Pianist Joyce Yang will set the tone for dancers with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet during a pair of performances Nov. 15 and 16 at the Royal Theatre. Photo by Sharen Bradford

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and pianist Joyce Yang: a rewarding collaboration

Choreographers develop distinct dances for Nov. 15-16 show, The Nutcracker returns, Nov. 30-Dec. 1

By Monique Salez

Monday Magazine contributor

Sure to be a highlight in Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s (ASFB) mixed program Nov. 15-16 at the Royal Theatre will be the virtuosic fingers of pianist Joyce Yang dancing over the keys.

She’ll play for three distinct dances by renowned choreographers Nicolo Fonte, Fernando Melo and Jorma Elo.

Yang, a Grammy nominee, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition silver medalist and Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, had the idea for the project when she saw ASFB perform at the Joyce Theatre in New York.

“It’s as if somehow (Elo) can slow down time in his mind and create one move at a time. It’s like watching some weird miracle happen day after day,” Yang said. The resulting choreography is Half/Cut/Split, a reference to the piece Carnaval by Robert Schumann who suffered from multiple personality disorders. Vacillating between joy and madness, Half/Cut/Split is a visceral piece where Elo tried to access the “underlying stressful, unpleasant place” that permeates the music.

For Yang, who had spent over a decade playing the piece in recitals, the collaboration was “mind-boggling.”

“They’re making me do new things every day,” she said. “I don’t even think of it in the same way anymore. It’s transformed so much. It’s a new landscape to familiar music.”

Fonte has been a beloved guest choreographer with ASFB for over a decade. His piece, Where We Left Off, is a departure from a meaning-based choreography to a dance “purely about movement.”

“There’s no narrative, no plot, nothing to interpret,” he said. “It’s about the dancing and the dancers.”

Melo’s Dream Play invites the audience “to experience a shift of perception,” whereby the dancer’s feet never actually touch the floor and the unfolding choreography is filmed from above and projected in real time on a screen. The rigor of replicating the human act of standing, walking and sitting – with no actual floor – results in a truly otherworldly movement vocabulary that bends ones’ perspective and offers a unique theatrical experience.

Affirmed by ASFB artistic director Tom Mossbucker as “one of the most rewarding projects (in) the company’s history,” the performances are sure to engage us, not only through the artistry and talent of the dancers, but the simple, yet highly evocative nature of live piano played by a world-class musician.

Showtime both nights is 7:30 p.m. and tickets begin at $29. Find them online at rmts.bc.ca or by calling 250-386-6121, or stopping by the Royal Theatre box office. Pre-show chats about the company and/or the show happen in the lobby 45 minutes ahead of curtain and are free to ticket holders.

*****

The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performance is one of the two amazing shows being hosted in November by Dance Victoria.

For three shows, Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 1, the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers bring their version of beloved Tschaikovsky piece The Nutcracker to the stage at the Royal. Choreographed by Viktor Lytvynov and John Pichlyk, Shumka’s Nutcracker blends the grace and lyricism of classical movement with the strength and power of Ukrainian folk and character dance. Find your tickets at rmts.bc.ca or call 250-386-6121.

Monique Salez is owner of Raino Dance.

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