Review: Celebrating Trisha Brown at Southbank Centre & Tate Modern

Performance: 16 - 19 October 2010
Reviewed by Sam Gauntlett - Tuesday 19 October 2010

Celebrating Trisha Brown, Tate Modern Turbine Hall & in the Joseph Beuys gallery.
Photos: Hugo Glendinning

Reviewed: 16 October

A Feeling for Practice – Trisha Brown in Focus, Purcell Room, Southbank Centre

Early Works – Trisha Brown Dance Company, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern

As part of the Celebrating Trisha Brown series at this year’s Dance Umbrella, A Feeling for Practice offered a chance to hear the internationally acclaimed choreographer talk about her work on her company’s 40th anniversary. Dick McCraw, writer and senior lecturer in movement and theatre at Royal Holloway University of London, facilitated a group discussion that included six dancers from the Trisha Brown Dance Company and dancer Lee Serle, who has been supported through the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, to be mentored by Trisha.

In one amusing moment, Trisha enacted approaching a piece of paper on the floor and throwing herself to the ground, to demonstrate how she creates drawings that inspire, or are incorporated into, her works. On the whole, though, she appeared to be quite shy and was reluctant to talk about future projects. Her dancers, however, were open and articulate about Trisha’s unique working methods, her use of visual art and simple human gestures in her choreography, and how her approach formed the basis for a whole post-modern dance language. One dancer described how he has devised a warm up routine specifically to prepare for the unique demands of her work that includes Tai Chi, Qi Gong and tuning into the body’s internal rhythm and movement.

It was particularly interesting to hear how the dancers responded to the challenge of re-creating some of Trisha’s earliest and most influential pieces, which were to be performed later as Early Works (1968-1975) at Tate Modern. The process involved watching videos of the original works and, as one dancer described, keeping an image in mind, rather than attempting to learn the works step by step, or gesture by gesture, again pertaining to the importance of the internal processes in articulating movement.

Later, inside the gargantuan, echoing Turbine Hall, three of the short pieces, which were created to appear inside loft and gallery spaces, seemed spontaneous, with just a few discrete Dance Umbrella stewards to indicate where the gathering crowd should stand. *Group Primary Accumulation*, originally conceived in 1970, was performed on the first floor mezzanine, over the Turbine Hall, with a hushed audience on all sides and accidental spectators hanging over the balconies and viewing areas high above. Four women dressed in simple white tops and trousers appeared from nowhere and lay down on the floor. The piece is a series of gestures, repeated in unison, as if the women are perhaps moving in their sleep, or even directing air traffic, the only soundtrack the echoing chatter and foot shuffle of gallery life. Arms lift mechanically to point at the cavernous ceiling, then bend to tuck behind the head, hips lift momentarily off the ground and legs bend and open, like in a well-practised yoga exercise. The repetitive gestures have a hypnotic quality, and like a clock ticking or a heart beating seem to mark the passage of life.

The second work, _*Figure Eight* _(1974) took us down into the hall itself, where the performers stood in a line, sloping from the entrance, into the installation space. Continuing the marking of time theme, the piece uses a metronome as accompaniment as, with eyes closed and upright posture, the dancer’s softly bent arms tick-tock, marking an arch from the crown of the head to shoulder height, like a relaxed Michelangelo’s Vitruvian Man.

*Leaning Duets* (1970) seemed to be created for the gentle concrete slope and was a fitting finish to the Turbine Hall programme. Couples standing side by side place their adjoining feet together, and linking hands, lean out at 45 degrees, using each other’s weight as counterbalance as they traverse the urban hill. There were several moments where one member of a couple slipped momentarily which brought a humanity and element of unpredictability to the calm, controlled work.

Other pieces, as part of Early Works, were performed informally in galleries where the permanent Tate Modern collections are displayed.

Part of Dance Umbrella 2010

5 – 30 October **”www.danceumbrella.co.uk“:http://www.danceumbrella.co.uk

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