Performing Arts: Dance
January 4, 2018
Trisha Brown Dance Company’s Joyce Theater presentation of three proscenium works all completed after 2000 demonstrates the diversity of product that can come from a choreographer whose singularity in movement language carries over to their dance-making, all the while, in Brown’s case, maintaining an awareness of its creator’s site-fluid roots.

Brown’s movement refuses to be made grand by an elevated platform. We instead are privileged a standardized view of her chains of inevitable function that do not hide their need to be recharged. In these spaces of physical breath are simple actions that regenerate momentum, though sometimes, as with L’Amour Au Théâtre’s chain of women held aloft in an eternal back and forth swing, the regeneration is the event itself. Groove and Countermove keenly freezes and unleashes body parts such that one’s own body has thoroughly studied itself before handling anyone else’s.

We can learn a thing or two from how Brown’s dancers touch each other. They gather each other’s physical information in what seems like merely caresses. As though aware of our current climate’s need for physical intervention, Brown’s partnering composes eye contact in such a way that most of her duets could not have been made without a referee. Fingertips extend so receptively that seemingly accidental brushes will join bodies together with consensual consistency. In every interaction is support and assistance, from the demonstrative handholds in the opening penchés of Geometry of Quiet, to the pervasive systems of lifts and rolls in which each participant has an equal experience of power and yielding.

Gestural Easter eggs offer breaks, extra toppings, specific sensations, and the awareness of Brown’s point of view extending beyond her inarguable physical ingenuity. For L’Amour, this supports the depiction of imagery from the libretto of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opera Hippolyte et Aricie. After sections of physical strategy, an elevated archer unaffectedly mimes the shooting of an arrow, abstracted enough that we do not need to catch a reference, but are energetically situated in the period. This notion extends to duets as in L’Amour’s brief liaisons of upside-down pattycake, played by women dangling behind the backs of the men lifting them.

Compositionally, physical function manifests in a relational construction, sections often being sneakily modified versions of each other. L’Amour’s unison double duets are rich in spatial variation – swarming around each other, shifting fronts and axes of symmetry, or remaining staunchly side-by-side. Geometry’s centerpiece is a much less sneaky reprisal of a long duet with the blatant insertion of a third body, making sense of the original duet’s vulnerable spots, but also other times getting charmingly in its way like a toddler sleeping between its parents. Groove and Countermove focuses on juxtapositions of speed and dynamic to personify the multitude of solid colors the company wears.

Proscenium rarely stops at spatial considerations. It implies a specific approach to costume, sound, and décor, as contained by a theatrical frame. In preceding Geometry and Groove with L’Amour, a stand-alone piece taken from a fraction of an opera, Brown’s proscenium works honor tradition, but do not let us forget what lies beyond the border, nor what else can go inside.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jonathan Matthews

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