Dallas — Nestled in the Rocky Mountains for part of the year, and calling the deserts of Santa Fe home for the rest, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet has carved out a niche for themselves in the dance world. The company’s bold vision of presenting top global choreographers and groundbreaking works still stands strong after nearly two decades. Thanks in part to directors Tom Mossbrucker and Jean-Philippe Malaty’s mission to develop new choreography and nurture relationships with emerging choreographers.
The company began modestly with just six dancers, but quickly grew to over the years to now employing 13 dancers, all of whom work tirelessly to bridge the divide between ballet and modern dance. We spoke with Katherine Bolaños, one of those dancers who has blurred the lines between the two genres, and who is beginning her 12th season with the company.
Bolaños will be performing in all three of the works that Aspen Santa Fe Ballet will be performing at the Dallas City Performance, Sept. 16 and 17, in the season opener for TITAS Presents: Silent Ghost by Alejandro Cerrudo, Re:play by Fernando Melo, and Huma Rojo by Cayetano Soto.
TheaterJones: When did you first begin dancing?
Katherine Bolaños: When I was six, I went to see The Nutcracker with my mother, my best friend, and her mother. From the moment the curtain went up, I was at the edge of my seat, enthralled with what was on stage, as my best friend was asleep the whole time…I asked my mom many times if I could take ballet, and on the advice of my godmother [a professional dancer], she waited to enroll me in ballet when I was eight. I remember my first class…what the studio looked like, and even where I stood at the barre. What sticks out most in my mind was a question my teacher asked, “Who has taken ballet before?” As everyone else in the room raised their hands, I remember feeling intimidated by the situation. That soon faded away…it was an immediate love.
Was there one particular moment when you knew that dance would become your career?
I knew from an early age that I loved to dance, but I didn’t always know I wanted to “be” a dancer. I was a huge tomboy, playing every sport imaginable [but] all of that changed after I attended The Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute when I was 14…It was the first time I had danced all day long for two weeks straight, and it was then that it clicked for me. I knew from my experience there that I could dance all day, every day, and be my happiest doing so.
How does dance inspire you?
Dance is inspiring on so many levels. Physical movement, integrated with expression and freedom can be a very powerful thing. Combine that with being observed, and something innately changes, it comes to life in a different way…I enjoy the sense of oneness that occurs through dance, the feeling I attain when I am wrapped up in the moment, and the symbiotic relationship that occurs between my fellow dancers on stage and the audience.
Who or what are you currently inspired by?
Beyond being continuously amazed by the dedication and artistic expression of my colleagues, I am inspired by the music and choreography itself. I am fortunate to dance in a company that averages two commissioned pieces a year, and brings in stellar previously choreographed work. The directors of the company, Tom Mossbrucker and Jean-Philippe Malaty, have always strived to curate new and eclectic work, while maintaining a sense of innovation and risk for artistic growth. They inspire me because they are dedicated whole heartedly to giving dancers a place where respect is rampant and support is undying.
You have been with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet for 12 seasons. What has been one of your most memorable experiences with the company?
Traveling and performing internationally has always been a highlight for me as a dancer. It combines the things I love the most; traveling, performing, and experiencing new adventures with my friends. It has been a way for me to see the world, and at the same time, do what I love. One of my favorite performances was in Senigallia, Italy, on an outdoor stage, with a full moon in the sky. There is different feeling being outside with the elements, and that uniqueness makes it stand out in my mind.
Out of all the roles that you have played so far on stage, which one was your favorite to perform?
Out of all the ballets I’ve performed over the years, it’s difficult to choose only one. Slingerland, by William Forsythe, and my most recent role in Sleepless, by Jiří Kylián, would be two of the highlights. Beyond doing previously choreographed works, I find creations to be unique and special on an artistic level. I am drawn to different choreographers that I’ve had the opportunity to work with several times in the creation process throughout the years. Ballets choreographed by Jorma Elo, Cayetano Soto, Nicolo Fonte, and Alejandro Cerrudo would all be at the top of my list.
You have danced both classical and contemporary ballets during the course of your career. What are some of the fundamental differences between the styles and how do you balance the techniques?
Although our company does mostly contemporary ballet, we still take a classical ballet class every morning to maintain our technique. From that classical base, we are able to explore movement in the rehearsal and creation process. One of the main differences that I’ve experienced is the artistic freedom contemporary dance has given me. Taking the base of classical, and bending it to extremes and exploring its intricacies is exciting to me. I think it is important allow the art of dance to evolve and expand into something fresh and new, and that is why I connect with contemporary dance.
What do you hope audiences take away from an Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performance?
I would want the audiences that see an Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performance to leave with a sense of satisfaction. I hope that we evoke something in them, for them to feel something, whether it is good or bad. Isn’t that what art is for?