In Thursday’s New York Times, Alastair Macaulay reflects on his recent visit to our exhibition “Embodied Practice and Site-Specificity” that takes a close look at Trisha Brown’s career. You can visit the exhibition on Fridays and Sundays 12:00-5:00pm and Saturdays 10:00am-5:00pm in our Arts Center at Governors Island between now and September 28. Read on to learn more about Ms. Brown’s work and how she has shaped experimental dance and the cultural landscape of New York and beyond:
…it is a room to linger in for more than an hour. It contains memorable objects, rare photographs and four screens; and each screen plays a continuous loop of Ms. Brown’s choreography.
More than that, it is a room replete with histories. Time spent there leaves you with a refreshed and enriched sense of our dance past and this city’s past. As you take the boat back to Manhattan, you find your idea of it has changed.
It’s worth the trip to Governors Island just to see the photos, film footage and documentation of Ms. Brown’s “Roof Piece”(1971). You see a jumbled SoHo roofscape, with over a dozen water tanks visible in one photo alone — and three dancers, each on a different building (foreground, midground, distance). Against the subdued city colors, the bright-red costumes of these performers stand out like beacons, and so does the soft force of the gestures they share.
These photos and films show us no audience; and so we have the sense that the roofs were these women’s private playground. But the brightness of those red costumes and the linear connection among the dancers’ positions make us feel something more: the thrill of an otherwise empty cityscape transformed by movement and color. Choreographers more conventional or sensationalist might have made showy bravura movements — big jumps, high kicks, grand turns — to make the piece register across the rooftops. But it is part of Ms. Brown’s particular poetry that she chose a more subdued palette — the dipping knee, the hitched elbow, the tilting torso — with no conventional musical rhythm.
…in “Roof Piece” you can see — feel — the intellectual and artistic aspects of Ms. Brown’s brain stimulating each other. The same is true in “Group Primary Accumulation” (1973). It’s to watch the films and photos of this that I’m keenest to return to Governors Island: It certainly extends our idea of dance (initially and repeatedly, it’s just four people lying flat on the floor), but it’s also a witty, absorbing, fascinating, kinesthetically appealing piece whose complexity rewards repeated viewings.