Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Aszure Barton and Artists “Busk” at Atlanta's Ferst Center

Posted By on Wed, Oct 5, 2011 at 9:35 AM

The dancers of Aszure Barton and Artists perform in her work Busk this Friday at Ferst Center.
  • The dancers of Aszure Barton and Artists perform in her work "Busk" this Friday at Ferst Center.
Aszure Barton—one of the most consistently commissioned choreographers in New York—will bring her work to Atlanta for the first time this Friday at the Ferst Center. Her company—Aszure Barton and Artists—is undertaking a rare US tour. We caught up with the artist to ask about the work she'll be bringing to town, her much-touted patronage by the great Mikhail Baryshnikov, and how she keeps grounded amidst all the clamor of success.

Can you tell us about the program we'll be seeing here in Atlanta?
Sure. There are two works on the program: "Busk" and "Blue Soup." The seed for "Busk" was planted in 2009 in residencies we did in Santa Barbara and Banff. The reason I chose the word “Busk” is that it's a very strong word, and I was thinking about myself as a choreographer, my place in society. It comes from the word “buscar” which is the root of the word busk and means to search. It refers to searching for and discovering the meaning of being a performer while on stage. Though there's a lot of humor in the work, it is a darker piece in terms of the structure of its space. It's moody and intense. Something that's integral to the work is constant change. Even to this day, in full bloom, the piece has a lot of structure, but there's a lot of freedom within the structure to have the work change and evolve. It's set to beautiful music by Russian composer and violist Lev Zhurbin. It works really well opposite the first half of the program "Blue Soup." It's vibrant with very bright energy, super-colorful. It really plays with the individual personalities and idiosyncracies of the dancers. Musically, "Blue Soup" is super-eclectic. There's a lot of percussion sound. The sound ranges from Japanese kodo to Hungarian music to Italian to African to American, so it's a wide range. "Blue Soup" is really a compilation of work, sort of an autobiography of yours truly, works that I've loved along the way.

How would you describe your style to people who haven't seen it?
The only constant to my work is change. I'm also interested in learning from the people around me. I like when the work is in motion and change. There are things I'm fascinated with: Space, creating an emotional content through time and space. It sounds really heavy, but it's actually something I'm really interested in. The essence of the work is building a platform in which every single person can feel like they have an environment where they can bring themselves completely to the work.

Do you think of your pieces as having a narrative?
I am definitely not trying to tell a story. Interpretation is up to the audience. People should have their own experience. There's definitely individual characters in the work and strong personalities because I'm interested in a cinematic soundscore and an environment that's character-driven, the dancers' stories are a priority. There are through-lines and themes that come back, definitely, but I'm not telling a story.

Aszure Barton
  • Aszure Barton
Nearly every article about you says that you were a “protégée of Mikhail Baryshnikov.” I was wondering if you could talk about your relationship and what you learned from him as an artist.
It's always weird to read that because it's not something I would necessarily say. My relationship with Baryshnikov and the Baryshnikov Arts Center has been invaluable, but I have to say he does support many artists. I'm definitely not "The Chosen One." Essentially, I was performing in a small group years ago, and some of the dancers from Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project had just seen my work in a small venue downtown. They told him about it, and when I met him—I had no idea he'd heard my name—we were at a reception and he said, as I'm sure he's said to many other creators, “I'm curious about your work and I heard it's really good.” I guess it's just personal taste, I did something he connected to and he believed in it. He's been at every show since. What I've learned most from him is his curiosity, in that we all know nothing really. There's always more to learn. He's definitely the most curious artist I've ever met and probably will ever meet. He came into the studio with me when I was creating a piece for him, and he said, “You're the director and I am the dancer. I'm not going to tell you what to do. Ever.” There's incredible respect. But he's just a very curious and an incredible soul that will never stop being involved in supporting other artists.

How do you gauge success?
I have far exceeded any personal expectations about the acknowledgement of my work. I never dreamt or imagined becoming a successful choreographer. It's just something I've always loved. I had a couple of years where I did allow myself to get out of my heart and more into my mind. That can be very troublesome. You never want to start producing work to please other people. If I can remain in that place, always true to where I am—it sounds so cheesy—but that's the most successful thing for me. Remaining human and creating in an environment that is loving and totally open. You're not going to please everyone. It's like I read in an interview with Ricky Gervais. He said, “If you listen to yourself, you're bulletproof.” I love that.


Aszure Barton and Artists perform at Georgia Tech's Ferst Center on Friday, October 7, 2011 at 8 pm. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Ferst Center. Half-price tickets are available via discount ticket services Goldstar and Atlantix.

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