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Aspen Santa Fe Ballet collaborates with live pianist

The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet collaborates with pianist Joyce Yang on Nicolo Fonte’s “Where We Left Off,” which will be included in the dance company’s upcoming performance at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
Photo by Michelle Cardamone

What: Aspen-Santa Fe Ballet

When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 22

Where: Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd.

Cost: $29-$49

Phone: 435-655-3114

Web: parkcityinstitute.org

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, which has performed in Park City many times over the past 20 years, will do something totally different when it returns to the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday.

The dancers will perform three works to live music played by pianist Joyce Yang, instead of recorded scores, said executive director Jean-Philippe Malatay.

The three works are Nicolo Fonte’s “Where We Left Off,” Fernando Melo’s “Dream Play” and Jorma Elo’s “Half/Cut/Split.”

The idea for Yang to perform live with the company started from an idea she had for “Half/Cut/Split,” Malatay said.

Yang approached the company with the idea for a dance that would be choreographed to the music of Robert Schumann.

“There is nothing (harder) than choreographing to Schumann music,” laughed Malatay. “He’s not a composer that a choreographer in their right mind would pick.”

Still, the idea was intriguing, and Malatay knew of only one choreographer, Melo, who would be up to the challenge.

“Jorma is somebody who really understands music and gets his inspiration from music,” Malatay said. “He also plays piano himself, and we told Joyce if Jorma said no, we didn’t know if anyone else would be able to do this. Thank God Jorma said yes.”

The artists met at Steinway Hall in New York City, and poured over Schumann compositions before selecting “Carnival.”

“It is a very intricate score, and they connected on that project and created, what we think, is a masterpiece,” Malatay said.

After thinking about things, Malatay felt it would be awkward if Yang only played live for one selection of the program. So he found two existing pieces in the company’s repertoire — Nicolo Fonte’s “Where We Left Off” and Fernando Melo’s “Dream Play” — that featured solo piano.

“Where We Left Off” features a score composed by Philip Glass, and “Dream Play” features music by Erik Satie and Frederic Chopin.

“Joyce agreed to learn the pieces, so we have a whole evening of live music,” he said.

“Where We Left Off” is Nicolo’s 10th work commissioned for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, and many dance enthusiasts in Utah know about him because he is Ballet West’s former resident choreographer, Malatay said.

“But we had him first,” he said with a laugh.

Brazilian choreographer Melo created “Dream Play” on Aspen Santa Fe Ballet a few years ago.

“It’s very theatrical and uses special effects, screens and camerawork,” Malatay said. “It’s been a success for the company, because it is a little whimsical. And it’s a nice break between the other works, which are pretty intense.”

Malatay looks forward to the dance company’s return to Park City.

“(The town) has been a great venue for us, and Park City Institute has been a loyal presenter,” he said. “So we are thrilled to bring it to Park City and excited Park City wanted us to perform this program.”


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