Choreographer's Collage: Aszure Barton
(Photo by Don Lee, courtesy The Banff Centre)
Since breaking into the choreography big leagues in 2005—when Mikhail Baryshnikov invited her to be the first artist in residence at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in NYC—this former National Ballet of Canada and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal dancer has been pushing dancers from around the world to new and exciting heights.
“When choreographing for Bayerisches Staatsballett [the Bavarian State Ballet] in Munich, I worked with an electronic and orchestral score by Mason Bates. The sound is full and energetic; it was really the starting point. Music is key to my work most of the time—it feeds my every cell.”
“When I’m working with my own group, Aszure Barton & Artists, we typically start with nothing—no music, no driving concept. We just get in the studio and see where it takes us. I like to take my time.”
Aszure Barton & Artists in Awáa, with a score by Curtis Macdonald and Lev "Ljova" Zhurbin" (photo by Don Lee, courtesy The Banff Centre)
“My company often works with composer Curtis Macdonald. We first met at The Banff Centre, where my company spends quite a bit of time each year. It’s an incredible space that facilitates music, dance and film—a melting pot of cool people.”
“A theater technician in Chicago told me about Mason Bates’ music, and when I started listening, I was hooked. I used his score The B-Sides: Five Pieces for Orchestra & Electronica for Houston Ballet when I made Angular Momentum. I love working with composers who can communicate with me directly because I can learn about their intention and where their scores come from.”
Barton watching Andrew Murdock, a dancer with Aszure Barton & Artists (photo by Tobin del Cuore, courtesy AB&D)
“Dancers are absolutely the key element to my work. I spend a lot of time sitting in the room in awe of them and their focus. It’s never just me coming in and setting choreography. There’s a lot of back and forth in a physical, nonverbal conversation.”
“I had never worked with Ailey before, so when I first started to create LIFT, I was interested in getting to know the dancers. I knew they each had incredible physicality, but
I was blown away by how they engaged as a group. Instead of being a bunch of soloists, I saw they worked well together as an ensemble. I was fueled by their energy as a group—hence the large piece with 19 people.”
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in LIFT (photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy AAADT)
“My family feeds my soul—they’re incredible people that ground me. My mom’s a warrior, incredibly strong, and my father is completely free-spirited and uninhibited. I know I have both sides in me, and I strive to work towards their strength and freedom.”
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.