Sunday, January 16, 2011

Museum Visit: MoMA: Trisha Brown

The Trisha Brown Dance Company appeared at The Museum of Modern Art as part of a program of live performance and dance connected with the exhibition On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century,

"...if one considers line as the trace of a point in motion—the very act of dance becomes a drawing, an insertion of line into time and the three-dimensional space of our lived world." (MoMA)

The setting for the performance was the spectacularly beautiful, four-story, atrium space on the second floor, with pristine white walls, pierced with windows and glass-walled balconies.

A large rectangle had been taped on the floor to define the performance space. People begin arrive and sit on the floor outside the taped rectangle.

The dancers appeared, dressed in white Tshirts and pants. They lifted 10 foot poles and carefully balanced them on their arms, their feet.

They lay on the floor and made the poles touch to create a line in space. They maintained the line perfectly as they carefully rolled out from under them, then crouched and rolled back under maintaining contact. Wow. We were reminded that dance requires amazing balance and control.

The second dance was called "Scallops." Five dancers stood in a line along one side of the rectangle, facing the center. The dancer on the end turned the line of dancers so their backs faced the center.

(If you traced a line on the floor that followed the path of the dancers, it would form a curved arc, the shape of a scallop.) The dancers repeated the "scallops" along each side of the rectangle until they reached their entrance point. Dancers "draw" patterns as they move.

The third dance was called "Locus: Solo." A solo dancer entered a small rectangle taped on the floor in the middle of the room. She danced a simple series of connected "everyday" movements inside the rectangle: bending, lifting one leg, then the other, jumping, turning, lying down, standing a dance. It seemed that she never repeated a single movement. There are hundreds of ways to move your body.

The fourth dance was called "Rooftops." The dance was originaly done in Soho on several rooftops. It was reworked for the MoMA performance. A dancer in red was placed on each level of the museum space, from the first floor entrance level all the way up to the sixth floor.

You could see the dancers through the architectural openings, the cross-walks, and positioned in the entrance lobby. The dancers all performed the same series of movements, with slight differences. The audience moved around to see the dancers. The Museum architecture was a partner in the dance. It was wonderful to see the Museum space in a new way.

I found Trisha Brown's ideas dazzling, and MoMA's gorgeous space truly beautiful.

Here is a Trisha Brown-inspired dance project you can try at home:

Tape a rectangle on the floor. The size should be a square based on the length of the dancer's waist to her toe. Set an egg timer to one minute. Choreograph a dance with connected everyday movements - bending, jumping, rolling, waving stroking... Count the number of movements you do. See how many you can do. Compare your total with that of your friends and family.

This is the link to MoMA's "On Line" exhibition
"The dancing body has long been a subject matter for drawing, as seen in a variety of works included in this exhibition. These documentations show dance in two dimensions, allowing it to be seen in a gallery setting. But if one considers line as the trace of a point in motion—an idea at the core of this project—the very act of dance becomes a drawing, an insertion of line into time and the three-dimensional space of our lived world."

This is the link to the Trisha Brown event at the MoMA.

Trisha Brown (American b. 1936) is a "different" kind of choreographer, a "conceptualist?" She creates dances based on everyday actions and repetitive gestures, instead of classical ballet or modern dance movements. She is often called a "minimalist." Her dances are simple and clear, often without music. Trisha became known in the 1960's when she showed her work at the Judson Dance Theater, and alternative-space in New York City's West Village. She is known for her site-specific choreography, and has worked with opera and the ballet. The dances featured in this event were originally performed in 1971.

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