A scene from Barton's new work-in-progress, "Busk," created in Santa Barbara.
David Bazemore

Aszure Barton and her New York City-based company have been to Santa Barbara before, but this time, they got to kick off their shoes and stay a while. Arriving in town on February 8 for a month-long DANCEworks residency at the Lobero Theatre, the dancers dove into the creation of a new work, rehearsing on the very stage where it was to premiere.

The first half of last weekend’s much-anticipated show consisted entirely of work created during the residency. From the opening solo-a man in black on a darkened stage wearing white gloves, hands flitting and gliding as if they were separate creatures-to the exposure of the brick back wall of the theater, stark and industrial, everything about “Busk” was classic Aszure.

Dancers in black hoodies bopped their heads to a Gregorian chant amid swirling fog. Duets were at once comic and tender. Dancers rolled about at the edge of the stage, then leapt down to cavort in the aisle.

The second half of the evening, “Blue Soup,” was a mash-up of highlights from the company’s existing repertory. Among the snippets was a heartbreakingly beautiful virtual duet where a woman danced alone, while projected behind her was a video of her performing the same dance as a duet with a male dancer.

Jonathan Alsberry must be mentioned as a standout performer. A man of compact stature, he is able to articulate his body in ways rarely seen. His movements were fluid and light, but always rooted to a strong rhythm.

Barton and all of her dancers are highly trained, with bodies that often appear to be moved by unseen hands, lifted and pulled in ways that defy gravity and dazzle the viewer. But beyond their physical abilities, there is something deeper. A dedicated collaborator, Barton seeks out each dancer’s individuality and integrates it into her work. She embraces eclectic musical selections and takes inspiration from them. And a generous vein of humor runs through her work, the kind that reveals truths about our flaws, our shared humanity.


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