Trisha Brown brings tornado of movement to Israel

Trisha Brown Dance Company will perform at the Suzanne Dellal Center on June 25 and 26.

 TRISHA BROWN in action. (photo credit: ALEXANDER-ROBERT RECTO)
TRISHA BROWN in action.
(photo credit: ALEXANDER-ROBERT RECTO)

One thing that can be said about Trisha Brown is that she was always moving. Whether it was on stage, in the studio, between cities or countries, Brown was never one to stay in one place for very long. In her formidable, decades-long career as a performer, choreographer and visual artist, Brown generated a veritable tornado of movement, a force that activated hundreds if not thousands of artists throughout the world.

Two years ago, her New York City-based troupe, Trisha Brown Dance Company, was geared up to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. Though Brown had passed several years earlier, the company was very much on its feet and was set to ring in its Jubilee in theaters all over the world. However, those plans were postponed due to COVID-19. After fifty years of nonstop action, the company took a moment to stop, reevaluate and go deeper into its practice. Next week, TBDC will finally arrive in Israel as part of the 50th anniversary tour and will showcase not only the highlights of Brown’s illustrious repertoire but the depth and wisdom that these past two years have endowed them with. The company will present two performances at the Suzanne Dellal Center.

One of the works on the company’s program for Israel is Decoy, which was created by Brown in 1979. The passing down of works, especially since Brown’s death, has become a major challenge for the company. “We work with the archive a lot,” explained Associate Artistic Director Carolyn Lucas. “We use videos, through which we can share experiences of building with Trisha. I always try to bring alumni, dancers who worked with Trisha, into the teaching process. During Covid we were able to get four women together in the studio space and we had Lisa Kraus, who was an original cast member in Glacial Decoy and Decoy, on Zoom. We spent a four-week process in which she took the dancers from scratch through the material from her living room. That was so special because, if the company was going fully, we wouldn’t have had that beautiful time to have Lisa with us for four hours a day, five days of the week for a month. It was an incredible experience for the dancers.”

Lucas joined the conversation from a house in Angers, France, the first stop on the company’s nearly six-week-long tour, which includes performances in Nimes, Antwerp, Tel Aviv and Spoleto. Lucas speaks of Brown’s works with nothing short of elation, pointing out various creations as her favorites from her decades-long tenure in the company.

Lucas is one of the many dancers who were swept away by Trisha. During her studies at SUNY Purchase, Lucas was first exposed to Brown’s work and described the experience as love at first sight. “I was in college, and I was taking a composition class. There was a continuing education student in the class. To me she was an older woman because I was like nineteen,” she laughed. “She said, ‘I’d like to take you to see Trisha Brown at BAM’, which was the sweetest thing in the world actually. I saw the first concert of Trisha’s at BAM. I didn’t know about Trisha. I think in my education, I went to a performing arts high school and was in college, but everyone was thinking about very classical techniques. No one had mentioned Trisha’s name. I was mesmerized and passionately in love with the work. Somehow, I managed to join the company out of college. It was the right time, right place, right situation. There was a workshop in 1984, after I graduated, they were looking for a dancer and I made it.”

 CAROLYN LUCAS: We use videos, through which we can share experiences of building with Trisha. (credit: Suzanne Dellal Center) CAROLYN LUCAS: We use videos, through which we can share experiences of building with Trisha. (credit: Suzanne Dellal Center)

Ten years after joining the company, Brown invited Lucas to become her choreographic assistant, a role she would fulfil for twenty years. In 2013, Lucas became the associate artistic director of the company. Having worked closely with Brown for such a considerable period, Lucas cares deeply about honoring Brown’s legacy.

“It feels really important to sustain as much of her trajectory as possible because the arc is so extraordinary. I think it’s really important to me to try to keep the work as closely linked to her process at time that she was making it,” Lucas said. “She created so much vocabulary, she would make big shifts. In a cycle she would be exploring something in three pieces – and each one would be totally different. She would feel that she had exhausted her exploration completely and would just jump completely to a different exploration.”

For the Israel engagement, Lucas worked closely with artistic director of the Suzanne Dellal Center, Naomi Perlov.

“We are sort of detouring off our program for this tour and we chose pieces in connection with things that she really desired for her community.”

The performances will begin in the courtyard of the Suzanne Dellal Center, where dancers will perform Group Primary Accumulation (1973) and Locus Trio (1980). The audience will then enter the main hall for three additional works: Watermotor, a solo made by Brown in 1978, which was captured in Babette Mangolte’s same-titled film, Decoy (1979) and Working Title (1985).

As for the future of the company, Lucas admits that many challenges lie ahead. “We’re exploring options in the future to have more of a generative wheel. Audiences and presenters really appreciate Trisha’s work. Trisha made these huge works in the 1980’s with big sets. Even prior to COVID, it was really expensive for everybody to present her and for the company to try and travel. We are adapting to stay on the road without the set pieces. It’s pretty much unaffordable for all at this point. We’re coming up with solutions.”

Brown was an avid collaborator, working with visual artists, musicians and set designers throughout her career. One solution Lucas and her team have found is to present stripped down versions of the works, often leaving behind heavy and elaborate sets to allow for travel.

“We started performing early works in museums and parks. It seemed like a beautiful time to shift. We did excerpts of the repertory, there are a few pieces we can do in full on slate or grass,” explained Lucas. One such engagement was at the 2015 Israel Festival, in which TBDC performed In Plain Site at the Israel Museum.

Now, Lucas offered, the company is beyond excited to return to the road. “We’re really excited to come and be on tour again, to be working in the world. It’s really nice to have all of our dancers. The feeling is that I’m never taking this for granted again. People come in and every cell of their body comes alive. We’re on a roll now and it’s a great feeling.”

Trisha Brown Dance Company will perform at the Suzanne Dellal Center on June 25 and 26. For more information, visit www.suzannedellal.org.il