No last waltz for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet | AspenTimes.com

No last waltz for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Stewart Oksenhorn

Tom Mossbrucker, one of the two directors of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, noted Tuesday that five established dance companies had folded over the past year.The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet doesnt appear to be joining those five anytime soon. At a press conference at the Library at the Hotel Jerome, the local organization announced that three local couples have pledged $1 million each to the new endowment campaign. The campaign, known as the Next Dance, has an aim of raising $10 million.Sherry and Eddie Wachs, who have been supporters of the ASFB since its formation 10 years ago, made the initial seven-figure challenge grant. Carolyn Powers, who became acquainted with the ASFB when she traveled to New York City three years ago to see the company perform at the Joyce Theater, and her husband, Bill Powers, made a matching pledge, as did Kelley and Mark Purnell, whose daughters have participated in the Aspen Ballet School.Bebe Schweppe formed the ASFB, originally known as the Aspen Ballet Company, 10 years ago out of the Aspen Ballet School. Founding directors Mossbrucker and Jean-Philippe Malaty, who still head the company, have led the organization to numerous leaps forward. The ASFB began as a regional touring company, on an annual budget of $75,000. Within a few years, the company had earned repeat engagements at the Joyce Theater and at the renowned Jacobs Pillow festival in Massachusetts, and had forged ongoing relationships with top choreographers such as Dwight Rhoden and Nicolo Fonte. In 2000, the organization added a second home base in Santa Fe (though its base of operations remains in Aspen), and created its own facility at Colorado Mountain Colleges Aspen campus. The company earned positive reviews from such publications as The New York Times and the Boston Herald, and were often spotlighted for their athleticism, youthfulness and diversity.The artistic accomplishments, however, came on a wobbly financial foundation. The ASFB has 20 full-time employees and operates on a $2.7 million annual budget.Lingering beneath the surface has always been a feeling of uncertainty about the future, Mossbrucker said. Without an endowment, our company is vulnerable, leading a hand-to-mouth existence that can stifle creativity.A successful endowment campaign, which has been divided into six separate categories, including the Artists Fund, New Ballets Fund and the Education & Outreach Fund is intended to assure continued creativity.This endowment campaign is a milestone for us, Schweppe said. It is essential in anchoring this vision I had 10 years ago.The ASFB is in the midst of the Aspen Dance Festival, which it has presented since 1999. The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Company, which opened the festival with two performances last week, returns to perform a different program Aug. 12-13. The festival also features Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (Thursday through Saturday, July 27-29), Indias Nrityagram Dance Ensemble (Aug. 1), MOMIX (Aug. 3-5) and Utahs Ballet West (Aug. 17-19). All performances are at the Aspen District Theatre.Stewart Oksenhorns e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com