In 1996, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Founder Bebe Schweppe invited Tom Mossbrucker and Jean-Philippe Malaty to create a ballet company in Aspen. A unique, multidimensional arts organization developed rapidly from the ballet school Schweppe had established in the Rocky Mountains. “Bebe’s vision for Aspen to have its own ballet company was the project of a lifetime,” says Malaty, ASFB’s Executive Director. “We embarked together on a serendipitous adventure. More than twenty years later, the connection between the dancers and our two communities is deep and inextricable.”
The company began modestly with seven dancers. Growth was organic. Friends in the field—Gerald Arpino, Trey McIntyre, Septime Webre, Dwight Rhoden—offered start-up repertoire. Moses Pendleton’s popular Noir Blanc was a seminal event for the young ASFB. It launched a tradition of commissioning new works. An open, exploratory style emerged as Mossbrucker and Malaty tapped the creative scene in Europe where classical ballet was breaking from its boundaries. The athletic and adventurous American dancers found themselves at a crossroads of dance history. The divide between ballet and modern dance was dissolving.
In 2000, the Aspen, Colorado-based ballet company forged a dual-city relationship with Santa Fe, New Mexico, broadening its scope and lending crucial revenue diversification. Under this hybrid business model, a roster of arts activities flourishes year-round in both cities. Performance, education, presentation, and community outreach all join in the mix. In 2014, ASFB shared resources with a local troupe, Juan Siddi Flamenco Santa Fe (JSFSF). This entrepreneurial project led to artistic heights at Jacob’s Pillow and New York’s Joyce Theater. Fortified with new experience and relationships, JSFSF continues to thrive in its own right.
ASFB’s mission places highest priority on developing new dance works and nurturing relationships with emerging choreographers. The company fostered the early careers of now in-demand global dance makers like Nicolo Fonte (nine commissioned Fonte works in the ASFB repertoire), Jorma Elo (three commissioned Elo works), Edwaard Liang, Jacopo Godani, Helen Pickett, Cayetano Soto, Alejandro Cerrudo, and others. Works by late 20th century masters—William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Twyla Tharp—round out the repertoire. “We value building relationships with choreographers who become integral to the company. The natural beauty of our surroundings has a profound impact on creativity. Our choreographers find it inspiring to create here,” says Mossbrucker, ASFB’s Artistic Director.
Based in the American West, ASFB occupies the vanguard of its field, brandishing a strong national reputation. Repeat engagements at the American Dance Festival, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Joyce Theater, The Kennedy Center, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and Wolf Trap testify to the company’s popularity and ability to please audiences. The company has toured overseas as well, with prestigious invitations and bookings in Brazil, Canada, France, Greece, Guatemala, Israel, Italy, and Russia. Premier funders—National Endowment for the Arts, New England Foundation for the Arts / National Dance Project, Joyce Foundation, Shubert Foundation, Wolf Trap Foundation, Jerome Robbins Foundation, and Princess Grace Foundation—have supported ASFB’s growth.
Since its founding in 1996, ASFB has carved a reputation as a dance-lover’s dance company. It has genuinely reshaped the field, introducing new choreographic talent to national stages, fostering a new breed of exceptional dancer, and stimulating audiences with high-caliber performances. Fueled by an annual budget of over $4 million and an endowment nearly twice that size, the company’s strong artistic vision is supported by solid financial footing.