November 27, 2008

Soirée Aszure Barton (presented by Danse Danse)

Salle Pierre-Mercure, Centre Pierre-Péladeau

Montréal, Canada

November 27–29, 2008

Reviewed by Philip Szporer


Photo by Jean Tremblay.

Dancers of [bjm_danse] in

Aszure Barton’s
Les Chambres

des Jacques.

Together Aszure Barton and [bjm_danse] (formerly Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal) are something to celebrate. The musicality of the energy-driven dancers is perfectly suited to Barton’s exuberant, ever-changing movement innovation. Their quick, limber physicality and mercurial sensuality are vital ingredients of the successful Soirée Aszure Barton. The good-looking dancers know how to work a move. The remarkable ensemble has the soul, intensity, and drive that jazz requires, and their long clean lines and versatile technique speak to a classical base. They also have a commitment to whatever they are dancing, and Barton strikes gold with that. In both pieces on the bill—Les Chambres des Jacques and Jack in a Box—her broad taste in music is equally key.

Barton’s appeal is her popular sensibility and her engagement with the dancers. For Chambres, a reprise from 2006, she takes the audience into the world of various Jacks, as embodied by the wide range of movers who reveal shades of their individual natures. She introduces them one by one, in solos, presenting differing movement styles (modern, hip hop, gymnastic, etc.) and a varied music score, stirring the Québécois folk sense of Gilles Vigneault, Vivaldi arias, klezmer and gypsy rhythms. The piece takes on a layered feel as the performers overlap, and in the process gives us a sense of a larger community.

Jack in a Box
(which premiered earlier this year at the Canada Dance Festival) explores community, with the group defined by grey school-type uniforms (shorts and shirts) and a soloist in shirt, tie, and slacks. That strict, formal sense evolves bit by bit, and we witness individuals in transformation, breaking out in a variety of iterations, from the sacred to the profane. The sense of playful, youthful exuberance and percussive movement, with jumps and sinuous spins, pushes aside any sense of conformity, and the quick-witted dancers are brilliant at this kind of double-playing. The finale, set at a Last Supper-like table, sees its cast of nine together creating detailed studies with minimal movements: synchronized palms banging, a tilt of the head, a hop or a glide, or a tap of a finger. Once more, the weave of music is compelling, with Kodo drumming alongside Mannheim Steamroller, chanting, and funky Robert Charlebois. Unfussy lighting by Daniel Ranger seals the deal.