The one—time queen bee of avant-
gardc dance is dancing to a
classical tune. but Trisha Brown is no sell—out, as Ellie Carr discovers. It all began with sneakers. 'l’risha Brown and all her
new-wave New Yorker pals wore them; and in them they threw off the shackles of the ballet shoe and the
creeping uniformity of (ills modern dance.
To the rest of the world they beeatne known as the .ludsoniles after the Greenwich Village church they adopted as HQ - and together they plotted and
played with an experimental. freeform anti- 3
technique. anti-everything dance stance whose ripple-on elfch is still felt in the dance world today. The rebel enclave v whose number included iliipt‘()\ king Steve Paxton. Yvonne Rainer and Twyla Tharp ~ survived and prospered long enough to shake everyonc's sensibilities. bill by the mid-70s their relentless stripping back of all technique or codiﬁcation had brought them to a standstill. The now the (irand Union v- had gone from rejecting ballet and the established modern styles of Martha Graham and .\leree Cunningham. to embracing the ‘pedestrian' style of the ‘man-on-the-street‘. to freestyle improvisation. until they anti-danced lhelttselyes into a brick wall. Having reached this stasis. many of the Judson
anti—dance brigade r
was one of them,
Trisha Brown Company: flying the flag for avant-garde dance
faithful began to stray. Some broke off to continue
the experiment. while olhet's hay ing ditched all the establishment moves they didn’t like invent new fresh moves of their own. 'l‘risha Brown
Brown was to emerge as one of the key players of late Zillh century dance. llcr style look on its own unique \ irtuosity. evolving into a sophisticated. silky -- smooth configuration ol pared-dow n dance moves
By l‘l7‘) Brown had even dispensed with her youthful penchant for sealing the sides of buildings. walking down tree-trunks and performing on rooftops. in lofts and galleries. to dance almost exclusively in traditional theatres. No longer part of a
radical fringe. her work was lapped tip by the mainstream audiepce she'd once cschcwcd For
Brow n. however. this was no compromise. ller WM work Sr! .-\m/ /\’('.\(‘l featured costumes and film projections by radich artist lx'obcrl Ranschcnberg and
music by Laurie Anderson all cemented with Brow n‘s coolly minimalist choreographic glue.
Hardly a concession to the mainstream. it nevertheless became her most widely acclaimed work to date. ‘lt was part ofa cycle.‘ says Brown. ';\nd at that point i had reached the top rung of the ladder.‘
.\'ow nudging (ll). Brown is still going strong. Far from being the Status Quo of the dance world. her company has both feet rooted firmly in the 90s, touring constantly with fresh work alongside Brow n's older rep. The current tour - which reaches lidinburgh later this month includes Sci Am! Reset on its three—pronged bill. But. insists Brown. it's no dusty revival.
‘I have an extraordinarily pugnaeious rehearsal director who keeps it alive.‘ she says of longtime sidekick Diane Madden. ‘Shc's a master at re- creating a piece that was created on individual dancers and making it relevant to now.‘
Sharing a hill w ith Brow n's all-time classic is a brand-new piece. .ll.().. And this is where the lifelong ayanl-gardcist gets the last laugh. After a lifetime spent climbing walls to the sounds of radical big-noises. she's now shocked the dance world by turning to Bach‘s I747 baroque piece .l/usit'u/ ()l/ermg. What nest'.’ 'fhe Trisha Brown Company in ballet shoes“? ’.\‘o way.‘ laughs Brown. clearly aghast at the thought.
‘My work is reaching a wider audience so I guess in that sense then it is part of a new mainstreamf she . concedes. ‘But I work in cycles. I never repeat I my self. My work is always in cvolution.‘
.S‘t'l .Ilm/ Reset/.1]. 0/]; You ('uu/(ln 'I See Me. Tris/m ll’mn‘u (Mir/mutt lir/l/i/Hnie/I lazy/lull llflﬂlll‘t’. Tue 2/ .l/uv.
Potions in motion
Roll up, roll up, as the Traverse roadshow saddles up once more for its annual summer tour of the Highlands, where a whole theatrical experience, including workshops and masterclasses, is packaged alongside a full-scale production of what’s usually a new play. For the last four years, both the plays and the tours have been led by the Traverse Theatre’s associate director Philip Howard, who follows last year’s success Knives In Ilens with the Scottish premiere of Brian Friel’s 1979 drama Faith Healer.
It’s a play which seems especially appropriate for such an outing, given that its featured trio - a travelling
Hands-on approach: Brian Friel
their own way and, though different, Faith Healers strength is rooted not just in the script, but also in Howard’s belief in them. It’s a belief that carries over into the whole idea of the Highland tour, and maybe there’s something of the faith healer in Howard himself, a man addicted to climbing into the backs of vans and spreading the word. The difference is though, Howard’s tirebrand fervour is genuine.
‘There’s no point in just doing one Highland tour — you don’t get any cultural brownie points for that,’ he argues. ‘For its future the Traverse has to be trusted to find new writing for the whole of Scotland and become a laboratory rather than just a producing theatre for Edinburgh, so this isn’t just a tour. It’s a piece of outreach work, where the workshops are an equal partner with the play. Ultimately what we’re looking for is writers.’
Hallelujah to that! (Neil Cooper) Faith Healer, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 17—Sat 25 May, then touring.
showman and his Sidekicks - hawk their colourful but quack brand of theatrics around some of the very ports of call the Traverse company will visit. But it’s the form of the piece - four seemingly unconnected monologues, each telling very different versions of the truth — which poses the real challenge for Howard. ‘It has a reputation for being a difficult piece,’ he says. ‘People slag it off for being undramatic, so in a fuck-oft way, I feel they don’t understand it. For me the whole point of it is the audience’s journey in trying to trace the central truth. That in itself is a dramatic action, and the piece works like a suspense thriller, albeit of a very particular variety. But it’s not a one-man show where the onus is on one actor. By spreading the monologues over three actors you’re not spreading the burden, you’re tripling it.’
All Howard’s work at the Traverse has stood out for its lack of obvious showyness. Marisol, Europe and Knives In liens were all difficult in
The List l7-30 May l996 61