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The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Takes the Stage with Joyce Yang During The Aspen Music Festival

By David Stillman Meyer | August 2, 2018 | Culture

The legacy of ballet in the West continues this summer with a special collaboration between Aspen Sante Fa Ballet and The Aspen Music Festival and School.

aspen-idea.jpgTitled Thing 18, the art installation and performance by Ballet West dancers at the Maroon Bells closed the 1970 Colorado Festival

Past Aspen dance patrons would be delighted to see how tall their seeds have grown, first planted back in 1970 with a summer residency of Utah-based Ballet West. A permanent school started in 1991, and the dual-city Aspen Santa Fe Ballet began in 2000. Eighteen years later, if it doesn't rank among the top five companies in the world, I’ll eat my tutu.

And after viewing their collaboration with pianist Joyce Yang this past spring (with an encore concert Aug. 10 and 11), it almost pains me to think of them never not performing together. Yang's piano is fixed upstage right for the entirety of the program, and yet her musical presence seems to move about with the same grace and energy as the dancers. There are times when she is no more than accompaniment, and others when the dancers take a seat onstage and listen.

While there aren’t usually a lot of laughs at the ballet, the “quirky” Half/Cut/Split by Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo elicits more than a few chuckles. It is set to the music of Robert Schumann’s romantic Carnaval.

Philip Glass’ signature sonorous hypnotism goes into full effect with Nicolo Fonte’s Where We left Off. Finally, Jiří Kylián’s seminal Return to a Strange Land is set to the music of Leoš Janáček.