Aszure Barton Takes on Ballet

The in-demand contemporary choreographer spends the season in classical mode.
Published in the October/November 2009 issue.

Choreographer Aszure Barton has already made a name for herself in the contemporary dance world. Her works for BJM Danse Montréal (where she was resident choreographer for three years) and her own company, Aszure & Artists, draw on a range of traditions. They look jazzy one moment but turn into something lush and full-bodied the next, punctuated by twitchy gesture phrases. This fall, however, she’ll make a high-profile entrance into the classical scene: Her new work for American Ballet Theatre premieres in October, and a piece for The National Ballet of Canada opens in November.

 

“I try to be as open to new experiences as possible,” says Barton, who warmed up for the ballet spotlight by choreographing Barbara on ABT II in 2008. Though working simultaneously with two international ballet companies might seem daunting, she is excited about the opportunity to return to a style that is, in fact, her roots. “I trained with The National Ballet of Canada, so I have lots of love for ballet,” she says. She also isn't worried about the way her style will fit on ballet dancers. “I want my dancers to be themselves, in whatever form they are most comfortable. It’s up to me to be in tune with the group and create from there.”

 

Each première will present its own challenges. ABT’s October season will take place at Avery Fisher Hall, which is designed for music rather than dance. And the work for NBC will boast a cast of 40—which, given Barton’s interest in working collaboratively with her dancers, could pose a problem. But Barton says that careful casting should prevent chaos at NBC. “I chose people who are impulsive yet able to function cohesively as a group. The power of the group is key,” she explains. As for the music hall turned dance hall? “I’m used to performing in all sorts of places and making it work. With my own company, we’ve even worked in the street!”