Trisha Brown Dance Company

April 7, 2010

Trisha Brown Dance Company
Baryshnikov Arts Center, NYC

April 7–11, 2010

Reviewed by Susan Yung


Leah Morrison and Nicholas Strafaccia in Brown’s
Opal Loop. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, Courtesy TBDC.

The title of Trisha Brown’s Opal Loop/Cloud Installation #72503 (1980) is full of improbabilities, just like her choreography. “Opal” evokes something milky, glittering, obdurate; “cloud installation,” an absurdist exercise in manipulating not only nature, but something virtually immaterial; and the catalogue number—pure dada. Her company’s recent run paired Opal Loop with If you couldn’t see me for a brilliant, brief, program performed twice a night at BAC’s Howard Gilman Performance Space. Because Brown usually works in much larger opera houses, we are often too far away from the dancers to see them sweat or breathe rapidly. Her movement can appear so smooth and velvety at a remove, but in reality it is hard work. At BAC, just yards away, we got a much better sense of the effort involved.

If you couldn’t see me
, a solo Brown made for herself in 1994, has music, costume design, and visual direction by Robert Rauschenberg, who suggested that Brown keep her back to the audience for the duration of the dance. Dai Jian performed it in white briefs with long cloth panels on the front and rear. We observed his bare back’s clear expressiveness but at the same time, unable to look into his face, felt a frustrating remoteness. Jian performed the solo with a brisk authority, if slightly less liquidity, than either Brown or Leah Morrison, of the first cast, who won a 2008 Bessie for her interpretation of the work.

Four shrouded specters emerged from a moody, roiling mist at the start of Opal Loop, sculpting and slicing through the fog (part of the visual design by Fujiko Nakaya, with lighting by Beverly Emmons), picking their knees up high, darting sideways. The four moved independently until suddenly they conspired, paralleling one another, or echoing shapes across the space. They bunched, harmonized, and broke apart to the hissing and clicking of the fog machine. Judith Shea’s unitard or pajama-loose silks alternately concealed and emphasized the body, akin to the way the fog obscured and revealed. The dancers (Elena Demyanenko, Dai Jian, Tamara Riewe, and Nicholas Strafaccia) moved with such inexorable concentration that they took on the force of a beautiful, dramatic thunderstorm that you hoped would never end. But when it did, the air felt fresh and electric.