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Monday, March 27, 2017

We Love You, Trisha

Diane Madden, Tamara Riewe, and Laurel Tentindo in Planes, 2009. Photo: Stephanie Berger
The work of choreographer Trisha Brown (1936—2017) has been well-known at BAM for her large-scale proscenium productions such as Set and Reset, Glacial Decoy, and Newark (Niweweorce), all of which included contributions by major artists and composers. But Brown's legacy at BAM began early in Harvey Lichtenstein's tenure, which started in 1967.

In 1968, going by Trisha Brown Schlichter, she performed Planes in an ambitious collective titled Intermedia '68. It included other notable performance artists such as Terry Riley, Remy Charlip, Carolee Schneeman, and Al Carmines, a key figure in the Judson Church Movement, of which Brown was a formative member. In Planes, dancers hung from, and moved between, holes in a wall, onto which was projected a film collage. It would be remounted at BAM in a 2009 repertory program.

A number of Brown's task-based works formed her 1976 BAM Lepercq Space program, such as Locus, organized by moving through points forming a cube; and Sticks, in which dancers carefully manipulate long sticks to create a variety of geometric shapes.

The Trisha Brown Company performed Line Up in 1977 in the Lepercq; company members included choreographer Steve Paxton and Wendy Perron, who became editor of Dance magazine. As the BAM program note says, "The continuous forming and reforming of lines causes the dance to hover between order and disorder." The multi-section work included Spanish Dance, in which hip-swaying dancers, arms aloft, shuffle forward to accrue in a tightly packed line, and Solo-Olos, formed of phrases done forward and backward. 

Opal Loop/Cloud Installation #72503, Trisha Brown Company, 1981 in the BAM Lepercq Space.
Photo: Harry Shunk
In 1981, Brown's company moved into the Opera House to perform Son of Gone Fishin', Glacial Decoy, and Opal Loop/Cloud Installation #72503. These were a major shift from her previous BAM performances, moving away from tasks and pedestrian movement into a full-blown, space-eating physicality. The repertory showed off her unique organic, slippery style, and the set designs included elements by Robert Rauschenberg and "fog design" for Opal Loop by Fujiko Nakaya.

In the first BAM Next Wave Festival in 1983, Brown's company performed earlier pieces—Accumulation (1971) with Talking (1973) plus Watermotor (1977)—and ended with the world premiere BAM commission of Set and Reset, with music by Laurie Anderson and sets/costumes by Rauschenberg. It would become one of Brown's most beloved works, with its emphasis on movement hidden by the stage's legs, and its perpetual entrances and exits. The dance, which marked the completion of what became Brown's first named cycle of work—Unstable Molecular Structure—was performed at BAM again in 1996, 2013 and 2016.

Since 1968, Trisha Brown was a member of the BAM community. Her company has performed at BAM 10 times, in addition to several collaborations, talks, and classes.

We will truly miss Trisha.

Trisha Brown, 1987. Photo: Peggy Jarrell Kaplan
—Susan Yung and Sharon Lehner

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