant Give You Anything But Love. She went on to stage the premiere in a refurbished Minneapolis firehouse. The following year, a New York performance was taped for the popular Dance in America series (thus giving a wide audience the opportunity to see Sues Leg, but on TV).Its historical, said DeJesus, who retired from the stage after dancing in Tharps Broadway show Movin Out, based on the songs of Billy Joel. Its her pride and joy, her child. It gave her a chance to showcase her ability.Aspen Santa Fe Ballets performance of Sues Leg continues the companys close association with Tharp. For last Septembers Fall for Dance Festival in New York where she was awarded the Jerome Robbins Award for Excellence Tharp hand-picked the local company to perform her Sweet Fields. Another prominent New York organization, the American Dance Festival, had hoped that Aspen Santa Fe Ballet would perform Sues Leg at last Junes event, but there wasnt sufficient time to prepare. That performance is now scheduled for this June.The piece is so complex and layered, said DeJesus. Its been said it was made for 40 members even though its just four.Stewart Oksenhorn

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