Hip hip Foray!
Trisha Brown marches into the Joyce with a valuable reconstruction.
Wed Jan 30 2008
Photograph: Jeff Gurwin
For an undertaking like the revival of Foray Forêt—a dance that hasn’t been performed since 1994—Trisha Brown finds herself enveloped in a swirl of memories. “My role in a situation like this,” she explains in her office, “is to try to get myself back to how I was thinking in making it and how to convey that to the dancers.”
The wonderful Foray Forêt, which was first performed in 1990 and will be shown at the Joyce Theater next week, incorporates a marching band. The gold and silver costumes (with markings of magenta, green, rose and yellow) are by Robert Rauschenberg, who at the time gleefully told the choreographer that he had found “the cheapest, sleaziest-looking fabric.” It is part of Brown’s Back to Zero series, a return to simpler movement forms (she refers to the vocabulary, which was softer and came from the subconscious, as “delicate aberrations”).
The change in approach was, in part, a reaction to the diabolical difficulty of the choreographer’s previous Valiant series. “I was pushing as hard as I could,” Brown recalls. “They came to me and said, ‘Can we stop doing these works so we can get a rest?’ ” But a terrible accident also affected Brown in that creative period: Her son, then a teenager, fell out of a window and landed on a fence. “I still look at the emergency room on Seventh Avenue, because they saved his life,” she says. “It was a very emotional time.” Foray Forêt includes a solo for Brown; for the premiere in Lyon, France, she opted to stay at home with her son. Instead, Diane Madden performed it (and will do so again at the Joyce, marking her first performance with the company in seven years).
The image of a marching band came to Brown when she was standing on a balcony in Barcelona and heard a Sousa march playing from the street. “I was transported back to my little town in Aberdeen, Washington—the Thanksgiving football game was always such a thing—and I was also thinking about what my audience sees. Do they transport themselves back to high school? I called Bob Rauschenberg and told him I had an idea. My ideas were borderline gimmicky—I keep an idea for a year and if I haven’t dealt with it, it either goes or I ask Bob what he thinks. He said, ‘That is the best bad idea you have ever had.’ ”
Brown’s ability to recount her creative impulses is particularly important in the case of Foray Forêt: The reconstruction process has been made more difficult because the camera containing the original videotape of the dance was stolen in France. Working with the dancers are former company members Madden, Carolyn Lucas and Iréne Hultman, who is also the company’s rehearsal director.
During the creation of Foray Forêt, Brown established several basic phrases of movement material and then composed with those phrases: “She would physically propose a movement, and our eyes would be glued to her to try to catch every moment and nuance and give it back to her,” Madden says. “She would scan the room, and we would follow her eye and watch whoever she was watching, get an idea and through that process a resolution would jell.”
Throughout the work, there is what is known as the “soft phrase,” which is performed in sequence by a soloist who, according to Madden, is considered to be the piece’s timekeeper. “Trisha was playing with delicate aberrations,” she recalls. “This image of a cat sleeping in the sun and then all of a sudden it just flops or repositions its paw.”
In addition to working on the reconstruction, Madden is also reacquainting herself with Brown’s solo; it encompasses, she says, both playful and quiet notes so that “there are explosions of movement and very long moments of stillness. It’s almost like Trisha is looking at her body as if it’s a toy, saying, ‘What would happen if I take my leg with my hands, rotate it, pick it up and drop it? ’ ” For Madden, the result is a little like a body playing—or running into—itself. “I love revisiting material and going deeper,” she says. “There’s always more to be understood.”
Trisha Brown Dance Company is at the Joyce Theater Tue 5–Feb 10.