Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

February 17, 2009

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
The Joyce Theater, NYC

February 17–22, 2009

Reviewed by Wendy Perron


Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy ASFB. Samantha Klanac, Katie Dehler, and Lauren Alzamor, “shape-shifting from scared children to cutie pies to rebels” in Itzik Galili’s

This chamber-sized company is definitely not staying in its chamber but going out into the wilds of postmodern ballet. It’s the keeper of the flame of the latest edgy international choreographers. What this program of four ballets lacked in variety it made up for in sheer energy, with Jorma Elo’s ballet the most exhilarating.

, by Helen Pickett (a protégé of William Forsythe), was notable for its lighting. Todd Elmer saturated the entire stage in canary yellow, turning the space into a huge light-box. Another ballet about momentum to music by Philip Glass (and Thomas Montgomery Newman), Petal was a good introduction to this group of 12 fresh-faced dancers. When the piano started pounding out its notes, the choreography got speedier but not more complex. One couldn’t help wishing for the cosmic chaos of Tharp’s masterpiece to Glass music, In the Upper Room.

Itzik Galili, a former Batsheva dancer based in Holland, brings five women down front in green chairs in Chameleon (1998). They are seated in a row, just their trembling lower legs showing, knees jammed together. Through gesture, humor, and odd actions (hands on crotch, butoh-like feet), the women shape-shift from scared children to cutie pies to rebels. The gestures progress in surprising ways, and the women are completely engaging.

Forsythe’s Slingerland Pas de Deux (2000)–with its eerie Gavin Bryars music, off-balance pulls, and pancake tutu–should be attenuated in every way. Only really extreme dancers (Aesha Ash or Wendy Whelan perform it in Morphoses), can get away with it. Katherine Eberle has a high extension, but neither she nor Sam Chittenden could give the piece that otherworldly Forsythian drama it needs.

The most exciting was saved for last. Jorma Elo’s 1st Flash (made on Nederlands Dans Theater in 2003) thrust the dancers into giddy, obsessive fun. Spider fingers crawl up the arm, a chin glides along to an elbow, walking turns into staggering, and wheeling legs make for near-collisions, At first the Sibelius music seems to interrupt the dancers’ silence and rob the fidgety synergy of its humor. But when the music swells or chugs, Elo gives it its weight with some wonderful near-unison phrases. I cant wait to see 1st Flash a second time. The six dancers gave it a searing freshness. One noticed Eric Chase’s lovely frenzy. And Samantha Klanac, with her slightly exotic looks and sensual/elegant way of moving, was beguiling, as she was throughout the evening.