Trisha Took Me to Heaven

April 30, 2009

O my god, O Composite lifted me to a place that made me hold my breath in wonder. The hushed feeling of the piece, with a softly glowing nighttime sky by Vija Celmins, a mysterious sound track by Laurie Anderson, and three velvety étoiles from Paris Opera Ballet, came together at BAM in an experience I will never forget. I felt like I was holding something precious in my hands, in my eyes and ears, some finite window to the infinite. The two men, Manuel Legris and Nicolas LeRiche, assisted Aurélie Dupont in her skim through a celestial world. We heard a woman’s sensuous voice speak in Polish, with whispering and sputtering, and some musical instruments I couldn’t place.

     Nothing was forced; every action just followed clearly. It was like other Trisha Brown pieces in its interest in being airborne. In fact, it was preceded by Planes, her piece from 1968 in which three airborne dancers move slow-motion on a giant pegboard as though in freefall. Having danced with Trisha in the 70s (if you want to see me dance with her in that era, click here), I know of her continuing interest in being horizontal in space, both for its weightlessness and optical illusion. This trio (the full title is O zlozony/O composite) was also like the opening flying solo of her opera L’Orfeo, tantalizing in its sense of fantasy. And there were references to her past ground-breaking pieces like Walking on the Wall and Set and Reset.

     But in another way, it was not like anything Trisha has ever done or anyone has ever done. You had to watch so closely. The exact way that a turn or twirl or whirl was extended was uncanny. The choreography was refined without being uppity, celestial without being ethereal, distilled and unadorned. The Paris Opera dancers toned down what must be their usual extravagance so you  were never distracted by analyzing their style or admiring their virtuosity. You felt like you were traveling galaxies by paying attention to elbows and knees and occasional long slides.

     Oh, and in response to Alastair Macaulay’s review in The New York Times: I have seen Ashton’s Monotones and liked it quite a bit. But this ballet gives the serenely floating trio thing wayyyy more dimension.

     I’ve waited four years to see O Composite. I hope an adventurous American ballet company takes it on so I can see it again without having to fly to Paris.