Aspen Sante Fe Ballet Breaks The Mold

Aspen Santa Fe BalletWithin the dance community, there are a myriad of disciplines, all beautifully complicated and expressive within their own right. And then there’s the Aspen Sante Fe Ballet. They’re one of the innovators of “dance fusion”, as we like to call it. The merging of classical ballet and modern dance into an amalgamation of synchronicity that can only go one of two ways…Very wrong, or very right.

Thankfully, on this night at the Byham Theater, it went more than right when the Pittsburgh Dance Council brought the ASFB into town for a special one-night performance.

Artistic Director Tom Mossbrucker created form and function in a masterful display of power and grace. It was an exemplary marriage of styles, both in dance and physicality. The gentle jaunting of ballet mixed with the visceral thundering tone of modern dance sent the audience into an uproar.

The body type was definitely not typical of a ballet, sculpted and chiseled is the best way I can describe both men and women, but their softness gleamed through each freeze, slide, spin, jump, run or slide. Choreographers Norbert De La Cruz III, Nicolo Fonte and Cayetano Soto had their work cut out for them, but showed exemplary directive.


Act One, Square None, delivered an energetic and emotive performance, showing an untimely struggle with love. Pushing and pulling with every shift, sometimes violently demanding a response, driven by frustration and angst, they toil, seemingly drawn to something off stage. An unmanned presence.

Act Two, Beautiful Mistake, donned a more dark and eerie tone. The performers, draped in black, delivered every dramatic movement with purpose and placement. As they drenched themselves in an unyielding dance of death and despair, the audience dripped with anticipation of what would come. Emotion seeps from this act, burning alive with passion.

Act Three, The Heart (S)pace, rounded out the evening with an uplifting and victorious message. Dancers were encased in a white box as streaming colors were projected on the canvas. A series of  lighted circles seemingly controlled the performers movements, ultimately driving them to redemption.

There were incredibly intimate moments through each act. Those moments usually consisted of a completely silent auditorium, and zero accompaniment.

During the last solo, which lasted about 1 minute and 30 seconds, a female performer gripped the audience with powerful movements. The sound of her sweeping shoes on the floor and expressions of heavy breathing connected to the purest form of the human psyche, silence.

Founder of the Aspen Sante Fe Ballet, Bebe Schweppe, clearly had a vision in merging the conventional aspects of ballet with modern dance. 18 years later, ASFB continues to pioneer new and brave ways to express dance without boundaries of conventional protocol.

The Michael Clark Company is next up for the Dance Council, November 1st at the Byham Theater. Visit their site for more information.

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