TRISHA BROWN DANCE COMPANY Review By Jonathan Matthews-Guzman For EYE ON THE ARTS
Trisha Brown Dance Company has joined the pantheon of troupes with dead founders who are looking to living voices to keep their increasingly more versatilely trained bodies in fresh motion. How today’s artistic directors choose who gets to tack onto their institutional legacies is as particular as the culture of each company.
The Graham Company, for instance, risks to invite contemporary choreographers who have not necessarily trained in Martha’s technique to create work in conversation with her vast archive. Interestingly, TBDC Associate Artistic Director Carolyn Lucas opted for a more conservative approach, inviting an alum.
Judith Sánchez Ruíz danced under Trisha between 2006 and 2009, just missing the creation of "Rogues" in 2011, the program’s opener. At that time, Ruíz was abroad dancing for Sasha Waltz. Her premiere "Let’s Talk About Bleeding" closed the program outlining an intersection of Ruíz’s embodiment of American postmodern and European contemporary dance that omits the most compelling aspects of both traditions.
Ruíz puts Trisha’s trademark cerebral sensuality in service of something more akin to German Expressionism. Dancers slyly fold their joints in angsty phrasework, kinesthetically enhanced by Claire Fleury’s bulbous silhouettes. The ensemble’s tensile sculptures of counterbalances are made severe by Tricia Toliver’s stark lighting. Bodies suspend horizontally and swing 180 degrees – a nifty physics experiment made carnal through gratuitous repetition.
Text sends similarly mixed signals. Vocal tasks include movers live-narrating how their perceptions are altered by their actions (Burr Johnson says something to the effect of “The door is flying away” as he spins on tilted axis) and cycling through fractured phrases in mutating vocal deliveries, beginning with “I want” to semantically resist what is presently happening.
Aesthetically, it’s much more “tanztheater” than “Accumulation with Talking plus Watermotor.” Ultimately, the execution remains caught between Ruíz’s ostensibly expressive intentions and the dancers’ pedestrian and process-oriented performative habitat (they sound uncomfortable, reluctant, and unconvinced by themselves, and not by design).
Alvin Curran’s scores to "Rogues" and 1991’s "For M.G.: The Movie" play nicely with Trisha’s “pure movement” investigations that defined her Back to Zero cycle; the danced elements of "Let’s Talk About Bleeding" are sentenced to keep up with Adonis Gonzalez-Matos’s maudlinly polystylistic score. The pianist-composer sits, as though throned, in the Joyce house, beginning with Cage-ian prepared piano that erupts into free jazz with romantic digressions.
A recording supplies additional instruments, including more piano, which the composer enjoys before piling back onto himself.
One can imagine Trisha setting up specific parameters for such performative proportions; Ruíz allows Gonzales-Matos to take up more space than and pull more focus from the dancers he is supposedly supporting in their depiction of “multiple universes colliding.”
It’s all of the content and none of the form.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews-Guzman
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