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Ian Robinson: this Aszure & Artists dancer has quirky brilliance.


With his gangly limbs and quirky humor, Ian Robinson can look a little awkward onstage. He can pull off a triple pirouette with his head cocked to the side while an elbow flaps in one direction and his toes wiggle in the other. He plays effortlessly with dynamics, ferociously attacking the movement one moment and becoming deeply internal the next. No matter how off-kilter the sequence, his engagement is always complete.

In the last two years, Robinson, 23, has performed with a variety of high-profile companies. His credits include Complexions Contemporary Ballet, [bjm_danse], and Mikhail Baryshnikov's Hell's Kitchen Dance, and he has captivated critics as well as audiences and choreographers.

"I've rarely ever worked with anyone who is so not afraid to be ugly, which is so beautiful," says choreographer Aszure Barton. "He is completely open and real onstage." Through her company Aszure & Artists, Barton has been giving Robinson more and more opportunities to showcase his unusual qualities and has recently recruited him to work with her behind the scenes as well.

Like many dancers, Robinson's first stage experience was in The Nutcracker--except he was still in his mother's belly. His parents had both been professional ballet dancers in Europe and he grew up in their studio, The Robinson Ballet, in Bangor, Maine. But although he took class every day, be was not serious about dance. "My focus was on tennis," he says. He was ranked number one in Maine for his age group when he was 9 and won 50 out of the 52 competitive games he played during high school. "Dance wasn't something I had to do," says Robinson. "It was more just time to have fun after I was done training for the day."

Though he was offered tennis scholarships to colleges with prestigious athletic programs, Robinson followed his then-girlfriend to an audition for New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. When he was offered a scholarship, be decided to give it a try. "I was kind of over tennis in that it is so much about winning and losing," he says. "I thought, 'There has to be more to life than this.'"

Feeling like an outsider in the dance department, Robinson didn't throw himself in right away. "At the beginning I hovered and listened a lot to see where I fit in, and if I fit in," be says. As he worked with the many different New York teachers, choreographers, and dancers at Tisch, be began to open up.

"Ian was like the mythical perfect student," says Tisch dance arts professor Gus Solomons jr. "He came in with this strong ballet technique, but once he discovered how to use his spine, he just exploded." Robinson learned to move in a more grounded, athletic way, and became engrossed with the possibilities.

As he finished up his senior year in 2006, Robinson landed a gig touring with Hell's Kitchen Dance. Then he was cast in a duet with Baryshnikov, where he held his own, dancing side by side in unison with the legend. "At first it freaked me out," says Robinson, "but connecting onstage with the greatest dancer alive was the most enriching thing I've ever done."

When he got back to New York Robinson was offered a contract with Complexions. While he enjoyed the physicality of contemporary ballet, after only a year he longed for an atmosphere where he could be part of the creative process. He'd met Barton through Hell's Kitchen Dance and began working with her regularly.

"He performs like it's his play time," says Barton. "Onstage he is always completely present and making choices impulsively. I've never watched a show where he's doing the same thing twice in that moment." She likes working with Robinson because he plays with different elements--the movement's initiation, the thoughts behind the steps, and his response to the music. And he does it all fearlessly.

Barton now uses Robinson as a collaborative assistant to help create material, and he loves being part of that process. "The performance is exciting," he says, "but the guts of it is going into a world that's not there yet, however long it takes." Other dancers have noticed his interest in making material. "The rehearsal process is a complete exploration for him," says Christina Dooling, who danced with Robinson in Complexions. "You can see he's trying to find new things. And having fun doing it."

Though he admits he should probably get health insurance at some point, Robinson doesn't miss being part of a more traditional company. "I want to travel the world and work with great artists whether they're choreographers, photographers, chefs, or tennis players," he says. Through those he's met while dancing, he's learned about sound editing, photography, and filming dance for the camera. Robinson lives impulsively, and his interests change faster than the seasons. "I try not to force things because you get into trouble that way. I just want to learn from the greats and be part of creating something."

Jennifer Stahl is senior editor at Pointe.
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Title Annotation:on the rise
Author:Stahl, Jennifer
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2008
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