Trisha Brown: 1936-2017
Susan Rosenberg, TBDC's Resident Scholar, writes about Trisha Brown.
(Continue scrolling down the page to read more tributes.)
It is with great sorrow that we share the news that artist Trisha Brown (b. 1936) died on March 18th in San Antonio, Texas, after a lengthy illness. She is survived by her son, Adam Brown, his wife Erin, her four grandchildren – and by her brother Gordon Brown and sister Louisa Brown. Trisha Brown’s husband, artist Burt Barr, died on November 7, 2016.
One of the most acclaimed and influential choreographers and dancers of her time, Trisha’s groundbreaking work forever changed the landscape of art. From her roots in rural Aberdeen, Washington, her birthplace, Brown – a 1958 graduate of Mills College Dance Department – arrived in New York in 1961. A student of Anna Halprin, Brown participated in the choreographic composition workshops taught by Robert Dunn – from which Judson Dance Theater was born – greatly contributing to the fervent of interdisciplinary creativity that defined 1960s New York. Expanding the physical behaviors that qualified as dance, she discovered the extraordinary in the everyday, and brought tasks, rulegames, natural movement and improvisation into the making of choreography.
With the founding of the Trisha Brown Dance Company in 1970, Brown set off on her own distinctive path of artistic investigation and ceaseless experimentation, which extended for forty years. The creator of over 100 choreographies, six operas, and a graphic artist, whose drawings have earned recognition in numerous museum exhibitions and collections, Brown’s earliest works took impetus from the cityscape of downtown SoHo, where she was a pioneering settler. In the 1970s, as Brown strove to invent an original abstract movement language – one of her singular achievements – it was art galleries, museums and international exhibitions that provided her work its most important presentation context. Indeed contemporary projects to introduce choreography to the museum setting are unthinkable apart from the exemplary model that Brown established.
Brown’s movement vocabulary, and the new methods that she and her dancers adopted to train their bodies, remain one of her most pervasively impactful legacies within international dance practice. However for Brown, these techniques were a means to an end – the creation of choreographies, which unfolded in a serial fashion. In the “Equipment Dances” (1968-1971), she explored gravity, perception and urban space. Brown introduced new rigor and systematicity to the “Accumulations” (1971-1975), dances derived from mathematical sequences common to the work of minimal and conceptual artists of her generation. When Brown developed what she named ‘memorized improvisation’ she discovered the foundational approach that would inform her dance-making for the remainder of her career. First announced in her solo Watermotor (1978) – a dance immortalized in the film shot by Babette Mangolte – Brown’s extraordinary, idiosyncratic virtuosity as a dancer became the touchstone for her mature movement vocabulary. It also served to demonstrate that, among the many components of Brown’s genius, was her ability to forge, access and represent the inseparability of mind-body intelligences.
Working in the studio with what was, until 1980, an all-female company, Brown became a master orchestrator of collaboration; she used her own body, language and images to elicit and catalyze her dancers’ improvisations, which she edited and structured as choreographies. A major turning point in Brown’s career occurred in 1979, when she transitioned from working in non-traditional and art world settings to assume the role of a choreographer working within the institutional framework associated with dancing – the proscenium stage.
With this decision she embarked on a more expansive collaborative process, inviting her contemporaries to contribute visual presentations (sets and costumes) as well as sound scores to her choreography. In her initial work with Robert Rauschenberg on Glacial Decoy (1979) she established the parameters for their artistic dialogue at the outset, drawing inspiration from the theater’s geometry and sightlines. Going forward, in her work with artists Fujiko Nakaya, Donald Judd, Nancy Graves, Terry Winters and Elizabeth Murray, and composers Robert Ashley, Laurie Anderson, Peter Zummo, Alvin Curran, Salvatore Sciarrino, and Dave Douglas, Brown identified the collaborative process as a manifestation of interacting and intersecting artistic intentions – and she worked hand in glove with these artists to bring each new production to fruition.
Brown’s best-loved work, the 1983 Set and Reset – a collaboration with Robert Rauschenberg and Laurie Anderson that premiered as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s “Next Wave Festival” – brought Brown international fame. It culminated the group of dances known as the “Unstable Molecular Cycle,” (1980-1983), all based in memorized improvisation. In “The Valiant Cycle” (1987-1989) Brown pushed the limits of her dancers’ athleticism and stamina, elevating abstract dance to theatrical proportions in her masterpiece, Newark (Niweweorce) (1987) for which Donald Judd provided the sets, costumes and sound score. With the “Back to Zero Cycle” (1990-1994) Brown entered new terrain, investigating ‘unconscious’ movement, while also bringing new inflections to her longstanding concern with themes of visibility and invisibility, as well as visual deflection.
Having performed in Lina Wertmuller’s 1987 production of Bizet’s Carmen, Brown – in the mid-1990s – set her sights on directing operas. In preparation she initiated the “Music Cycle,” in which she collaborated with what she described as two dead – i.e. timelessly alive – composers: Johann Sebastian Bach and Anton Webern. With new knowledge of polyphonic musical forms, she accepted the invitation of Bernard Foccroulle, director of Brussels famed La Monnaie opera house, to direct Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo in 1998 – the first of six operas that she would direct over the next fourteen years. In addition to engaging with this most venerable of interdisciplinary art forms, Brown created a single ballet, O Zlozony/O Composite (2004), at the behest of Brigitte Lefëvre, director of The Paris Opera Ballet – a project in which she worked with three of the company’s most esteemed Étoiles, and with artist Vija Celmins and composer Laurie Anderson. During the late 1990s and first decade of the 21st century, Brown worked simultaneously to create new choreographies working with contemporary artists and composers; directed operas; and further developed her work in the field of drawing.
Brown’s official retirement from dancing came in 2008, when she performed in I Love My Robots, a collaboration with Kenjiro Okazaki and Laurie Anderson. Her final works include two operas by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Hippolyte et Aracie and Pygmalian (2010), produced together with William Chrystie and Les Arts Florissants – as well as the sole male duet that she created, entitled Rogues (2011). Her work, I’m going to toss my arms- if you catch them they’re yours (2011), was the last dance Brown created. From the 1970s to the present Trisha Brown’s drawings have been widely exhibited in international museums and art galleries – among them, at Yale University Art Gallery and the Leo Castelli Gallery (1974); the Venice Biennale (1980); The Fabric Workshop & Museum, Philadelphia (2003); White Box Gallery, London (2004); Documenta XII (2007); and The Walker Art Center (2008). In addition, her drawings are held in major museum collections, including the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, The Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris among others. Brown is represented by Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in New York.
Today the Trisha Brown Dance Company continues to perpetuate Brown’s legacy through its Trisha Brown: In Plain Site initiative. Through it, the Company draws on Brown’s model for reinvigorating her choreography through its re-siting in relation to new contexts that include outdoor sites, and museum settings and collections. The Company is also involved in an ongoing process of reconstructing and remounting major works that Brown created for the proscenium stage between 1979 and 2011. In addition, the Company continues its work to consolidate Trisha Brown’s artistic legacy through their restoration and organization of her vast archives of notebooks; correspondence; critical reviews; and an unprecedented moving image catalogue raisonné, which records her meticulous creative process over many decades.
In her lifetime Trisha Brown was the recipient of nearly every award available to contemporary choreographers. The first woman to receive the coveted MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant (in 1991), Brown was honored by five fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts; two John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships; and Brandeis University’s Creative Arts Medal in Dance (1982). In 1988, she was named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the government of France. In January 2000, she was promoted to Officier and in 2004, she was again elevated, this time to the level of Commandeur. Brown was a 1994 recipient of the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award and, at the invitation of President Bill Clinton, served on the National Council on the Arts from 1994 to 1997. In 1999, she received the New York State Governor’s Arts Award and, in 2003, was honored with the National Medal of Arts. She received the Capezio Ballet Makers Dance Foundation Award in 2010 and had the prestigious honor to serve as a Rolex Arts Initiative Mentor for 2010-11. She has received numerous honorary doctorates, is an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was awarded the 2011 New York Dance and Performance ‘Bessie’ Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2011, Brown received the prestigious Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for making an “outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” In 2012, Brown became a United States Artists Simon Fellow. Having received three awards from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (1971, 1974, and 1991), she was honored with the Foundation’s first Robert Rauschenberg Award in 2013. In 2013 she was honored with the BOMB Magazine Award and received the Honors Award given by Dance/USA in 2015. ~ Susan Rosenberg
"The Visionary: Trisha Brown Redefined Dance With Wit and Daring" by Deborah Jowitt, The Village Voice
"When I began to write dance reviews for the Village Voice in the rebellious Sixties, she — one of the founding members of the boldly iconoclastic Judson Dance Theater and among the smart-as-a-whip improvisers in the Grand Union during the Seventies — taught me that if an artist said he or she was making a dance, I'd better consider it as such...."
to read Deborah Jowitt's article.
"At Play With Trisha Brown" by Alastair Macauley, The New York Times
"Ms. Brown’s poetic use of natural physical impulses was integral to her charm as both dancer and choreographer."
to continue reading the complete The New York Times
"A Farewell to Trisha Brown" by Wendy Perron, Dance Magazine
"Having danced with Trisha in the 1970s when the company was just five women, and having followed her choreography since then, I would say she was both a groundbreaking artist as well as a woman-centered leader. She invited people to think, move and see differently. And she was generous and caring toward her dancers."
to continue reading the complete article at Dance Magazine
"Coreografare il tempo. In memoria di Trisha Brown" by Maria Paola Zedda, Artribune Magazine
"Icona della Post Modern Dance, coreografa dello spazio e del gesto, Trisha Brown ha donato al mondo, con la sua ricerca e pratica artistica, un profondo lascito...."
to read Maria Paola Zedda's tribute.
"Trisha Brown, Choreographer and Pillar of American Postmodern Dance, Dies at 80" by Alastair Macauley, The New York Times
"Few dance inventors have so combined the cerebral and sensuous sides of dance as Ms. Brown did, and few have been as influential. Her choreography, showcased primarily in New York, helped shape generations of modern dance creators into the 21st century."
to continue reading the complete The New York Times
"Disparition de Trisha Brown" by Agnès Izrine
"Trisha Brown s'est imposée, au cours de la seconde moitié du xxe siècle, comme une danseuse et chorégraphe des plus inventivesayant fait évoluer la danse moderne américaine ou modern dance. Partant du rejet de la gestuelle de l'époque, elle élabore un langage qui correspond à une aisance du corps dans un mouvement fluide, « silky », dit-elle, qui, au fil de son questionnement renouvelé, fait appel à une haute et complexe technicité....."
to read Agnès Izrine's tribute.
"Trisha Brown, choreographer who revolutionized dance in the 20th century, dies at 80" by Emily Langer, The Washington Post
"The effect of her relentless experimentation was to enlarge the definition of dance."
to continue reading the complete The Washington Post
"Hommage a Trisha Brown" by Bernard Foccroulle
"Nous avons appris avec infiniment de tristesse le décès de Trisha Brown. Le Festival d’Aix avait accueilli cette immense artiste à plusieurs reprises : sa mise en scène et chorégraphie de L’Orfeo de Monteverdi avait fait sensation en 1998 et, après une tournée triomphale en Europe et en Amérique, avait été reprise en 2007. Trisha était revenue à Aix en 2010 avec une soirée Rameau, qui incluait Pygmalion et des extraits de Hippolyte et Aricie......"
to read Bernard Foccroulle's tribute.
"Five Artists On Working With Trisha Brown," The New York Times
Stephen Petronio, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Elizabeth Streb, Laurie Anderson, and Terry Winters speak about working with Trisha Brown.
to continue reading the complete The New York Times
Danspace Project: "Remembering Trisha Brown: Ralph Lemon, Vicky Shick, Stacy Spence, Laurie Uprichard, Judy Hussie-Taylor"
to continue reading.
MARCH 2017 NEWSLETTER
The highlight of March will be our performances at The Broad, Getty Center, LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Hauser Wirth & Shimmel. Click here
to read more about or partnership with CAP UCLA Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, plus our performances at the 85th Anniversary Season of Jacob's Pillow Dance!
FEBRUARY 2017 NEWSLETTER
If you were to follow the footprints of TBDC in January, you would have traveled to New York, NY; London, England; Berlin, Germany; and Paris, France where the Company performed Trisha Brown: In Plain Site
or Set and Reset
. You would have also ventured to Brussels, Belgium; Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; and Hartsville, SC to participate in the Company's education programs.
Continue reading about the Company's activities in our February 2017 Newsletter
TBDC at Dance on Camera Festival and BAMcinématek NYC - February 7 and 10-12
Join TBDC in NYC this month for screenings of In the Steps of Trisha Brown
, by acclaimed filmmaker Marie-Hélène Rebois, at the Dance on Camera Festival, February 7, and BAMcinématek, February 10-12. The film documents the Company's experience setting Glacial Decoy
(1979) on the Paris Opera Ballet.
The February 7 screening at the Dance on Camera Festival, presented by Dance Films Association and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, includes a Q&A session with Marie-Hélène Rebois, TBDC alum (and original Glacial Decoy
cast member) Lisa Kraus and TBDC Co-Associate Artistic Director Carolyn Lucas, plus the film premiere of Between Stephen and Yvonne
BAMcinématek presents the film February 10-12 at the BAM Rose Cinemas.
Watch a sneak peak!
Read: From Ballet to Trisha Brown
, by Joan Acocello, The New Yorker
; and Craving Dance Films? There's a Festival for That
, by Courtney Escoyne, Dance Magazine
Previews of TBDC's upcoming performances at Brooklyn's Central Library
TBDC performs in New York at Brooklyn's Central Library
Join TBDC for A Night of Philosophy & Ideas
at Brooklyn's Central Library.
Saturday, January 28 at 7:00pm through Sunday, January 29 at 7:00am
Central Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY 11238
TBDC performances: 8:00pm, 9:00pm, 11:30pm, 5:00am, 6:30am
This all-night marathon of philosophical debate, featuring 40 philosophers, includes performances by TBDC, music curated by National Sawdust, and screenings of highlights from the BAM archives. Co-presented by Brooklyn Public Library and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. Click here for more information.
TBDC at Berlin's KW Institute for Contemporary Art
TBDC dancer Leah Morrison, and alum Dai Jian, performed You can see us
, January 19-20 at Berlin's KW Institute for Contemporary Art
At the Louvre: 10th Art Movies International Festival
On January 18 at the Louvre
, TBDC dancer Leah Morrison performed Trisha Brown's pivotal solo Accumulation
followed by a screening of In the Steps of Trisha Brown
by renowned filmmaker Marie-hélène Rebois.
APAP NYC Showcase
TBDC participated in the APAP|NYC 2017 Conference
, during which the Company presented a showcase with Liz Gerring Dance on Saturday, January 7.
JANUARY 2017 NEWSLETTER
Our NEW YEAR 2017 is packed with performance and education programs throughout the U.S. and abroad! CLICK HERE
to read about TBDC's busy January in our latest newsletter!