In 1961, 25-year-old, Aberdeen-born dancer Trisha Brown followed in the footsteps of many creatives before her and moved to New York. Like many, the young Brown also became one of the founding members of an artist collective—the experimental Judson Dance Theater—but that’s the last time she followed a well-trod path. As a group of visual artists, dancers, composers, choreographers and filmmakers, Judson Dance Theater was at the forefront of post-modern dance, rejecting the constraints and codified language of modern dance, much in the way that modern dance rejected the strictures of classical ballet. In essence, everyone could be a dancer, and the celebration of pedestrian movement as performance was a principal tenet of the genre.
In 1970, Brown formed the Trisha Brown Dance Company, and went on to choreograph over 100 works during an illustrious, decades-long career. From Feb. 4-6, the Trisha Brown Dance Company returns to Meany Hall to perform the groundbreaking choreographer’s work for the proscenium stage for the final time.
Early in her career Brown became known for her experimental pieces, which included working with ropes and harnesses (in 1971’s Walking on the Wall, dancers do just as the title suggests), crafting site-specific pieces on rafts in water, and experimenting with video components during live performance, decades before it became de rigueur.
Now, at 79, Brown is no longer choreographing, and her work as performed by her namesake company is touring the country for the last time. “We’re happy to be able to bring such a range of her work to the stage,” says the company’s associate artistic director Carolyn Lucas. “She really was, and still is, a true artistic inspiration and fearless visionary.”
The three-night retrospective spans four different creative decades, bringing Brown’s mix of intricate and sweeping movement, balletic limberness and raw athleticism. 2003’s PRESENT TENSE, with sound by John Cage, features aerial choreography with partnered lifts and balances full of energy. Son of Gone Fishin’ (1981) is a dreamier, rawer piece, aligning with post-modernist movement. The company will also perform the minimalist Rogues (2011) and You can see us (1995); all of works have the underpinnings of an unrestrained creative force.
On Friday, Feb. 5, Rachael Lincoln, a University of Washington lecturer in dance and assistant artistic director of the Oakland-based vertical dance company BANDALOOP, will perform Brown’s Man Walking Down the Side of a Building, suspended by ropes along the west side of Meany Hall. It is slated to be performed three times (10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.).
“It’s been amazing to see how engaged audiences are with Trisha’s work, especially some of the early pieces,” Lucas notes. “They are finding emotional attachment and relevance in something that could have been perceived as old fashioned. For us that is incredibly exciting and brings life to what we do.”
Trisha Brown Dance Company performs at Meany Hall Feb. 4-6. Tickets here.