How many choreographers have had dancers walk down the sides of buildings, and dance across New York City roof tops? Create a dance that straps a camera to the performer’s back and also make a work for the Paris Opera Ballet?; situate a marching band outside of the theater to accompany a dance inside and also choreograph a 17th century opera?; create a work during which paintings are slowly lowered so that the dancers’ limbs are gradually subtracted from view? Fun and serious. Free spirited as the wind, meticulous as an accountant. Trisha Brown.
The Trisha Brown Dance Company has raised $2.5 million, or half of the goal of the fundraising campaign it launched 13 months ago, according to an announcement by Brown Board President Kirk Radke. The money is earmarked for programs that ensure the future of the company.
When Ms. Brown retired as head of her company last year, the 77 year old choreographer appointed longtime company members Diane Madden and Carolyn Lucas as associate artistic directors with the mandate that they: (1) develop, deepen and expand the Company’s educational initiatives to ensure new generations of Brown-trained dancers are technically qualified to perform her work and that her unique ideas about movement continue to stimulate generations of artists, (2) to present her dances in a variety of spaces, indoors and out, proscenium and alternative (3) treat the company’s archive as a living organism to be used to better understand her work in particular, and dance in general.
The challenge was to design a workable plan that took each of the three into consideration, to connect the dots and to preserve the vibrant spirit of its founder as its heart and soul. Present and past dancers and company administrators were consulted, board members met for endless hours, other dance troupe leaders facing similar issues were questioned, discussions were held with present and future funders, national and international presenters and educational leaders were brought into the mix.
With lead support from the Trisha Brown Dance Company Board of Directors, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, The New York Community Trust with major, ongoing support by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, great progress has been made in fulfilling Brown’s mandate: P.A.R.T.S. in Belgium and Gibney Dance Center in New York City will be among the educational centers for the teaching of Brown’s movement principles and choreographic ideas; in New York City, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and in Los Angeles the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA will continue to serve as performance collaborators. The Company is presently negotiating for an appropriate place for the Trisha Brown archives. Madden and Lucas are working closely with each of the partners and are overseeing all artistic aspects of the plan.
The Company is currently halfway through its three-year “Proscenium Works, 1979-2011” tour, which has over 45 major national international dates lined up through December, 2015. In keeping with Brown’s experimental and adventurous spirit, in January of 2016, the troupe will dissolve in its present form and become project–based, re-shaping itself to appropriately respond to changing demands of the contemporary dance scene.
“We want to have the flexibility and mobility to be open to the new and unexpected,” said Carolyn Lucas. “All of what we do is designed to ensure that Trisha’s work continue to be performed in the same spirit and integrity with which it was created,” Diane Madden continued.
Celebrated for her uncanny wit as well as her notorious sense of adventure, Brown’s determination to challenge conventional perception and the risk-taking spirit that she demanded both of herself and her audiences infuses all her work. “From now on let’s not do anything that’s not fun,” Brown once declared.
“She is a grand adventurer. It is something to treasure and guide our thinking in preserving her legacy,” said the Company’s Executive Director, Barbara Dufty. “Her legacy is combination of the mathematical rigor she applied to her work, her free spirited intellect and her profound respect of the role of visual arts in dance.” Brown, herself a respected visual artist as well as choreographer, is well-known for her collaborations with other visual artists, including Robert Rauschenberg, Terry Winters, Nancy Graves, and Donald Judd.
The Company’s upcoming season at New York Live Arts, April 8-13, signals the beginning of its new future. Since New York Live Arts is not equipped to present “Son of Gone Fishin’” with its Donald Judd set, it will be performed in an early version without it. The season also features “Solo Olos” (1976); “Opal Loop/Cloud Installation #72503: (1980) and “Rogues” 2011.
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR BIOGRAPHIES
Trisha Brown (Founding Artistic Director and Choreographer) was born and raised in Aberdeen, Washington. She graduated from Mills College in Oakland, California in 1958; studied with Anna Halprin; and taught at Reed College in Portland, Oregon before moving to New York City in 1961. Instantly immersed in what was to become the post-modern phenomena of Judson Dance Theater, her movement investigations found the extraordinary in the everyday and challenged existing perceptions of performance. Brown, along with like-minded artists, pushed the limits of choreography and changed modern dance forever.
In 1970, Brown formed her company and explored the terrain of her adoptive SoHo making Man Walking Down the Side of a Building (1970), and Roof Piece (1971). Her first work for the proscenium stage, Glacial Decoy (1979), was also the first of many collaborations with Robert Rauschenberg. Opal Loop/Cloud Installation #72503 (1980), created with fog designer Fujiko Nakaya, was followed by Son of Gone Fishin’ (1981), which featured sets by Donald Judd. The now iconic Set and Reset (1983), with original music by Laurie Anderson and visual design by Robert Rauschenberg, completed Brown’s first fully developed cycle of work, Unstable Molecular Structures. This cycle epitomized the fluid yet unpredictably geometric style that remains a hallmark of her work. Brown then began her relentlessly athletic Valiant Series, best exemplified by the powerful Newark (1987) and Astral Convertible (1989) – pushing her dancers to their physical limits and exploring gender-specific movement. Next came the elegant and mysterious Back to Zero Cycle in which Brown pulled back from external virtuosity to investigate unconscious movement. This cycle includes Foray Forêt(1990), and For M.G.: The Movie (1991). Brown collaborated for the final time with Rauschenberg to create If you couldn’t see me (1994), in which she danced entirely with her back to the audience.
Brown turned her attention to classical music and opera production, initiating what is known as her Music Cycle. Choreographed to J.S. Bach’s monumental Musical Offering, M.O. (1995) was hailed as a “masterpiece” by Anna Kisselgoff of the New York Times. Brown continued to work with new collaborators, including visual artist Terry Winters and composer Dave Douglas, with whom she created El Trilogy (2000). She then worked with long-time friend and artist, Elizabeth Murray to create PRESENT TENSE (2003) set to music by John Cage.
Brown stepped into the world of opera to choreograph Carmen (1986) and again to direct Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (1998). Since then, Brown has gone on to direct four more operas, including, Luci Mie Traditrici (2001), Winterreise (2002), and Da Gelo a Gelo (2006) and most recently, Pygmalion (2010).
Continuing to venture into new terrain, Brown created O zlozony/O composite (2004)for three étoiles of the Paris Opera Ballet, working with long-time collaborators Laurie Anderson and Jennifer Tipton. Forays into new technology created the witty and sophisticated I love my robots (2007), with Japanese artist and robotics designer Kenjiro Okazaki. Her work with Pygmalion produced two dance pieces L’Amour au théâtre(2009) and Les Yeux et l’âme(2011). Brown’s latest work, I’m going to toss my arms- if you catch them they’re yours (2011), is a collaboration with visual artist Burt Barr, whose striking set is dominated by industrial fans. The original music is by Alvin Curran.
As well as being a prolific choreographer, Brown is an accomplished visual artist, as experienced in It’s a Draw (2002). Her drawings have been seen in exhibitions, galleries and museums throughout the world including the Venice Biennale, The Drawing Center in Philadelphia, The New Museum, White Cube, Documenta XII, Walker Art Center, Centre Georges Pompidou, Mills College, Musée d’art Contemporain de Lyon, and Museum of Modern Art. Brown is represented by Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in NYC.
Trisha Brown has created over 100 dance works since 1961, and was the first woman choreographer to receive the coveted MacArthur Foundation Fellowship “Genius Award.” She has been awarded many other honors including five fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, two John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships, Brandeis University’s Creative Arts Medal in Dance, and she has been named a Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame. In 1988, Brown 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. She 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, Brown received the New York State Governor’s Arts Award and, in 2003, was honored with the National Medal of Arts. She had the prestigious honor to serve as a Rolex Arts Initiative Mentor for 2010-11 as well as receiving the S.L.A.M. Action Maverick Award presented by Elizabeth Streb, and the Capezio Ballet Makers Dance Foundation Award in 2010. 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 was honored with 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 and received the first Robert Rauschenberg Award from the Foundation of Contemporary Arts. She was recently honored with the BOMB Magazine Award.
Carolyn Lucas (Associate Artistic Director) attended North Carolina School of the Arts and graduated with a BFA in dance from SUNY Purchase before joining Trisha Brown Dance Company in 1984. Lucas originated roles in some of Brown’s most acclaimed works including Lateral Pass (1983), Carmen (1986), Newark (Niweweorce) (1987), Astral Convertible (1989), Foray Forêt (1990), and Astral Converted (1991) and Another Story as in falling (1993). Lucas’ dancing has been described in the New York Times as “affecting in her softly penetrating attack” and “especially luminous.” In 1993, Brown appointed Lucas as her choreographic assistant, a position Lucas held for twenty years before being named associate artistic director in 2013. As choreographic assistant, Lucas played an integral role in Brown’s creation process in dance and opera, working closely alongside Brown for pieces including If you couldn’t see me (1994), its revision to the duet You can see us (1995) with Bill T. Jones and later Mikhail Baryshnikov, Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1998), Luci Mie Traditrici (2001), Geometry of Quiet (2002), Da Gelo a Gelo (2006) with Salvatore Sciarrino, It’s a Draw (2002), Winterreise (2002) with Simon Keenlyside, PRESENT TENSE (2003), O Zlozony/O Composite (2004) with etoiles from the Paris Opera Ballet, Rameau’s Pygmalion (2010) with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants and Brown’s final work for the Company, I’m going to toss my arms- if you catch them they’re yours (2011), which premiered at Theatre National de Chaillot in Paris. In addition to directing company rehearsals, Lucas has led projects for companies and institutions around the world, including The New School in NYC, P.A.R.T.S. in Brussels, Paris Opera Ballet and White Oak Dance Project. She was one of the first instructors Brown sent to P.A.R.T.S. to construct a Set and Reset/Reset, whose collaborative, interdisciplinary learning process is now a cornerstone of the Brown Company’s education program. Lucas is applying her firsthand knowledge of two decades of documenting Brown’s work for the digital Trisha Brown Archive. She studies Tai Chi with Maggie Newman and Alexander Technique with June Ekman.
Diane Madden (Associate Artistic Director) attended Hampshire College in Massachusetts before joining the Trisha Brown Dance Company in 1980. Since then, Madden has danced, directed, taught, studied and reconstructed Brown’s work for nearly 35 years. A much lauded performer, Madden has been described in the New York Times as “one of those dancers who can make magic out of almost any task.” She has originated roles in works including Son of Gone Fishin’ (1981), Brown’s masterwork Set and Reset (1983), for which she was recently honored, along with the full original cast, by Movement Research in 2012, Lateral Pass (1985), Carmen (1986), Newark (Niweweorce) (1987), Astral Convertible (1989) for which she was awarded a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award, Foray Forêt (1990), Astral Converted (1991), the “running solo” in For M.G.: The Movie (1991), Another Story as in falling (1993), Yet Another Story as in falling (1994), M.O. (1995) set to Bach’s Musical Offering, Twelve Ton Rose (1996), Accumulation with Talking Plus Repertory (1997), Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1998) and Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Pygmalian (2010), which flying sequences she helped develop and perform, Canto/Pianto (1998),and the Interlude solos Rage and Ladder in El Trilogy (2000). She has also performed in Planes (1968), Floor of the Forrest (1971), Walking on the Wall (1971), Locus (1975), Line up (1976), Glacial Decoy (1979) and Opal Loop (1980). Madden has served as Brown’s personal assistant and was the rehearsal director from 1984-2000. She continued to teach and direct special projects for the Company before serving again as rehearsal director from 2010 until 2013, when she was named associate artistic director. Madden enjoys keeping Brown’s rich range of choreography alive on stages and alternative sites worldwide through the talents of dancers both within the company and from internationally known schools and companies such as Lyon Opera Ballet, Scottish National Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, P.A.R.T.S. (Brussels) and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Madden has developed an approach to teaching that weaves anatomically grounded technique with improvisation, composition and performance skills. In addition to her own performance work in collaborative improvisational forms, she is greatly influenced by her study and practice of Aikido with Fuminori Onuma. Madden is the recipient of two Princess Grace Awards, the first in 1986 and the second for sustained achievement in 1994.