Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Lensic Performing Arts Center, Sept. 3
Samantha Klanac Campanile got a funny send-off on Saturday night at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. It was her last performance in Santa Fe after 15 seasons with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. There were speeches, tears, applause, flowers, and hugs at the beginning and end of the program. In between, we barely got a chance to see her dance.
Campanile has spent her entire career with ASFB. She was always the tallest female dancer in the company, at 5 feet 7 inches, and the lines she created in the many pieces of original choreography she has danced over the years were always bigger, longer, and stronger than those of the other women. She has a face Modigliani would have painted — round with big, wide-open eyes. Her essence has always been feminine yet fierce, and there was a certain innocence in what she was doing, as if outside forces were making her twist and turn in unnatural ways, usually at lightning speed. She seems young to be retiring from dance. At thirty-three, however, she wants to pursue other interests and perhaps have a child.
In a recent interview she talked about preferring dances that include smiles — “Like a Samba” by Trey McIntyre was a personal favorite. Hopefully, she was enjoying “Huma Rojo” in Saturday night’s performance, Cayetano Soto’s campy valentine to lounge music, filled with sharp accents and crotch-grabbing. The smiles on most of the dancers’ faces may have been deliberately pasted on, but Campanile’s expression was irony-free. Dressed in matching red pants and shirts and vamping with drill-team precision, the dancers served up athletic, Broadway-style pizazz. There was no real solo for Campanile in the choreography, but then, being a part of ASFB is about being part of a group — this is not a company with stars — and Campanile dug into her gestures, beaming.
“Silent Ghost,” the other farewell piece for Campanile, debuted here in July 2015. The indie-rock score tends to the melancholy side, while the movement by Alejandro Cerrudo is full of edges and quick power. Two love duets at the center of the piece offer an emotional punch as failed romances that gently play off the ambience created by the music and stage-sweeping group dance sections. Here again, however, Campanile was in the background.
“Sleepless,” a Santa Fe premiere, was a 1974 dance for Nederlands Dans Theater II — another company with younger dancers — by Jirˇí Kylián. The piece didn’t offer up Campanile at all but did feature Evan Supple, a new dancer in the company, originally from Ontario, Canada, and fresh out of Marymount Manhattan College. Sadie Brown, Emily Proctor, Seia Rassenti, Joseph Watson, and Łukasz Zie˛ba completed the cast. The set featured a wall of bendable panels that allowed arms, heads, feet, and legs to appear and disappear without ever seeming to be attached to a body.
The music, by Dirk Haubrich, was based on Mozart’s Adagio and Rondo K.617 for Glass Harmonica and Quartet, adding ambient sounds and electronic disturbance to the oddly comforting whine of the glass harmonica. Kylián has been known to be comic, although the jokey sections with disappearing body parts in this dance were mercifully short, and the composition moved into brilliantly facile partnering explorations. One can imagine that ballet would encompass only so many ways for a man and woman to move together, yet Kylián’s work shows us how wrong that notion is and how rich and endless the possibilities are. Watson and Brown, in one of these duets, worked stunningly well together, while Proctor and Supple seemed even more honed to each other’s energy. This is a piece with gimmicky, crowd-pleasing elements, but also enough choreographic meat to rise above vaudeville.