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ASPEN– Saturday, Feb. 18, local contemporary dance company, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, performed a series of three pieces- Sleepless by Jiří Kylián, Eudaemonia by Cherice Barton, and Little Mortal Jump by Alejandro Cerrudo. Two of which, have been performed previously by other companies as well as ASFB.

While Sleepless and Little Mortal Jump have been seen before, Eudaemonia was seen on stage for the first time ever. Barton created the piece on the dancers, making an original demonstrated by the local dance company. The other two pieces have been performed by other companies before ASFB, and by the company on tour for about a year now.

Eudaemonia portrays the desire for happiness, and struggling to find it. The meaning of the Greek title is happiness, but is interpreted as more than that.

“It is quite literally translated into ‘happiness,’ but not really happiness as we know it,” the choreographer, Barton, said, “… we all try to be the best version of ourselves, that means not that quick fix of happiness that is fleeting. Eudaemonia is the epitome of a life well lived.”

Jimmy Durante’s Make Someone Happy opened the stage to Pete Leo Walker as he glided across happily. Walker was essentially the core of that happiness in the piece. He and his trusty hat attempted to spread the happiness to the other dancers striving to find it.

“Pete, to me, represented this idea of happiness, like just that extreme happiness that we love and we all want to keep but it never lasts, that feeling,” Barton explained.

Aside from Walker, his hat had a great significance in the dance. It represents that idea of happiness as well. When he left the hat on stage for the dancers to experience, he was leaving a part of him behind. When the dancers touched the hat, they were able to get a glimpse of that happiness, according to the choreographer.

Stepping away from the dance itself, Cherice Barton has been one of the very few female choreographers to work with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

“There is a lot of feeling in the dance world in recent years that the voice of the female choreographer has been eclipsed,” Debra Levine, 30-year dance critic, said.

However, Tom Mossbrucker, artistic director, did not hire Barton for her gender.

“I didn’t hire her because she’s female. I have never referred to one of our choreographers as a male choreographer, so I feel a little bit uncomfortable having to refer to her as female, I think it’s pretty obvious,” Mossbrucker said.

While Cherice Barton is new to working with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Jiří Kylián and Alejandro Cerrudo have been working with the company for quite a while now. Although the dancers may have played different parts in each piece in the past, the company performed Sleepless as a part of the performance repertoire of August 2016, and Little Mortal Jump was first premiered by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago back in spring of 2012.

However, seeing the two dances performed this time was especially fascinating for the advanced ASFB students. Many had the opportunity to actually learn some of the choreography themselves during a master class taught by dancer, Jenelle Figgins. Student dancer, Francesca Seeman participated in this class and later saw the show performed live.

“I thought learning parts of Sleepless was one of the coolest choreography opportunities I have ever had,” Seeman said.

She explained that the music for Sleepless had no “set counts,” meaning there is not a clear way to listen and keep track of when the next sound may come. Therefore, “ the movement is more felt than rehearsed.” According to the dance student.

“As a dancer, I haven’t been a part of choreography that is taught in that style or under those circumstances and stepping out of my comfort zone was an awesome experience,” Seeman said, “You really have to enhance your listening skills and you become that much more familiar with the music in doing so.”

This may have been the situation for Sleepless, but learning part of Little Mortal Jump was a completely different experience according to Seeman.

“The counts were very fast and needed to be sharp. However, the movement was much more long and traveled much farther making it a more active section of choreography,” Seeman said, “Overall, I liked them both equally as much in their own way.”

After learning some of the choreography, Francesca Seeman was able to be a part of the audience on the night of February 18 and view the dance through different eyes than the majority of those sitting before the stage.

“It was very exciting to be able to to look for the sections that we learned and even better to see how the movements had been enhanced and worked on for the final performance,” Seeman said.

Sleepless,  Eudaemonia, and Little Mortal Jump will performed by the company of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet all over the country until May 7.

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