Aszure Barton & Artists and the National Ballet School

Aszure Barton & Artists
present Busk & Blue Soup
April 17 & 18
at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, Toronto
in collaboration with the National Ballet School

There's been a seismic shift in the dance world in recent years, one that echoes across all the creative disciplines as they work to readapt to the changed financial landscape. As a major national institution, the National Ballet School in Toronto it taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, in an effort to educate their students not only in the art of dance, but in the art of running a creative business. To that end, they've entered into a brand new mentoring programme with star alumna Aszure Barton.

You could hardly think of a better and more inspiring example for students of dance than Aszure Barton. The Alberta born dance sensation, a protégée of Mikhail Barishnikov, is currently based in New York City with her Aszure Barton & Artists company as both choreographer and dancer. She's defnitely carving out a distinct name for herself in the international world of dance with innovative choreography. Recent commissions include original works premiered by the American Ballet Theatre in October 2009, and with the National Ballet of Canada in November 2009.

This time around, her company's performances are part of that process. "The producer is 18, and the donors are in their 20's," says the Ballet School's Jeff Melanson. "I think it will be very useful." Aszure will be mentoring Robert Binet, that 18 year old producer and Ballet School student, in a collaborative process.

It's an important evolution when the landscape for dance is in a state of flux. At one time, graduates could count on a position with a major dance company somewhere in the world. Today the trend is more towards a model of creative entrepreneurship. Jeff mentions Toronto's Arts & Crafts Record label as another example of a creative business that started small, and now has a global reach. "It's a pretty exciting time in terms of opportunity," he says.

Still, the opportunity comes because some doors have simply slammed shut."There's a fairly massive gulf between larger institituions and smaller, more recent companies," Jeff says, pointing to longterm funding issues. "They can't make the transition to more stable, mid-sized companies. We're exploring our responsibility as a large institution. We're trying to embed that sense of creativity and entrepreneurialism."

Ballet sometimes gets stuck with the label of being stodgy and too stuck in old, established way, a fallacy both the National Ballet School and National Ballet of Canada itself has tried to dispell."People talk about technology like it's the worst thing that's ever happened to us," Jeff says. "If we embrace the opportunities, we can explore the possibilities." He notes the younger, media savvy generation and its 'new' perspective. "It's a shift - you still emphasize the content, but now you pay attention to the delivery of it as well."