Read the Enthusiastic Blogs and Reviews of Trisha Brown Dance Company.
The blogs and reviews on Trisha Brown Dance Company are coming, and they are all highly enthusiastic.
Click HERE for Nim Wunnan's analytical response to the program in Oregon Arts Watch, noting Trisha Brown's comparison of herself to a bricklayer.
Click HERE for Catherine Thomas' appreciative review in The Oregonian.
Click HERE for Robert Tyree's commentary.
Click HERE for Portland Stage Review.
And following is Kiri Strack-Grose perceptive and detailed take on the evening. Kiri is a dance student at Reed College.
Trisha Brown Dance Company: Beauty and Logic
In interest of full disclosure, I have been excited about seeing the Trisha Brown Dance Company for months, probably since February or March. From going to Tamara Riewe’s master class at Reed College on the 10 to studying previous works such as “Accumulation” and “Locus”, I familiarized myself with the logical, almost mathematical approach to dance that Trisha works with and the “dry”, as Tamara described, quality to the movement. With this supplemental knowledge, I was even more excited to see the company perform the four pieces “Watermotor” (1978), “Les Yeux et l’âme” (2011), “Foray Forêt” (1990), and “I’m Going to Toss My Arms--if You Catch Them They’re Yours” (2011), nicknamed “Toss”, this night at the Newmark.
“Watermotor”, the first piece, was performed by Leah Morrison. This solo has traditionally been performed by Trisha Brown ever since its first film appearance in 1978 (which you can read about here http://www.babettemangolte.com/maps2.html, on the filmmaker’s website). I had watched that first film of “Watermotor” and was curious as to whether or not Morrison would perform the solo exactly as prescribed or if she would change the quality slightly, make it her own. Watching carefully, I noticed only a few differences in the movement: I felt that Morrison took one or two more steps while walking upstage right about halfway through the solo and the movement following those steps, a scuffing of the feet like a bull preparing for battle, went from out to in more than Trisha’s straight scuffing. Also, the light, bouncing ribcage characteristic of Trisha’s solo seemed stiffer in Morrison’s body. Were these changes mediated, purposeful? There is no way to know.
A quality of “Watermotor” struck me in both the film of Trisha Brown and Morrison’s performance was the way that no single movement except for the very last one was brought through to completion; instead, every movement either bleed into or was interrupted by the next. There was a task-like internal focus that let the audience’s gaze attend to the entire body. This internal focus extends throughout the entire solo except for one striking moment where Morrison’s gaze was particularly and forcefully on the floor in front of her leaning body and my view as an audience member is drawn along the line of her body and then directly down to that unremarkable, yet somehow fascinating, floor. Ultimately, the most striking aspects of Morrison’s “Watermotor” were the continuously interrupted quality and the dry, task-like manner of performance.
The second piece, “Les Yeux et l’âme”, introduced the rest of the company: Neal Beasly, Tara Lorenzen, Megan Mandorin, Tamara Riewe, Stuart Shugg, Nicholas Strafaccia, and Samual Wentz. The music for this piece was Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Pygmalion, recorded by William Christie and Les Arts Florissants for Hamonia Mundi. It played throughout the entire dance at a constant volume and, as so few of Trisha’s dances involve music in any lasting or concrete way, it raised the question of what it meant to dance with music versus to music, a question that, as far as I could tell, was left unanswered. The dancers here were all dressed in flowing grey clothing that caught the air as they moved and they danced primarily in pairs, though there were some trios and some mixing of groups.
One of the most striking moments of the piece was a deviation from pairs despite the continuation of the movement sequences; it was clear that the movement one performer was doing with a partner could be done entirely alone. The result was that the solo performer seemed partnered with almost visible negative space. Another memorable moment was a trio of weight-sharing performers: Tara Lorenzen and two male dancers. The introduction to the trio was a long sequence of lifts where one or both of the male performers lifted Lorenzen. My progressive, feminist heart sank. Just as I was giving up hope, one man pulled Lorenzen away from the other. The second man pulled her back, and the first man pulled him away from her. With the final move, the trio had officially changed; Lorenzen and the larger man, the first man, lifted the second in a series of aerials very similar to the Lorenzen’s earlier on the piece, defying traditional ballet’s influence and equalizing movement across gender roles. This equalizing of the dancers and of the importance of any movement is a motif in all of Trisha’s work.
The third piece, “Foray Forêt” (1990), had an exciting twist; the music involved in the performance was a marching band, the award-winning local Oregon Crusaders, wandering around the outside of the theatre. This dance dealt with so many abstract, esoteric concepts that it felt like a dissertation on stage. It was, of course, the most interesting and beautiful dissertation I’ve ever encountered. Seven phrases of comprised the movement vocabulary and the dancers moved in and out of these phrases with the utmost grace, with the catalyst for changing the phrase being defined internally and unseen, or externally, by another dancer. This mathematical flow defines “Foray Forêt” and many other pieces by Trisha.
After an intermission, the exciting American premiere of “I’m Going to Toss My Arms--If You Catch Them They’re Yours” began. The main curtain raises and I am astonished to find that all of curtains--the legs on the side and the cyc on the back--have been removed. I can see the warehouse-like walls of the Newmark stage, the lighting trees, the storage lofts. Then the fans turn on and my attention is drawn to stage left, where all of the dancers in large white clothes and a plethora of industrial-sized fans are. All eight dancers are moving in what I like to call “Trisha Brown unison”--whether or not they are in perfect unison is not significant. As they repeat a long movement sequence, billowing like sails in the man-made wind, one dancer, Neal Beasley, steps out from the crowd and performs a different sequence. This is the marker of a long, slow change; sometime after he returns to the group’s movement, Riewe steps out and does something else. Slowly, one by one, the dancers either join Beasley center stage or exit through a curtain the audience can see and enter through a different one on stage right. This piece was filled with spirals: spirals in the movement, spirals in the body, spiralling out of control. The white shirts were fastened in the back with snaps or Velcro and were easily removable, as were the pants--as the dance went on, each dancer removed one, and then the other, article of clothing to reveal colored leotards for the women and colored shorts for the men. While the vocabulary superficially seemed similar to that of “Foray Forêt”, the quality of the movement was softer and more rounded.
The progressive but unpredictable removal of clothing fascinated me. With three or four
dancers on stage performing the same sequence but in different states of undress, I contemplated how movement was translated through clothing. Did the masking or reveal of the body change the audience’s perception of the movement, or even the movement itself, like when the dancers had to take off an article of clothing? When Tara Lorenzen, who is fairly short, and another, taller woman who I think was Megan Madorin performed the same movements, I found myself taking those contemplations even further. Were the movements or our perception of the movements by their translation through different bodies? The difference in clothing and the difference in bodies through the same movement sequences was the key point of interest for me in this piece, which ended in Nicholas Strafaccia carrying Lorenzen off-stage in a particularly shaped lift taken directly from “Foray Forêt”.