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Joanna G. Harris
Performance Reviews
Cal Performances: Zellerbach Auditorium
United States
San Francisco Bay Area
Berkeley, CA

Trisha Brown Dance Company Proves Extraordinary in Three of Brown's Works

by Joanna G. Harris
March 15, 2013
Cal Performances: Zellerbach Auditorium
101 Zellerbach Hall #4800
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720
Joanna G. Harris
Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
The Trisha Brown Dance Company made a one-night-stand at Zellerbach Auditorium on Friday, March 15, 2013. Although we are warned to beware the 'ides of March', this dance company provided much to dispel all sense of gloom. Ms. Brown is retiring from active leadership of the company, yet the works were in good form and the company was excellent.

Of the three works presented, this reviewer found "Newark" (Niweweorce 1987) the most absorbing and demanding. In it two men stood in one place until the finale and executed the complex "release" movement so characteristic of Brown's choreography.
Their pace was steady and thoroughly focused. Around them several women passed, never touching but forming visual and rhythmic counterpoint to the two men. Tamara Riewe was outstanding in her work here and in other pieces on the program. The dancers, who joined together in the finale, destroying for me the tension of two against the random solos, were Tara Lorenzen, Megan Madorin, Jamie Scott, Stuart Shugg, Nicholas Strafaccia and Samuel Wentz. Between the sound score events by Peter Zummo with Donald Judd (Judd's colorful drops isolated the small groups from one another), "Newark" developed a tension and through-line that the other works on the program lacked.

The opening of Brown's "Les Yeux et l'ame"(2011) was danced to Jean-Philippe Rameau's "Pygmalion" and consisted of dances from the opera of the same name that Brown choreographed for various European Festivals and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The dancers this time including Neal Beasley, generally stayed close together in a long center stage line, winding and rewinding themselves in to various 'wrapped' positions, lifting then releasing one another. Ultimately they spread out into horizontal lines that formed and reformed. The relaxed easy flow of the movement was mesmerizing and sometimes dull, although the dancers' accomplishments in these 'tasks' was always competent. The dancers' flowing costumes were by Elizabeth Cannon; the lighting by Jennifer Tipton.

"I'm going to toss my arms—if you catch them they're yours", was Brown's last work for the company and the last on the program. Created in 2011 it employed large electric fans on stage (think Cunningham's "Tread") that effectively blew off the white pajamas (by Kaye Voyce) worn by the dancers. Gradually, colored leotards and shorts emerged from underneath as the dancers exited the stage as if drifting through endless space. The sense of space was created on stage by opening the entire backstage area to the back doors. Although ongoing low energy stretch, fall, swing, release movement patterns were used, "I'm going…" still created a sense of drama. The score by Alvin Curran provided some fine piano and woodwind sounds for this wandering.

The Trisha Brown Dance Company has established a unique approach to performance and stage style. It grew out of Ms. Brown's work in "ordinary movement" developed with the Judson Group in the 1960s. For those requiring more tension, projection and familiar dance style, this work may be frustrating. It is however, most admirable.
Trisha Brown Dance Company in Brown's 'Les Yeux et l'ame'.

Trisha Brown Dance Company in Brown's "Les Yeux et l'ame".

Photo © & courtesy of Tat Leong

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