Aszure Barton & Artists and Elevator Repair Service at Sarasota’s Ringling International Arts Festival.
By Kay Kipling
The Ringling International Arts Festival continues through Oct. 11, but I saw my final two shows with a double dance bill featuring Aszure Barton & Artists, presenting the world premiere of Busk, and OtherShore, a company offering a shorter piece titled The Snow Falls in Winter.
The first piece first: Snow features just five dancers, and begins, not with movement, but with words, as one of the performers reads aloud stage directions for the opening scene of a play. What the play is really supposed to be about we never know, but it involves, in varying formations, the actions between a professor, a young girl student and a maid. There’s a lesson of some sort going on, as dancers swap roles and read aloud or move to taped applause and other sounds, but I have to admit I was mystified by any larger meaning at work here; the whole thing reminded me a bit of Eugene Ionesco and the Theatre of the Absurd.
Not so with Busk, the longer piece that followed. Choreographer Barton has gained a name for herself over the last few years, and it’s easy to see why as we are quickly caught up with this new dance creation, which begins with a lone violin and a hooded black figure placing an upturned hat on the stage–we assume to hold coins, as buskers or street performers do. The black hooded sweatshirts are repeated on other dancers as they enter the stage throughout the piece; and certain movements are repeated, too, most notably the outstretched hand or the fingers rubbing together that signify asking for payment in return for the performance. A mixture of feelings is evoked with Busk; there are moments that feel religious, and certainly some of the music sounds liturgical. Other moments feel religious in a less conventional way; there’s a scene with a female dancer contorting her body in various ways that seem almost amphibian or primordial.
All of the dancers move with athletic assurance, and by the end the work builds to an energy-filled climax with a wild, klezmer-influenced dance performed by a female dancer attired something like a Greek goddess. I’m no modern dance critic, but I liked what I saw here.
I also attended the early evening performance of Elevator Repair Service’s The Sun Also Rises (First Part), a new work based on Ernest Hemingway’s modern classic about a group of American and British expatriates in Paris in the 1920s. Because this piece by the New York-based company is a workshop premiere, the press was asked not to review it. So I won’t, other than to say I certainly found Sun (which, like other ERS works, including interpretations of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury, is designed to present all the book’s words onstage) intriguing enough that I’d want to see the completed work whenever it’s done. That’s set for sometime next year.
For those who still have discoveries to make at this year’s inaugural festival, enjoy.