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Dancer With An Attitude

Aszure Barton and Artists

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I never thought it would be possible to make a crotch grab inoffensive, artful, and moving.  It happened this past weekend at the Ferst Theater.

A good friend of mine came into town for their birthday and we headed off to see Aszure Barton and Artists at my favorite space in town.  Due to a busy schedule and having to swat tiny needy children out-of-the-way when I need to use technology, I hadn’t done the proper research to find out exactly what we were seeing.  My guest was looking forward to being surprised and I was biting my fingernails, hoping it was at least dance.

In fact, it was dance and I haven’t been this moved by a performance in a long time.

There is something you get from a really good current contemporary artist that you don’t get from the classic modern companies and theater.  It’s a rawness and connectedness that I, for one, crave in my art.  Aszure Barton fit the bill on all accounts.

The concert was relatively short, leaving us wanting more.  Two pieces were presented, one in each half.

“Blue Soup” presents the company dressed in blue suits and socks. The choreography embarks on her autobiographical journey, a small collection of Barton’s notable pieces.  As the company faces up-stage, a soloist casually has a silent conversation with the audience.  The male dancer, who looks like James Franco but goes in and out of moving like a stylized version of Jim Carrey, glides across the stage inviting us into their world.  His slipping and sliding is punctuated with flails, quirky expressions and développé.

Barton’s work is unexpected.  She paints with wonderful stillness and shape.  The movement is quiet but saturated with energy, the shapes explode with intention.  As the solos weave in and out of the big picture, the rest of the dancers remained unified.  At one point everyone stands strong facing downstage with one dancer inverted standing on her head.  At that point, the whole company starts to rock, a very simple image with a big impact.

The first time we see Barton herself, she is alone scooping through the space in a bouncy African influenced phrase.  As she executes tasteful crotchy movement, the men of the company join her one by one, lip-syncing to operatic female soprano voices…unexpected.

The final image was all the dancers in a giant pile in the middle of the stage.

“BUSK” was the second half of the concert.  Another potential name could be “The Life and Times Of a Dark Alley”.  As the curtain goes up the wings of the stage are gone, and the space is transformed. It is completely open and there is nowhere to hide.  Barton is alone and her performance is impeccable.  The movement doesn’t stop at her limbs; it extends into her face and glows off her skin into the space around her.  This is true of all her dancers.

The themes in this piece are dark and whimsical.  They range from dreams to suicide.  After the opening solo the company joins in like dark angels roaming around “Dante’s inferno”, turning into beggars crawling from the shadows.  The honest costuming, black hoodies, white gloves and sweat pants, become another character element in the series of events.  The black clothes, in the black space under different lighting effects are powerful.  The hoods instantly turn the performers into a chorus of grim reapers or one dark scary mass undulating under the light.

There was no misstep in the show.  The dancers were technical and present every millisecond.  The movement is smooth, raunchy and goofy at the same time.  Images of clowns on break, smoking in the alley came to mind.  A favorite image was when Tobin Del Cuore as a juggler appeared, obviously a street performer.  His gestural solo breaks into a long syrupy crawl, which leads, to a slightly uncomfortable masturbation then to a hanging.  The dancer returning full circle to juggling suggests we are seeing his internal dialogue as he panhandles for change.

There is a beautiful moment of light when dancer Emily Oldak, wearing nothing but a nude pair of undergarments, enters the space.  She bends and folds as a masterful yogini goddess, energy infinitely expanding in all directions, like a conflicted Eve suspended in space.

Barton’s musicality is impeccable, and the fact that she can marry sound with an anything goes choreography puts her in an elite class of artists.  She has also surrounded herself with a company who work incredibly well together and can bring her vision to life.  After the show, I was asked by my guest who my favorite dancer was… and I couldn’t give an answer.  There is no way to judge the individual players when the ensemble is so powerful.

I haven’t been viscerally affected by a concert like this in a very long time.  I have to thank the Ferst Theater for bringing artists like Aszure Barton to Georgia.

 

 

 

 

Dancer With An Attitude

The Movement In Stillness – “First Breath” by Travis Magee

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“First Breath”, a new exhibition of photography by Travis Magee

The Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Beginning 1.31.15

There are these moments among skilled choreography and seasoned performances where you lose yourself. If you happen to be experiencing this, you will most probably hear a gasp or a groan. There is no language adequate to tell the tale later because they affect you in a primal, visceral way. These moments transcend language and are too intimate to describe. To those of you who don’t frequent the many exquisite dance events happening around the world today… this is the reason to see dance live! The bitter sweet dichotomy can perpetuate a frustration, that the experiences can’t REALLY be translated to anyone who wasn’t at the dance performances, sharing the adventure. These feelings lead to the question, “How do we bottle this?”

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Dancer With An Attitude

Dearly Departures: “A Long Way… A Longer Distance Call”

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photo : Chris Carder
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The Lucky Penny has become a cornerstone of Atlanta’s cutting edge dance and technology. Dearly Departures: A new dance by Blake Beckham and her impeccable motley crew of technicians and performers, at Georgia Tech’s DramaTech Theater, have created yet another night of artistic excellence

The little black box theatre, more of a trapezoidal space is reminiscent of the old train stations lined with a long illuminated bench Stage Left, an “Old Skool” telephone booth Stage Right and a Split Flap display board hanging above. The experience begins with a Rolodex scrolling sound as the Split Flap illustrates very slow, movie style, credits. This sets a mellow tone, allowing the audience to hunker down in our seats and get comfortable. The lights dim then flicker off, in a “cool” and unusual manner, foreshadowing the unexpected and poetic experience to come.

The clickety clack of the display is overtaken by ambient music and lights go up on dancer Alisa Mitten. She smoothly makes her way around with long relaxed movements, allowing her fingertips to initiate her locomotion. As we watch, the Split Flap is feeding us contemplative ideas to ponder as the action unfolds.

“Away… Way back… Go… Go… Go back.” And a repeated mantra of “Begin again” & “Begin & End.”

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Dance

T. Lang: A Woman Searching

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The raw space at the Goat Farm is set up with four see through scrims hanging from the ceiling, situated in a square, to separate the performers from the audience.  Seats are arranged in the round, meaning all the way “a round” where the action was about to take place.  The first question of the evening is to figure out which side of the room we want to experience this evening from.  Obviously, there is no right or wrong… just questions.

On June 7th, I found myself asking a lot of questions at the World premiere of T. Lang Dance Company’s  performance of Post Up.  The cast of nine extraordinary women were uniformly exposed in white bras and cherry red leggings.   The uniformity brought to mind a complex woman or many women in a similar situation, perhaps battered or in a prison.  An inquiry later enhanced by zig-zagged projections on the fabric we were looking through.  The tastefully sparse costumes highlighted the performers’ beauty and I was reminded of how majestic women are, in all iterations, with different curves, hair lengths, textures and hues of skin.

The tone in this screened in cage was desperate, sad and played with themes of struggle and vulnerability but through it all a feminine strength became apparent.  Not only through the athleticism of these prodigious artistic athletes but in an instinctual comradery that naturally exists between woman, especially at times of crisis.

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