Review: Trisha Brown Dance Company

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 11:32am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 11:32am

Trisha Brown Dance Company
Lyric Theatre, HK Academy for Performing Arts
Reviewed: February 21

Trisha Brown has been one of the key figures of modern dance in the US since the 1960s. An artist as well as a dancer/choreographer, she is known for her frequent collaborations with avant-garde artists and composers, notably Robert Rauschenberg and Laurie Anderson. Brown's company has not appeared in Hong Kong since 1988, so this was an important opportunity for local audiences to discover her distinctive style.

The opening programme offered four pieces, starting from 2011 and moving back through the '90s to the '80s. All demonstrated Brown's celebrated fluidity of movement, which has a strikingly natural quality, her musicality and her fine visual sense.

However, while the programme was well danced and aesthetically pleasing, there was a surprising lack of substance.

Interestingly, although the earlier works are considered among Brown's masterpieces, it was the later ones, created when Brown was in her 70s, which proved more satisfying, showing the choreographer's art reduced to its essence.

Rogues is a duet for two men who echo and occasionally interrupt each other's movements, now one leading, then the other. Set to a score by Alvin Curran, the piece is beautifully paced, starting slowly and building to an effective finale.

Les Yeux et l'âme (The Eyes and the Soul) is a suite for four couples developed from Brown's choreography for Jean-Philippe Rameau's 1745 opera Pygmalion. The piece has a limpid elegance and charmingly solemn playfulness which go perfectly with the baroque score. It is further enhanced by Elizabeth Cannon's costumes which match the simplicity and flow of the movement.

The 1990 Foray Forêt is famous for the conceit of having the dancers on stage while a marching band (always locally recruited, in this case the Ying Wa Primary School Senior Band) circles the auditorium outside. The music fades in and out as the band passes the entrances to the theatre so the dancers sometimes perform to music, sometimes in silence.

While this disconnect between sight and sound may be intriguing at first, by the third time the music comes around the interest wears thin. The best aspects of the piece are a powerful solo at the end with impressively long-held balances (originally danced by Brown herself) and Rauschenberg's elegiac, autumnal designs.

In Set and Reset three geometrical shapes are suspended above the stage with black and white video projected on them while the dancers perform beneath. No doubt this was cutting edge at the time, but it now looks dated.

Natasha Rogai