I recently had a chance to talk with dancer William Cannon of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, currently performing at the Joyce in New York City. Below are some of his responses to questions about contemporary ballet, working on new choreography, and the pieces that ASFB is bringing to New York — Jorma Elo’s Red Sweet, Jiri Kylian’s Stamping Ground, and Cayetano Soto’s Uneven, a New York premiere.
California Literary Review: One of the most exciting aspects of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is its commitment to commissioning new works. Could you tell me a bit about your experiences working with choreographers on new pieces?
William Cannon: It’s a really fantastic process to be able to be a part of creating something new, and its also a great experience getting to work with a variety of choreographers, just having different experiences and seeing how different people work — and what different choreographers are able to bring out of myself and of all the other dancers in the company.
CLR: And will you be performing in the pieces choreographed by Jorma Elo and Cayetano Soto in New York this week?
CLR: Could you tell me a bit about working with them and what we can expect to see?
WC: I actually have not gotten the chance yet to work directly with Jorma because the piece was choreographed prior to my joining the company. I have had a little bit of experience with him in rehearsal but not in the creative process yet. He is a pretty laid back guy and really fun to be around.
Cayetano I have had the pleasure to work with twice, and he is a wonderful person. He is one of the nicest, sweetest guys, but he is also really demanding, but in a really great way — he’s really great at challenging all of us and getting the most out of his dancers.
CLR: And are there specific challenges that you find in working with different choreographers?
WC: Each choreographer has a different style of movement — it’s really interesting to work with all of them. Cayetano work, for example, is really extreme, and he tries to get the most out of every movement and shape — going to the maximum at all times.
CLR: And could you tell me a bit about working on the Kylian piece?
WC: That piece was also quite a challenge. Physically it is a rather demanding piece and the movement is unlike most of the other work that we do as a company: the style of movement is very different than what we usually do and its a bit more aggressive and animalistic. The piece begins with a series of solos that involve the dancers providing their own rhythm — literally stamping, and slapping legs and thighs and chests.
The second half there is music, but it’s all percussion score, so just trying to count that was a bit of a challenge for everybody because the choreography is so musically specific. Kylian has an amazing ear and there are things you wouldn’t necessarily hear if there weren’t a dance being done to the piece.
CLR: Do you enjoy working on contemporary pieces as opposed to classics?
WC: I do. I find that with contemporary works there is a lot more freedom, whereas within classical ballet it’s a lot more rigid and strict. In contemporary movement that are elements of classical ballet — lines and shapes that then move beyond the classical versions or through the classical versions.
For more on ASFB and information on their touring schedule, check out aspensantafeballet.com.