Letting it All Hang Out

ASzURe & Artists

At Center Stage Theater, Wednesday, July 26 and
Saturday, July 29.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Schwyzer

I had a hunch that this was a company whose masterclass I should
take if I were reviewing their performance. Aszure’s teaching, like
her choreography and her dancing, is fearless. She’s a risk taker
and a speaker of truths — whether they’re convenient or not. “You
were holding on to that moment,” she told one dancer in Saturday’s
class. “Let it go — just let it all out.”

No coincidence, then, that her 2005 work Lascilo
is subtitled A Journey of Letting Go. It
isn’t really that letting go is a new concept in dance or in art;
Barton and her fellow artists just do it so well that the audience
gets it.

Lascilo is a big piece tackling big stuff: intimacy, sex,
violence, loss. It’s like the dance equivalent of Hieronymus
Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delight: full of sinful
pleasures, ludicrous and haunting. When Ariel Freedman took Eric
Beauchesne’s tongue between her teeth and proceeded to lead him
slowly and relentlessly across the stage, she committed her
audience as well as her partner to walking that tender line between
intimacy and discomfort.

It’s exactly this kind of unbuttoning of pent-up desire, anger,
and downright silliness that turns Barton on. “Are you
sin-cere?” crooned Andy Williams in the retro-pop score of
Over/Come. While dancers flirted and pranced center stage,
one man stood pinning a woman up against a far wall, his hand
clutching at her breast while her feet dangled impassively above
the floor. Later he released her and she began to move freely, only
to find herself the center of a fishbowl gaze, a circle of dancers
watching in silence as she shifted from self-conscious posturing to
sexually explicit writhing to desperate thrashing.

This kind of exposure could easily be unpleasant, but Barton’s
work is deliciously revealing. Her dancers have beautiful bodies
and exquisite technique, but even if they didn’t, her work would
carry sex appeal. Like sex, it is urgent, embarrassing, raunchy,
satisfying, complex — and a lot of fun if you can let go.

During the masterclass, after watching our first attempts at a
physically intense traveling sequence, Barton mentioned having
recently watched a video of Nigerian juju dancing where women
stomp, shake, and sway for hours on end — ecstatic, uninterrupted,
and uninhibited. “Their dancing is so selfless,” she told us. “We
tend to edit that raw emotion, that physicality. This is about
letting yourself look ridiculous.” She demonstrated a little
impromptu juju. “Try it again with that in mind,” she

And I’m hungry for more.


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