This Past Week, 2: Trisha & Alvin

Monday, March 28, 2011

The night before seeing Monodramas, I went to see the Trisha Brown Dance Company at DTW. My old friend Alvin Curran was playing live and was nice enough to get me a ticket. I love Trisha’s work. I’ve been seeing her company for over 20 years (she’s celebrating her 40 year this year), and it is always fresh and surprising. She somehow manages to create movement that is totally her own while allowing for the uniqueness of each dancer. Many choreographers allow their dancers to create their own movements and certainly letting them make the movement their own is the golden rule of modern dance. But somehow Trisha’s choreography goes deeper than that. I’m not sure what it is, but I do know that every body on this planet walks in a way that is totally unique and slightly different than any of the other billions of bodies dealing with this planet’s gravity. That fact was one of the prime revelations from the Judson Church dance “school” of the ’60, of which Ms Brown was an active member. She seems to have built an entire language from that perspective. No small feat. (Pun intended.)

The evening was call “Back to Zero” and featured two works from the early ’90s and one solo from 1978. I first saw Foray Forêt (1990) in the mid-90s at Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. I remember it well: the piece started off in total silence for quite a while. You then started hearing some music playing in the distance from outside the theater, and think “hmm, there’s some unintended sound.” It continues getting louder and closer while the company continues their beautiful movements, and you realized there was a full college marching band playing outside the theater. You think, “why are they rehearsing now, don’t they know there’s a concert going on in here?” and try to focus only on the dance. The marching band fades off a bit in the distance… only to return with their sound coming from the other end of the hall. You think: “What a minute…” You then realize this full marching band is actually intensionally marching around the building and is in fact the score for the piece. A wonderful experience whose detail I remember to this day (as you can see).

This same piece at DTW: same amazing movement (different amazing young dancers). However… well, in fairness to the rather awful small band that did their best to circle around the theater on W 19th St…. Let’s just say they were no UC Berkeley marching band, and leave it at that. Thankfully, I was so in awe of the dancers and choreography that this sound was not too much of a distraction.

The final piece on this program was For M.G.: The Movie (1991), with a live + pre-recorded score by Alvin Curran. Alvin sat at the grand piano, upstage right, and played magnificently along with recordings he made of: himself playing the same piano piece at a slightly different tempo, Rome street scenes, Italians shouting to one another, and a piano being tuned, amongst other interesting sounds. This combination of the real piano and the piano tuning was wonderful and pure Curran. Showing a combination of humor and a deep knowledge of music that only Alvin can come up with.

After the show, over drinks, Alvin was saying he had visited his old teaching and friend Elliot Carter earlier that day, and told some poignant stories of his visit. Knowing the dance score he had just performed was basically a structured improvisation, I couldn’t help but think that some of the deeper points of the score were somehow informed by this possibly final visit with his dear old friend. At any rate, it almost goes without saying that Trisha’s dance and Alvin’s music worked beautifully and effortlessly together.

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