Trisha Brown Dance Company

April 29, 2009

Trisha Brown Dance

Brooklyn Academy of

Music, NYC
April 29–May 2, 2009

Reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaa


L’Amour au théâtre. Photo by Stephanie Berger, courtesy BAM.


Trisha Brown’s dances are unlocked houses that never wait for us to wander inside. Instead, they reach out, from the first moment, quietly, gently breaking and entering one’s nervous system. We remain helpless, and enchanted, as they dance us.

Brown’s retrospective season at BAM featured four well-chosen works, including the world premiere of L’Amour au théâtre. Planes (1968) appeared fresher than would be expected with its radical, disorienting revision of the dancing surface (vertical wall, not horizontal floor); its dreamy, slow rearrangement of hand and toe holds; and projected sky-view and space launch imagery magnifying the perspective and sensation of floating and flight. Diane Madden, Tamara Riewe, and Laurel Tentindo shared their experience with us, the watchers of this delicious morsel, a transitional step from the forbidding world of Judson Dance Theater to the forbidden world of spectacle.

O zlożony/O composite
, a 2004 trio made for the Paris Opera Ballet, scored by Laurie Anderson and with lighting by Jennifer Tipton, received its U.S. premiere. The pairing of ballet dancers and Brownian motion, a marriage conducted on Brown’s terms, brought forth the best of both techniques: airiness; nimble footfalls, breathtaking in their silence; an inventive, continuous filigree of clean, springy articulation of nearly every moveable part of the body. Like popouts from the celestial backdrop, guest artists Aurélie Dupont, Manuel Legris, and Nicolas Le Riche turned themselves from singular stars into constellations. Brown put to shame the banal mediocrity that usually passes for ballet-contemporary dance fusion.

Glacial Decoy
paid tribute to Robert Rauschenberg, lost to us last year. With this 1979 ensemble, the choreographer and visual artist began their historic, brilliant collaboration. Rauschenberg’s stately, imposing slideshow proceeds across four tall panels while women dance in billowing, gossamer nighties, also his design. I find no explanation for the way these evanescent sprites, zipping in and out of sight, failed to distract from (or be upstaged by) the mystery and poignancy of the black-and-white photos of object, place, and pattern. But this ironic harmony is typical Brown. Perhaps her movement becomes more powerful in space for being roomy, loose, and slippery.

L’Amour au théâtre
, a flowing octet of pieces arranged for a Rameau opera, fits well with these lovely predecessors. Legs, in particular, caught my attention. Brown highlights them: hooking one dancer’s leg around a neighbor’s body; using a leg held parallel to the floor to halt another dancer’s progress; having a pair of men lift and brace two dancers while they pump their lower bodies back and forth like tolling church bells. Brown takes formal structure and finds endless adaptability and charm within. The pleasure is all ours.