Russia, Austria, and Santa Fe

After work on Friday, Jen and I hit the shops for a spot of shopping (bought a pair of boots) before meeting a bunch of the DGS crowd at Russian Tea Time, where we feasted on hearty Russian cuisine washed down with shots of flavored vodka. Good food, excellent company, and off the wall conversations. 🙂

Having pre-drunk, we then made our way to Amelia’s for an Austrian-themed DGS. As a good 36% of its wine production focuses on the Gruner Vetliner grape, most of our bottles were of that grape; in fact, out of the 10 bottles we sampled, only 3 were red. My favorite bottles were the Prager – Prager – Riesling Kaiserberg (Wachau) – $36, and the Meinklang – Pinot Noir (Burgenland) $13 (sweet, perfume-y nose with a surprising touch of cigar smoke at the end).

That event ended at around 130am, whereupon most of us migrated back to the Lakeview area, to Aaron’s apartment, to cap the evening off with some Laphroaig. Eck, finally got to bed at past 4am.

This evening, after having struggled the whole day to study (instead of sleep), I went down to Harris Theatre at Millenium Park to catch the ballet performance by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet where I indulged in a glass of Frei Brothers Chardonnay (delicious, oily, oaky, but tart and smooth). The ballet was fantastic; the best I’ve seen at the Harris, which says a lot. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was blown away by the eerie and surreal Pinot Blanc dance; I want a blacklight – it’ll be soooo cool to have at a wine party, all those wine glasses floating around in mid air…


Here’s a review by the NYTimes (although written a few years ago, still speaks true):

DANCE REVIEW; A Body of Illusions, Made With the Body
Published: June 19, 2003
New ballet companies do not grow on trees, but they can apparently take root in hilly climes. The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet … is a breath of fresh air.

The company has 12 engaging and very good dancers, two ambitious and smart directors who come out of the Joffrey Ballet organization, and the obvious enthusiasm of wealthy board members in Colorado and New Mexico …

Mr. Pendleton, co-founder of Pilobolus, comes close with ”Noir Blanc,” a New Age fantasia that bears his touch of brilliance in its highly imaginative optical illusions. It is well worth a look on a bill that, whatever the piece, still serves as a showcase for the dancers’ commitment and special qualities.

The men are ruggedly athletic and reportedly like rock climbing in Aspen, the company’s base since its founding in 1996. The six women are stronger classical dancers, and their toe work and daring are perfectly suited for the tricky partnering of Ms. Dumais’s and Mr. Rhoden’s contemporary ballet style.

The Joffrey’s eclecticism resonates throughout the program. Bebe Schweppe, who founded the company in Aspen as an outgrowth of her Aspen Ballet School, studied with Robert Joffrey at his school in New York. Still, there are differences. One is that Mr. Mossbrucker and Mr. Malaty, unlike Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, the Joffrey Ballet founders, are not choreographers. Although their staging of ”The Nutcracker” is seen in both Aspen and Santa Fe, the company’s second home, they essentially invite other choreographers in, just as Ms. Schweppe invited them to develop a small professional company in Aspen.

Three years ago the company found new performing opportunities and extended work for its dancers by entering into a joint venture (”not a merger,” the directors said in an interview) with the Santa Fe Festival Ballet, which is now defunct. That company’s board nonetheless retains its own school, the Santa Fe Dance Foundation.

The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet thus has separate boards, separate budgets, separate seasons, separate schools and an 85-member national council. In Aspen the company also presents a four-week festival.

Mr. Pendleton’s ”Noir Blanc” is both obvious and delightfully deceptive. Behind a scrim 10 ghostly white figures in profile levitate or tilt at impossible angles. It does not take long to figure out that one-half of each dancer’s costume is white, and the other black. When the dancers float in the air, they are either lifted by invisible partners in black, or they stand on a black-clad leg, which is equally invisible in the Day-Glo lighting that illuminates the costume’s white side.

Anyone who remembers the Lanterna Magika shows from Prague will find the roots of such stage magic. But Mr. Pendleton is nothing if not original. There is something of a theme of evolution and rebirth. The costumes, conceived by Mr. Pendleton and designed by Phoebe Katzin, make the dancers look like bodies seen in a fun-house mirror. As presented under Todd Elmer’s lighting, these are incomplete humans, sometimes missing a limb or two. Slide projections evoke landscapes: a forest of birch, a lunar plateau, earth and sky.

New Age pop recordings (the Buddha Experience, Harold Budd) spill out words forecasting a new era. As the dancers cluster in a cavelike setting, the shadow of an ape moves past. All coalesce into a new whole. Some might see this final cluster as a ziggurat of the future.


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