On Sam Chittenden’s Facebook page, there are no pictures of him in tights. Nor is there a single photo of him lifting his longtime girlfriend Katie Dehler in one of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet pieces they love to perform together. All the images show him free-climbing nearly vertical slabs of rock with his bare hands and not a safety rope in sight. The shots also reveal that the ground is not too far away and that inflatable backpacking mattresses are strewn around in case of a fall. Rock climbing is a passion for Chittenden, but neither climbing nor skiing (an obvious pastime for anyone living in Aspen, Colorado) is encouraged for ballet dancers. “You can’t have a maniacal dance focus and be mentally healthy,” he told Pasatiempo. And while climbing, skiing, and similar activities are not expressly forbidden, “they’re frowned upon,” he said.
After 15 years with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Chittenden is retiring at the end of the season. On Friday and Saturday, March 29 and 30, the company performs Jirí Kylián’s Return to a Strange Land, Alejandro Cerrudo’s Last, and Trey McIntyre’s Like a Samba at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.