Dance: A ‘Site’ to see

The Trisha Brown Dance Company performs in Jerusalem.

The Trisha Brown Dance Company (photo credit: IKEGANI NAOYA)
The Trisha Brown Dance Company
(photo credit: IKEGANI NAOYA)
In 2009, the death of Merce Cunningham rocked the dance world to its core. Though not the first of his kind to leave this world, the particulars of Cunningham’s departure were totally unprecedented. As the artistic director of an iconic and historic dance company, Cunningham opted to dismantle his troupe post-mortem. In his will, the great American choreographer left detailed instructions as to how, when and where his company would reach its end. The effects of this move continue to ricochet throughout the dance field.
“Trisha’s retirement was very fast and arrived on the heels of Cunningham’s final tour,” explains Carolyn Lucas, half of the artistic management of New York-based Trisha Brown Dance Company.
Lucas joined TBDC almost immediately out of college.
“I met Trisha in 1984 at an audition,” says Lucas.
As a student at SUNY Purchase, Lucas was in the course of receiving a traditional dance education. A peer insisted that she attend a performance of TBDC at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
“I fell in love with her work. I said, ‘I want to do that.’ There was an opening in the company right after I graduated college. The audition was actually a two-week workshop. I always appreciated that about Trisha and the company, the process is about getting to know the dancer and the dancer getting to know the work.
She’s always had great dancers, and that’s a big part of what made the company what it was,” she recounts.
Over the years, Lucas went from dancer to rehearsal director to choreographic assistant.
“I spent over 31 years with Trisha, and every day was a new journey,” she says.
The 78-year old Brown retired last year, leaving the artistic direction of the company in the hands of Lucas and longtime rehearsal director Diane Madden.
“It goes without saying that we miss Trisha,” sighs Lucas. “Trisha was just unstoppable. When I joined the company, she was still performing. To perform with her was really extraordinary because she was so aware of her connection to the people that she was dancing with. She was incredibly energetic and present. That was a wonderful thing to experience as a young dancer. Over the 31 years I spent with her, I can say that she always kept things fresh.”
With Brown gone, Lucas and Madden hatched a plan… The troupe would embark upon a three-year international tour that would showcase Brown’s proscenium works created over four decades. Upon returning, TBDC would present sitespecific manifestations of Brown’s works and engage in educational and archival activities. The Israel Festival is one of a few dozen stops on the Proscenium Works 1979-2011 tour.
“Trisha is still alive, and we really wanted to make this tour a celebration of her proscenium work. We also want to continue to share Trisha’s work into the future. We feel that her work is still very relevant and timeless,” says Lucas.
While in Israel, TBDC will present two programs. The first is a mixed bill of Brown’s pieces; the second is a sitespecific event held in the Israel Museum. The first represents the history/present of the company, the second the future.
As guests of the Jerusalem Theater, TBDC will present four of Brown’s works: You Can See Us (1995); Son of Gone Fishin’ (1981); Rogues (2011); and Set and Reset (1983).
“Son of Gone Fishin’ was the piece I saw that night at Bam. It is a beautiful work and is one her most complex pieces. Wherever we go, the audiences really enjoy the complexity of it. Set and Reset is Trisha’s signature work. It has been a big hit since its premiere in 1983,” says Lucas.
You Can See Us was originally performed by Brown and contemporary Bill T. Jones. In 1996, a year after the premiere, Michael Baryshnikov took on Jones’s role.
Nowadays, company dancers Jamie Scott and Cecily Campbell perform the duet.
The final piece in the evening is Rogues, which was one of Brown’s last creations.
“When Trisha was making her last choreography, she built a duet. It was then set apart as its own piece. On this tour, it is being performed by female dancers,” she says.
In Plain Site pays homage to Brown as one of the pioneers of site-specific dance. In the 1960s and 1970s, Brown became part of a movement to take dance outside of the theater and into the rest of the world. It seems fitting that this boundlessness has become the essence of the future of the company “We want to, in a sense, unleash the work from the stage. Five years ago, there was a revival in the presentation of her early work in sitespecific locations. We learned so much about how to present the work in such a way and how to deal with the audience and the flow of it. We were overwhelmed by how engaging the intimacy was for the audience. It’s a curatorial adventure. In Plain Site is the new programmatic model, and it’s a way to continue to share Trisha’s work,” says Lucas.
Trisha Brown Dance Company will perform at the Jerusalem Theater on June 11 at 8:30 p.m. and at the Israel Museum on June 12 at 2:30 and 4:30 and on June 13 at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. For more information, visit