The opening duet, You Can See Us, a piece from the 1990s, featured a pair of dancers clad in white with gauze-like skirts who were placed diagonally across the stage from one another and mirrored one another's movements. Dai Jian - who excelled in this as in the other three works in which he appeared - faced the audience, whilst Leah Morrison had her back to us throughout. The piece was incredibly well executed and in terms of its cleanly lyrical movement it was the highlight of the evening. It was simple and pleasing; abstract dance at its best.
This was followed by a work from the 1970s, Glacial Decay. At this time the company were an all-female group, until Stephen Petronio joined as the first male member of the company in 1979. Again dressed in white, this time in shoulderless dresses with ornate sleeves and full skirts, the four women performed in silence in front of a large photo-montage of four alternating black and white landscapes. The interplay between visual art and dance is emphasised, with the art forms shown as equal partners in Brown's ground-breaking work.
After the interval, there was a shift from the post-modern to the Baroque, in L'Amour au theatre, a work which demonstated the company's connection to opera and theatre. Set to Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie, the dancers were dressed in orange flared leggings and white tops as they performed in front of an intriguing set, one of Brown's own artworks. There is an interesting conjunction between the classical and the modern in the different elements of this work. As the dancers interact with each other, mainly working in pairs, the influence of contact improvisation practitioners such as Steve Paxton is evident. This work, the most recent in the programme, dating from 2009, seemed to particularly resonate with the enthusiastic audience.
The programme closed with Opal Loop, a piece created by Brown in 1980, which may be better known here in the UK, as it transferred to the Rambert Dance Company under the artistic direction of Ricard Alston, who was also present tonight. The title is now Opal Loop/Cloud Installation, and the four dancers performed in the midst of billowing clouds of smoke.
In the foyer an installation involving items of clothing attached to a spider net forms the basis for an interactive performance piece featuring dancers from CandoCo and from the Laban School of Performing Arts. This work has the title Floor of the Forest and dates from 1970. Pairs of dancers perform in turn, using the structure to shape their movement, some of them dressing in the suspended clothes during the course of the piece. Floor of the Forest is performed before and after the main show and during the day over the weekend. The informal nature of the space encourages a creative atmosphere and the work is surprisingly relaxing to watch.
The evening's selected works showcase different but equally important elements of Brown's practice both as choreographer and more widely in the arts. It's a strong restrospective which both provides a good insight into her work and demonstrates just how influential it has been.
Other events over the Celebrating Trisha Brown weekend include discussions, workshops and a collaborative installation with the Tate Modern. More information about the Trisha Brown Dance Company can be found at TrishaBrownCompany.org
For further details about Dance Umbrella visit: DanceUmbrella.co.uk.
- Juliet Williams