Choreographer Trisha Brown, The Odd Couple at the Lyceum, Edinburgh, and The Second Sitting at
Third Eye Centre, Glasgow.
LISTINGS: THEATRE 47 CABARET 50 DANCE 52
New York story
There is no ‘end place’ for experimentation in dance. Trisha Brown. choreographer ofJudson Dance Theatre, explains to Jo Roe why post-modern dance can never be too obscure.
Behind her frail voice Trisha Brown is forceful and precise. ‘I am distinctly different from all choreographers in the world‘ she asserts and the work she has produced since the 605 would seem to prove her point. With characteristic clarity she sums up her artistic drive. ‘I think about making a choreography that is siginificant enough to take up other peoples' time.‘
Brown was a founding member ofJudson Dance Theatre. formed in 1962, from which post-modern dance was born. A collective of artists which included choreographers Merce Cunningham and Twyla Tharp, the Judsonites disassembled dance. The notion ofconventional codifying choreography was thrown out of the window along with ideas about dance technique. ‘New York City had at that time fewer artists. fewer dancers. fewer musicians and one felt one knew all ofthem.‘ Brown explains. ‘A time of exchange, camaraderie. questioning and support. evidenced in the happenings that preceded Judson and the visual artists and composers working in the theatre. which lead to
At that time Brown was making pieces which required audiences to alter their perception of dance. shunning theatre-space in favour of warehouses and parks. Walking On the Walls and Man Walking Down TheSide ()f A Building consisted ofexactly that. with performers rigged into block and tackle harnesses. cantilevered from the vertical plane and RoofPiece had audience and dancers scattered across various Manhattan rooftops. Underlying these and other works is a fascination with dance structure. often manifesting itself in accumulative gesture.
‘My interest is in something that I call form and the creation of movement language, a vocabulary of movement which is special to each new choreography and the way in which that dance vocabulary interacts with form,’ she says. Her focus of interest has changed over the years. ‘I looked for a rationale for making choreography every place when l was a young choreographer. be it in the theatre. in the concert hall. at Judson. on the streets. the forest. I looked for methods of organisation. 1 would say around the middle 70s I stopped looking from the outside and began looking from my inside. the inside.‘
Not one to suffer fools lightly. Brown rejects the idea that dance can be too obscure. ‘I think it‘s a dishonesty on the part of the audience. or an intimidation. They can walk into and out of the ballet and think that they understand it because they can tell a story about what it meant. even though the gesture may well be abstracted. but in modern dance. or contemporary. although I work in abstraction there is a weight and a sense. a logic to the work. There is a literacy in looking at abstract work perhaps in painting. perhaps in music. but in dance especially. because one can‘t read it at home or look at it for as long as one might want. That takes time to learn. There is a gap between the initial encounter and when it begins to feel comfortable looking at something which affects them, their minds and their kinaesthetic existence. but not in a way that they could narrate to their husband or wife when they get home. Nevertheless that is part of the mystery
, of the field. it is part ofwhat is extraordinary
about it. I would hate the day when dance. my dance is understood in verbal terms.‘
Brown now commands serious audiences all over the world. ‘I have more commissions than I can serve, I have more work than I can get to. l have more touring than I can bear.‘ she laments. Most ofthe work to be performed in Glasgow was choreographed throughout the 80s. including the piece which launched her into mainstream celebrity, Set/ind Reset. an exhilarating collaboration with musician Laurie Anderson and artist Robert Rauschenberg.
Having been taken to extremes by the Judsonites and other choreographers l asked Brown ifdance experimentation has gone as far as it can. ‘Well it isn‘t as ifthere is an end place.‘ she responds. ‘There is an evolution that has been steady since that time. well since Isadora. There is still plenty to do.‘ (Jo Roe)
Trisha Brown Dance ( 'ompuny per/i inns u! The Theatre Royal, Glasgow. Mon25-77110381mm
Mysticism, witchcraft and ancient
Bed ﬂag, a London-based all-female group, is unusual amongst feminist companies for taking a broad and robustly comic approach to women's theatre. ‘Most women’s companies tend to do issue-based things,’
Bride employs traditional feminist motifs and serious political issues like the male domination of the Church, but undercuts them with a wry sense of humour. ‘It’s exactly the kind of thing that lends itself to our comic capers,‘
wisdom have long been favourite themes in feminist theatre. in a search to establish a specifically female interpretation of history, women have found much mileage in the imagery of the ‘earth-mother', rediscovering values opposite to those of patriarchal control. Initially productive, the great limitation of this is that woolly, ethereal romanticism can make do where hard-headed political realism is required. What’s more, the reverentially worthy can take the place of a few good jokes.
explains Jackie Clune whose Gaelic re-working of a Billie Holiday standard Is a highlight of The Fires of Bride. a lesbian romantic comedy set on a mythical Scottish island. ‘We've got nothing against that approach, but it's not what we do best. Our style is very pantomimic. We’re naughty and irrepressible and tend to release the child in everyone.‘
It's for these reasons that Ellen Galford’s original novel appealed to Red Bag. Set half in the present and half in a medieval convent, The Fires of
explains Clune. ‘She leaves you in two minds about whether to take the mysticism seriously or not. But there are definite comic overtones throughout.’
In a stage production which met with the author‘s enthusiastic approval, The Fires of Bride becomes a knockabout romp straddling centuries, poking fun at contemporary society and involving the promenade audience in ever-more inventive ways. Men are welcome providing they can stomach being the butt of the odd quip here and there. “We
\ a r:
Av J ‘ always want men to be there.’ explains Clune. ‘We've become increasingly performance orientated and we use the audience all the time. but without ‘; embarrassing them. They relax very quickly when they realise we‘re looking afterthem.’ (Mark Fisher). 3 The Fires ofBride. The Shelter. l Glasgow. Tue 19-Wed 20 June.
The List 15 lb’June l‘Nll45