all seen them, artists standing on a street corner with an
empty top hat or a beat-up guitar case. Some are musicians
or mimes, others poets or dancers, each with something to
say to a disinterested world around them.
they’re doing is called busking, derived from the Spanish
verb buscar, meaning “to seek.” However, despite the
ageless attempt to achieve something beyond the immediate,
the street artist is often no more understood or respected
than an organ grinder.
to comment on the hidden realm of busking than an artist herself,
a choreographer whose main research and inspiration are the
idiosyncrasies of human nature. In her piece Busk, Canadian
choreographer Aszure Barton offers a hauntingly humorous window
into the complex and disheartening existence of the nomadic
man opens the piece with a playful solo of lofty leaps and
white-gloved hand tricks. Dressed in baggy sweats and a black
blazer, the dancer seems to transcend his station as a beggar,
disregarding the empty top hat placed at the edge of the stage.
He eventually acknowledges the prop by lowering his head into
the hat and executing a perfectly balanced head stand.
is so gifted as to play six musical instruments or convey
an entire life story with one’s hands, how does such a person’s
life become reduced to cold city streets and penniless pockets?
Aszure Barton & Artists explore this question more deeply
than one might be prepared for.
choreographer, Barton is unafraid to show the dismal qualities
behind the clown make-up and rusty harmonica. In one instant,
a male is positioned center stage, exuding strength and vitality
much like the famous DaVinci anatomy study; then suddenly,
the figure melts inward, contracting his torso; his legs collapse
together in a masturbatory impulse.
dancer takes on the role of the street performer, the other
company members depict the glaring judgment of the public
eye. With black hoods drawn over their faces, the dancers
resemble a mob of heretics or evil spirits. They loom in the
background, echoing a score of Swedish choral melodies with
shouts and grunts.
one of the faceless members ventures forward and hovers closely
to the soloist. As the performer courageously empties his
soul, the black figure stands alongside stoically, a constant
reminder of failure and doom. There is a poignant dichotomy
between the uncompromising expressiveness of the performer
and the emotionless burden of this shadow.
between the creative depth of the performer and the limitations
of their condition is emphasized further as the piece comes
to a close. A female dancer enters, waddling in a crouched
position covered by a black plastic bag. She rises in front
of a projected image of a homeless woman and leaves the covering
behind, revealing a hastily made slip dress of white trash
to a klezmer waltz, the woman spins herself into a fury with
a rapid folkdance. But rather than collapse in exhaustion,
as one might expect, she rips apart the plastic covering,
shaking her bare chest like a defiant warrior. She stands
exposed, both striking and vulnerable, as the rest of the
evenly across the stage, the performers proceed to bow excessively
in every manner and direction, some straight and formal, others
slightly apologetic. Each of the dancers, one by one, removes
his ragged clothing, ultimately leaving the entire ensemble
naked, save for nude-colored undergarments.
is an element of exploitation that is obvious and saddening,
which only intensifies as a single female approaches the edge
of the stage. Her torso and pelvis undulate in a riveting
display of sexual confidence. However, she is held captive
by the return of a hooded onlooker, an unwelcome visitor who
manipulates her body like a marionette, tickling her flesh
as she fearfully shivers.
quality of the male intruder is a haunting final image. As
a moaning accordion quiets to silence, the woman lowers herself
to the ground and painstakingly crawls offstage, the shadowy
figure still at her side. It is unclear whether the oppression
she has experienced is something within her or the result
of her unending striving for artistic recognition.