Aspen Santa Fe Ballet returns with ‘The Nutcracker’ |

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet returns with ‘The Nutcracker’

Sarah Girgis
The Aspen Times
Members of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet rehearse on Monday.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

After an almost three-year hiatus, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is returning to the stage with the holiday classic, The Nutcracker, Dec. 9-11 at Aspen District Theater. The production will showcase a cast of 100 performers, including 30 guest performers, joined by 120 students of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet School.

Artistic Director Tom Mossbrucker, an alum of the Joffrey Ballet, recognizes that, while Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker honors the original, Aspen audiences will experience a unique interpretation of the show.

“Like any dancer, Nutcracker is such a part of your existence, and the Joffrey at the time, and probably still, had the most beautiful Nutcracker — traditional, and yet it had so much life, humor, and energy. So, that inspired us when we set out to create our Nutcracker; we wanted to have elements of traditional but also maybe more whimsical,” he said.

Aspen Santa Fe has made some new additions and adjustments to the show, particularly in the second act when global dancers are featured. Years ago, they made the switch from putting dancers in costume to represent different cultures and have recruited dancers authentic to the roles they are portraying.

New this year, Ukrainian and Mexican dancers will join the celebration of international cultural dance. One notable change will be the switch from the classic Russian dance to a Ukrainian, for which they recruited six traditional Ukrainian dancers.

“We bring in the specialty acts — the Ukrainian dancers, we have a traditional Chinese dancer, a real flamenco dancer, and are including Mexican dancers from our Folklorico program to give them an opportunity to shine,” said Mossbrucker.

In addition, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet has recruited principal dancer Chyrstyn Mariah Fentroy from the Boston Ballet and Cuban dancer Gian Carlo Perez from the Washington Ballet for the lead roles.

Members of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet rehearse Monday at Colorado Mountain College Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Aspen Santa Fe has a history with Fentroy.

Director Jean-Phillipe Malaty said, “We knew Chystyn many years ago before she was a star. She auditioned for us. We knew she was a star in the making and told her you should go to a big company. She is an incredible, beautiful dancer, and she happens to be African-American.”

Jean-Phillpe and Tom Mossbrucker were recruited by Aspen Sant Fe Ballet founder and Aspen local Bebe Schweppe (former ballet pupil of Robert Joffrey) in 1996 to come to Aspen and grow her company. Both were enmeshed in the New York City ballet scene but couldn’t resist coming to build a dance company in its infancy.

“New ballet companies are not created all the time,” Malaty said. “It was great opportunity to start and break some old-school ideas. Discovering a new frontier, we had to come west to break the patterns of the East Coast.”

They spent the next two decades “nose-to-the grind stone” building the company to what it was when the pandemic hit. Instead of trying to work around COVID restrictions, they took a step back from the professional performances and focused solely on education through their ballet school, which is an important part of their mission.

“We started from nothing and worked and worked and worked and kind of know all the aspects of the organization. After COVID, it was kind of a sense of rebuilding and starting over, and so, there we are again, but we know how to do it, and we know what it takes, and, you know, deciding to put on the Nutcracker was a huge commitment,” said Mossbrucker.

A commitment that he and Malaty welcome because they believe it is time for children and families to return to this holiday tradition, noting that, for kids at a certain age, this may be the first Christmas they will experience The Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker is a tradition and has been in Aspen for 30 years,” said Malaty. “It’s time for us to gather and celebrate the holidays as a community again.”

If you go…

What: The Nutcracker, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
When: Dec 9-11
Where: Aspen District Theater, 199 High School Road, Aspen
More info: Tickets on sale now
More info: Tickets on sale now. Prices start at $36 on the main floor.
By phone: Aspen Show Tix (970) 920-5770
In person: Wheeler Box Office

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