Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Trisha Brown Dance Company

So my sister's in town and yesterday we went up to Lincoln Center to see the Trisha Brown Dance Company because we'd seen the listing in TONY and thought it sounded interesting. We stayed until part way through the 4th and last piece, at which point my sister decided she'd had about as much as she could take and we left. I wish I'd known more about what I was watching, because I was interested and certainly wouldn't have left if my sister hadn't wanted to, but I was very confused and wouldn't say I enjoyed it either. Also, I feel rather embarrassed about leaving something that was not, in fact, bad, and keeping wanting to point out that many other people left throughout as well. So there, now I've done it. The appropriate response to this, in case you're not already thinking it, would be, "And if everyone else jumped off a bridge would you jump too?" But back to the dance.

The program described her work as postmodern dance which, to be honest, I didn't even know existed. I mean, it makes sense since there's a postmodern branch of so many things, it's just not something I had ever considered. From what I can figure out (and, admittedly, I only read the Wikipedia article) it seems to encompass many of the same elements as postmodern literature: deconstruction (ew), irony, parody, etc. So I understand that a bit better. What I don't understand is how the dancing I saw reflects those elements. I don't know how to read--or, to use a word I became ever so familiar with in college, "unpack"--the dances.

There were four separate pieces (and I lost my program so I hope I'm putting the correct titles with the dances). The first, Accumulation featured one woman, standing in the middle of the stage and dancing to Uncle John's Band by the Grateful Dead, at first moving only one arm and then gradually incorporating other limbs, without ever moving from the place she was standing.

The second, Canto/Pianto was a longer piece. At various times the dancers would come on stage in neat lines and then break into joyful seeming dance, only to stop again suddenly. At other times they would stand on stage gesturing (which I found far less intersting). The most distinctive part, to me, was toward the end when a woman was held up and moved almost as though floating and spinning in water.

In the third, Spanish Dance, which was set to Bob Dylan singing In the Early Morning Rain, a group of dancers took the stage, dressed in white and standing in a line, with several feet between each dancer. First only the one on the right of the stage (from the viewer's perspective) moved, and then, as she reached the next dancer in the line, that dancer began moving as well, as so on and so forth until all the dancers were moving in tandem, at which point they reached the left side of the stage (so, stage right) and stopped moving. This one I liked very much. Unlike the others, particularly the final one which I'll get to, I felt like I understood both the movement and, more importantly for me, how the movement related to the music, something I couldn't see very well in the rest of the dances.

PRESENT TENSE is the one we left during. So unsurprisingly I can't say that much about it. We didn't have a very good view from where we were sitting and of all the dances this seemed to be the one we could see least well. It seemed to me that the shapes the dancers made with their bodies, particularly as the linked themselves together and maneuvered around each other, were very interesting. I thought the music was nearly unbearable though, and particularly disconnected from the dancing itself.

Well, to throw out a cliche, I'm expanding my horizons. I do find myself wishing though, that at some point I'd taken a class--if such things are even offered--on how to be an informed dance viewer. I'd be much less at sea now.

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