Diane Madden, one of the newly appointed associate artistic directors of Trisha Brown Dance Company (TBDC), has been walking around the Getty Center all day. She arrived from New York City the night before, and she’s scoping out the landscape where Trisha Brown’s Roof Piece will be performed this Saturday afternoon.
Roof Piece originated in 1971 atop buildings in a 10-block area of New York’s SoHo. Twelve dancers transmitted movement from dancer to dancer, roof to roof. This will be ne of only a few re-mountings of the piece and the first time it will be seen in LA.
Roof Piece is just one of the works presented this week as part of CAP (Center for the Art of Performance) UCLA’s Trisha Brown Dance Company: The Retrospective Project, which includes eight proscenium choreographies and several site-specific works from one of the most widely acclaimed choreographers in postmodern dance. During Brown’s five-decade-spanning career, she was the first woman choreographer to receive the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, in 1991. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2002 and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in 2011.
“Kristy saw where we’re at, where Trisha’s work is at in history, what’s going on personally with the company,” says Madden. “She saw this was a moment to really do a very big, broad overview of the work. She’s right. She’s got good timing.”
“Trisha’s from the Pacific Northwest,” continues Madden. “I see her as being from the West Coast. I feel there’s an openness, the light, the quality of air, the vegetation, the geography, the ocean, all of it. It is a home. There is a connection here. And we haven’t been here a lot. It feels good to be here. It feels right to be here.”
“Trisha was very clear that the West Coast was her home and her artistic home,” says Barbara Dufty, executive director of TBDC since 2008, “and that it was where the genesis of many of her ideas [took place], her living and growing up in Washington State. She always felt it was a very special place for her work.”
In February, the company announced that Brown would not choreograph any new works. The icon of modern dance would assume the title of founding artistic director and choreographer, and longtime company members Madden and Carolyn Lucas (since 1980 and 1984, respectively) were promoted to associate artistic directors. Brown’s final piece, I am going to toss my arms — if you catch them they are yours, will be performed as part of Royce Hall Program A on April 5.
With performances at Getty Center and Hammer Museum as well as at UCLA, the project honors Brown’s longstanding commitment to engaging with the visual arts. Beginning last Saturday, Hammer Museum launched Floor of the Forest in the courtyard, where dancers from the UCLA World Arts and Cultures (WAC) program climb on a sculptural steel frame holding up a web of ropes that are threaded with colorful clothing, from Thursday through Sunday three to four times daily for 20 minutes each.
According to Madden, all three site-specific pieces (Roof Piece, Floor of the Forest and Man Walking Down the Side of a Building) challenge a basic assumption about how bodies orient themselves in space. Floor of the Forest highlights the simple action of dressing and undressing perpendicular to gravity. Brown and Carmen Beuchat first performed the work in SoHo in 1970.
“Trisha is all about, “˜What would happen if “¦’,” says Madden. “Giving impossible tasks that deliver things no one could have thought of. “˜What would happen if’ is the way she is a visual artist and encounters a site-specific space.”
Also in 1970, Brown created and Joseph Schlichter executed Man Walking Down the Side of a Building, which Oakland-based Bandaloop will debut at UCLA’s Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center on April 5. Choreographer, performer and Bandaloop founder/artistic director Amelia Rudolph will walk face forward over the edge of the Broad Art Center and down its side on the horizontal plane.
In Madden’s mind, Bandaloop is the perfect collaborator for this visionary piece. “Aesthetically, I feel confident they understand where Trisha’s coming from,” she says. “Amelia recognizes she’s doing what she does because of Trisha’s having done what she did, which makes it a deeper, more meaningful connection.”
Dufty points to the company’s performance of Man Walking Down the Side of a Building at the Whitney Museum of American Art for the company’s 40th anniversary season in 2010 as a highlight of her TBDC career: “Standing on the sidewalk, seeing people on Madison Avenue totally surprised by what was happening,” she says, “that electric feeling in the street. Stephen Petronio and Elizabeth Streb walking down the building, seeing people’s reactions. I was proud to be involved.”
Brown’s final two works, I’m going to toss my arms — if you catch them they’re yours (2011) and Les Yeux et l’Ã¢me (2011), are included in the two programs at Royce Hall on April 5 and April 7, respectively.
“We miss Trisha terribly,” says Dufty. “But we do have the work. What she’s put together is infectious. Everyone is so excited to continue what we’ve been saying is the “˜mind’ of her work.”
“I’m being stretched now,” Madden says. “I’m finding myself in situations I don’t have experience with. But I’m very game. We have this massive wealth of art and yes, there’s probably right ways and wrong ways to see something through. I feel confident having Carolyn as my partner. We’re very different people, neither one of us is Trisha, but together we can bounce off of each other and check each other. As a result, we’re staying closest to Trisha’s vision than any other possibility.
“Also, knowing that for however many years Trisha has said to Carolyn and I, ‘I trust you to make decisions for me.’ At a certain point we have to say, she has confidence in us, and we need to trust that and not get too crazy. She’s about movement. You can’t get hung up and be true to her.”
Trisha Brown Dance Company: The Retrospective Project
Performances and Related Events
Floor of the Forest
Hammer Museum Courtyard (free)
Thu-Sun, every 20 minutes, through Sunday, April 21
Sunset Canyon Amphitheatre
Thursday, April 4 at 8 pm.
Man Walking Down the Side of a Building
Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center, UCLA campus (free)
Friday, April 5 at 6 pm.
Royce Hall Program A: Set and Reset, Watermotor, Foray ForÃªt and I’m going to toss my arms — if you catch them they’re yours
Friday, April 5 at 8 pm.
J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center (free)
Saturday April 6 at 1 pm and 3 pm.
Royce Hall Program B: Les Yeux et l’ame, Rogues, Spanish Dance and Newark
Sunday, April 7 at 2 pm.
Dancing with the Art World
Hammer Museum (free)
Participants include Johanna Burton, Douglas Crimp, Kristy Edmunds, Anne Ellegood, Simone Forti, Andrea Fraser and Yvonne Rainer.
Â cap.ucla.edu/tbdc. 310-825-2101.