Aszure Barton & Artists | Sarah Carlson (Nov. 2011)

Aszure Barton & Artists
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Williams Center for the Arts
Lafayette College

by Sarah Carlson

Barton’s choreography is buoyant, witty, unexpected. What more could a seasoned dance viewer want? Or an unseasoned viewer for that matter…

In her first appearance in the Lehigh Valley, this Canadian artist did what any relative up-and-comer should strive for: delight, impress & establish a clear voice.  Barton’s infectious blend of physical theatricality & intriguing ethnic juxtapositions kept the audience rapt with attention, even if its final impression would take time to coalesce.


Blue Soup opened the evening presenting a hodge-podge mix of some of Barton’s more salient previous work.  Nine men & women dressed identically in blue suits dropped in and out of connectivity creating a visual interplay that often reflected the complicated maneuverings of the score. A blend of contemporary Eastern European a cappella with rhythmic African word play and a Paul Simon tune thrown in for good measure, the score presented a constantly shifting matrix of perspectives that was as surprising as it was original. Strangely this striking sound compilation was only acknowledged by a cursory music credit in the program that summed it all up with a simple nod to “various artists”. 


While the blue-suited group often swirled in and amongst one another, several dancers enjoyed solo moments that established the unique qualities of their individual ingredients.  Quite often presentational, the audience was actively engaged by dancers who were as lithe and sinewy as marionettes. A repeated hand wave sent out a cheery greeting that echoed the innocent intentions of child’s play. Truly a dynamic mix, Blue Soup somehow hung together by a common sense of exuberance & investment in the unfolding absurdity of it all.


Large scale close-ups of faces projected on the back wall opened the second work of the evening, BUSK.  The title is sourced from the Spanish verb “buscar” which translates into “to seek” or “to look”; immediately apropos as larger than life eyes looked out over the audience. As the audience gazed back, a voyeuristic interplay began that would continue throughout the piece.  Once the projections faded, it became clear that Barton herself had been watching the audience the whole time hidden in the shadows.   She launched into movement with an articulation & clarity worthy of Marcel Marceau. White gloves and black sweats further reinforced the mime reference.


Like Blue Soup, BUSK introduces its own suite of surprises. After her solo, Barton jumps off the stage and joins the audience further confusing the question of who is watching whom.  A lone unicyclist appears, disappears & contortionist sequences follow creating a rarified circus atmosphere where anything is possible. The tone of BUSK is somewhat darker than the first piece and its surprises don’t come together quite as neatly. Still, Barton’s voice is distinct throughout; she captivates with her easy wit and unpretentious erudition. Her approach to musicality is articulate & refreshing. She has cast her first stone into the Lehigh Valley dance pool and the resulting ripples are intoxicating. Ellis Finger, please hear my cry: more please!