Aspen Santa Fe Ballet returns with three commissioned ballets to launch Pittsburgh Dance Council’s season

Nicolo Fonte's "The Heart(s)pace".   Photo by Sharen Bradford.
Nicolo Fonte’s “The Heart(s)pace”. Photo by Sharen Bradford.

By Steve Sucato

The last time Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performed in Pittsburgh, four years ago, the company was just becoming a staple on the U.S. touring circuit. Now, having built its stalwart reputation on new contemporary-dance works by world-class choreographers, the small troupe of 11 dancers makes its long-anticipated return to the Byham Theater to kick off Pittsburgh Dance Council’s new season.

The Oct. 11 program features three commissioned ballets, beginning with Norbert de la Cruz III’s “Square None” (2012). ASFB artistic director Tom Mossbrucker says that at a 2011 performance by Juilliard dance students, he was taken by a work choreographed by de la Cruz. That led to the commission for “Square None,” which Mossbrucker describes as “thoughtful and pensive.” Set to a variety of music including Aphex Twin, the ballet explores themes of youth and naiveté.

Next, the company will perform Spanish choreographer Cayetano Soto’s “Beautiful Mistake” (2013). Mossbrucker says the movement is very aggressive and staccato, and the mood one of dark emotions.

Mossbrucker says some audiences might see similarities of movement vocabulary between “Square None,” “Beautiful Mistake” and the final work on the program, Nicolo Fonte’s “The Heart(s)pace” (2014). But each actually possesses a very different dynamic and feel, he says.

Cayetano Soto's "Beautiful Mistake".  Photo by Rosalie O'Conner.
Cayetano Soto’s “Beautiful Mistake”. Photo by Rosalie O’Conner.

Company dancer Samantha Klanac Campanile also sees the works as distinct. She describes “The Heart(s)pace” as “very much about community and opening your heart.”

“For me, of the seven ballets I have performed of his [Fonte’s], it’s the most enjoyable to dance,” says the 31-year-old native of Buffalo, N.Y., who’s in her 14th season with ASFB.

Campanile says she especially enjoys touring back East because it gives her a chance to connect with family who travel to see her dance. But she admits that being on tour half the year has its pluses and minuses.

“It’s a huge perk of the job to experience different places, but it’s hard to stay in shape on tour, and you don’t feel as good as when you are in your normal home routine,” she says.

Area dance fans, however, can be pleased ASFB’s tour is making another stop here, bringing with it the high level of dance we have come to expect from the company.

Nicolo Fonte's "The Heart(s)pace".   Photo by Sharen Bradford.
Nicolo Fonte’s “The Heart(s)pace”. Photo by Sharen Bradford.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performs: 8 p.m., Sat., Oct. 11. Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $19-55. 412-456-6666 or

This article originally appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper October 8, 2014. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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