Welcome to Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation. I dreamed this series of interviews out of grief for my work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance. In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.
But there's no distancing around what we still can share with one another--our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.
So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I'm glad they're part of our beautiful community, and I'm eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.
--Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody
(photo: Tobin Del Cuore)
Aszure Barton received her formal dance training from Canada’s National Ballet School, where she helped originate the Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Showcase as a student. She has been creating dances for over 25 years and has collaborated with celebrated dance artists and companies including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Teatro alla Scala, English National Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Nederlands Dans Theater, National Ballet of Canada, Martha Graham Dance Company, Bayerisches Staatsballett, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Sydney Dance Company, and Houston Ballet, among many others. She has received accolades and honors including the prestigious Arts & Letters Award. She was the first Martha Duffy resident artist at the Baryshnikov Arts Center and is an official ambassador of contemporary dance in Canada. She founded Aszure Barton & Artists in the early 2000s in order to create an autonomous, collaborative platform for process-centered creation. As an educator, Aszure is regularly invited to collaborate with and give workshops at universities and art institutions around the globe. She is currently an artist in residence faculty member at the University of Southern California.
Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?
Yes, like so many other artists, I have had projects cancelled. I was currently scheduled to be working with the glorious dancers of Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company, but unfortunately the project has been cancelled indefinitely. I was also scheduled to work with Houston Ballet last month and had planned to spend the summer creating and touring with my own team (Aszure Barton & Artists) but, again, these events were cancelled.
I am scheduled to work with LA Opera in the fall, though this process and its premier are pending. We shall see what manifests! There are also a couple other stagings pending for the fall and winter season. All this said, I am hopeful that some of these projects, and others, will still happen at some point (in some form) in the future so I’m maximizing this period of time/space to further research and develop the work.
Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.
I was born into a dance-loving family. My mother never took lessons herself but she encouraged us; she has always been profoundly moved by dance. My father dances all of the time, not on the stage but from and for his own heart's sake. I am the youngest of three women, and we are all still involved in dance.
I started making dances when I was a child. It was a way of bringing my friends and family together. I saw that it made people feel good, and that brought me joy. Still does.
In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?
During the past couple months, I have discovered my own body again. I hadn’t realized the extent of how disconnected from my physical being I had become. I was a stranger to my own body but, thank goodness, this quiet moment of isolation has presented an opportunity for me to go within and to listen. What I am being taught through obstacle is the importance of community and communication. I have been taking online classes and am wallowing in the generosity and skill of my teachers. It’s really awesome to return to the fundamentals and such a treat to listen and receive direction from others!
How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?
Practicing movement again has reminded me to show up for myself as well as for others.
How does your practice function within the world we have now?
In terms of my daily routine, I carve out very clear windows of time to focus on my physical and choreographic practice. I find that creating a precise timeline for myself allows me to be more present and to have more fun. I have been archiving works from the past and have been researching for projects in the future. I also carve out hours to actively practice “making” (whether that’s on paper or in hand or in the kitchen or garden), or online with a dear friend through Zoom or in person with my generous husband. The other day I was so desperate to practice making movement with a live body in space, that my husband volunteered to be the dancer. He is a nurse, not a dancer, but he did his best. :-)
It’s all a work in progress, and change is a constant.
My self care tip/mantra: Make space for stillness. This is an opportunity for pause and to ask ourselves, “What can we do to make things much better?”
DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve, at Gibney, as Senior Director of Artist Development and Curation and Editorial Director. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.
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