In 1996 Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Founder Bebe Schweppe invited Tom Mossbrucker and Jean-Philippe Malaty to create a ballet company in Aspen. A unique multidimensional arts organization developed rapidly from the ballet school Schweppe had established in the Rocky Mountains.
“Bebe’s vision for Aspen to have its own ballet company was the project of a lifetime,” says Malaty, ASFB’s executive director. “We embarked together on a serendipitous adventure. Twenty years later, the connection between the dancers and our two communities is deep and inextricable.”
The company began modestly with six dancers. Growth was organic. Friends in the field – Gerald Arpino, Trey McIntyre, Septime Webre, Dwight Rhoden – offered start-up repertoire. Moses Pendleton’s highly popular Noir Blanc was a seminal event for the young ASFB. It launched a tradition of commissioning new works. An open, exploratory style emerged as Mossbrucker and Malaty tapped the creative scene in Europe where classical ballet was breaking from its boundaries. The athletic and adventurous American dancers found themselves at a crossroads of dance history. The divide between ballet and modern dance was dissolving.
In 2000 the Aspen, Colorado-based ballet company forged a dual-city relationship with Santa Fe, New Mexico, broadening its scope and lending crucial revenue diversification. Under this hybrid business model, a roster of arts activities takes wing, year-round, in both cities. Performance, education, presentation and community outreach all join in the mix. Within this innovative structure, ASFB approaches its 20th anniversary season in 2015-16.
ASFB’s mission places highest priority on developing new choreography and nurturing relationships with emerging choreographers. The company fostered the early careers of now in-demand global dance makers like Nicolo Fonte (nine commissioned Fonte works in the ASFB repertoire), Jorma Elo (three commissioned Elo works), Edwaard Liang, Jacopo Godani, Helen Pickett, Cayetano Soto, Alejandro Cerrudo and others. Works by late 20th century masters – William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Twyla Tharp – round out the repertoire.
“We value building relationships with choreographers who become integral to the company. The natural beauty of our surroundings has a profound impact on creativity and our choreographers find it inspiring to create here,” says Mossbrucker, ASFB’s artistic director.
Based for twenty years in the American West, ASFB now sits at the vanguard of its field, brandishing a strong national reputation. Repeat engagements at the American Dance Festival, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Joyce Theater, The Kennedy Center, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and Wolf Trap testify to the company’s popularity and ability to please audiences. Overseas invitations arrived and ASFB embarked on international tours to Brazil, Canada, France, Greece, Guatemala, Israel, Italy and Russia. Premier funders – National Endowment for the Arts, New England Foundation for the Arts / National Dance Project, Joyce Foundation, Shubert Foundation, Wolf Trap Foundation, Jerome Robbins Foundation and Princess Grace Foundation – have supported ASFB’s growth.
In January 2014, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet announced with pride the addition of Juan Siddi Flamenco Santa Fe under its arts management umbrella. The collaboration with the seven-year old flamenco company provides the benefits of economies of scale and other business synergies, as well as a simpatico artistic alliance. The addition of Juan Siddi Flamenco Santa Fe is a further expression of ASFB’s core mission. It represents an opportunity to celebrate cultural heritage, expand diversity, serve as a catalyst for new ventures, and play a role in fortifying a heritage art form.
On the cusp of its 20th anniversary, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet enters a third decade of existence with an undiminished creative drive. New dancers, new dance voices, and a solid infrastructure characterize the company. The ever-evolving Aspen Santa Fe Ballet looks to a bright future with energy and optimism.