ASPEN SANTA FE BALLET continues Three-Year Residency at VPAC and we talk to Cherice Barton on her world premiere of Eudaemonia and the universal quest for happiness - by Sara Debevec

by Spot LA

Photo Credit George Lange

Photo Credit George Lange

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (ASFB) celebrates the second year of its three-year residency at Valley Performing Arts Center with a program of new works that celebrates the company’s commitment to creating new contemporary dance on Friday, March 3 at 8:00pm.

ASFB will unveil the world premiere of Eudaemonia (2017) by renowned-choreographer Cherice Barton as well as perform Little mortal jump (2016) by ASFB favorite Alejandro Cerrudo created for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Sleepless (2004) from Jiří Kylián, Artistic Director of Nederlands Dans Theater to music of Dirk Haubrich, based on Mozart.   

In preparation for this, we had the pleasure of talking to Los Angeles based choreographer, and Juilliard-trained dancer Cherice Barton , on her creative process, her piece Eudaemonia (2017)  and where she draws inspiration and happiness from, since "eudaemonia" translates from Greek, roughly, as "happiness."

Barton brings together classical ballet training and a distinguished career in commercial choreography. Her performance career has spanned over twenty years in over thirty countries across six continents. In 2015, she choreographed Katy Perry’s critically acclaimed appearance at the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the 57th Grammy Awards and she recently joined the creative team of America's Got Talent as Choreography Associate.  As a choreographer and creative consultant, Barton has a unique eye for transforming dance into inspired, emotional work, from the stage to the screen.  What is exciting is that, the new work is Cherice’s first for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and her solo debut as a contemporary dance choreographer.

SD: How did the collaboration begin with Aspen Santa Fe and you?

CB: J.P. Malaty and Tom Mossbrucker, Directors of Santa Fe Ballet, approached me about a year and a half ago. I then went up to Aspen for an informal workshop with the company last March and it was love at first sight. The environment that Tom and J.P. have created is extremely supportive and the dancers are very well trained. My creation has been 5 weeks long and I guess the hardest part was to shave ideas to make the piece 20 minutes long.

SD: When creating a new concert work, is your approach different from when you create more of a commercial piece?

CB: Yes, absolutely. With Aspen Santa Fe, I was given full liberty when creating my work. The only constraint was that it was to be a 20-minute piece. A lot of the time with commercial pieces, constraints can come from directors and producers. When it comes to mass productions, it’s really a team effort. To be given the freedom, and the time with Aspen Santa Fe is a real privilege. When it comes to commercial pieces, sometimes you even get just one day to work on a piece- that’s what I was given with Katie Perry’s show.

SD: We saw in your interview posted by CSUN that your husband, Jeremy Jurin did sound design for the work that’s premiering on March 3.  How was it working with your husband on the project?  Was it challenging or rewarding?  Do you work on many projects together?

CB: We work on some projects together. He is extremely talented and creative. I usually find a way to involve him. I’m obsessed with story and he is a filmmaker. If we are filming a dance, he has a great eye for it. When I first went to Santa Fe in October, I went by myself but when we were halfway there with the show, In January, I brought the family with me and Jeremy could see my work with the dancers. It was extremely rewarding working with him.

The sound design not only has my husband’s and my voice on it, but it also incorporates the voices of our daughters (age 2 and 4) at various points. My friends and extended family are also part of it. Two pieces are original compositions. One of my really good friends, Diana Kazakova, composed a section representing faith, blending Gregorian chants with Indian and Buddhist meditation. My brother in Law, Michael Durant also composed a piece and he is a rock musician.

SD: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

CB: My inspiration usually comes from music. With new creations, I have a bunch of different songs I like to listen to. I usually start with those. In preparation for Eudaemonia, I listened to Jimmy Durante “Smile When Your Hear is Aching” and “ Make Someone Happy.” Those songs really stuck with me, not only because of the way they made me feel, but I felt I was tapping into important emotions. I have two kids, a fabulous career and a few years ago we moved back to LA from New York. It was a time for me to look deeper. Where I’m at right now in my life, it really makes sense that my piece would be about happiness and the universal search for happiness. There are infinite layers to this idea of our search for happiness. As humans we keep ourselves busy and it’s easy to beat ourselves up about things and blame situations or people for our lack of happiness and say, “as soon as I get this job, I will be happy” or “as soon as I move to LA and the sun is shining everyday, I will be happy.” My sister Charissa, who I am starting the company with is both intelligent and spiritual. She inspired me to seek for happiness within and not from external sources.

SD: What do you most hope that the audience will take away from the performance?

CB: Eudemonia is the epitome of a well-lived life and something to strive for – a virtuous, spiritual and personally successful life. I would love the audience to somehow feel emotionally connected. We are exploring many emotions, both simple and complicated.

SD: Do you know if the work will be set on other companies?

CB: It very well can be. I haven’t got to that step. The potential is definitely there.

SD: Can you give us some advance details about costuming for the work?

Daniella Gschwendtner, who does the costuming for "Dancing with the Stars" and “America’s got Talent,” is the costume designer for this work. She, like me, creates from an open heart. We were collaborating together on this piece and agreed that simple attire is much better and that we need to keep the costumes somewhat pedestrian and understated, not to override the very large concept we are dealing with here. I am very interested in seeing people dancing, not dancers. From each dancer, I like to see an exaggerated version of themselves.

SD: Thanks for taking the time to interview with Spot LA. We very much look forward to seeing your work on Friday, March 3 at Valley Performing Arts Center!