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Trisha Brown Dance Company

October 8, 2015

Set and Reset, If you couldn’t see me, Rogues, PRESENT TENSE

Reviewed October 8, 2015

NAC Theatre, Ottawa

Set and Reset, Photograph by Hugo Glendinning

Set and Reset, Photograph by Hugo Glendinning

Set and Reset, the first of four works presented by Trisha Brown on the NAC Theatre stage Thursday, was a bright opening to the evening and, in fact, the 2015-16 dance season. A playful, free-spirited piece with a carefully sharpened edge, Set and Reset is actually one of Brown’s earlier choreographic efforts, created in 1983, 13 years into her company’s 45-year history.

Seven dancers wear creatively colourful wispy handmade costumes, which blur the lines of the performers, putting the focus on their perpetual motion. The set is equally gauzy, giving a transparency to the piece, with the side stages visible from the audience. The visual presentation and the costumes are based on the original designs by the former American painter and graphic artist Robert Rauschenberg.

The original score, Long Time No See, is by experimental performance artist Laurie Anderson, known for her pioneering work in electronic music. In this dance, it sets an urgent tone to the performers’ seemingly random patterns of movement, which mirror the exotic accompaniment.

PRESENT TENSE, Photography by Nan Melville

PRESENT TENSE, Photograph by Nan Melville

Like a bookend at the other end of the shelf, the final work of the evening, PRESENT TENSE, features the same seven agile dancers dressed in primary-coloured costumes against a backdrop of a childish drawing, with red the standout hue. The sharp, geometric painterly and opaque work, with lots of lifts and dancing in close quarters, PRESENT TENSE is as stiff as Set and Reset is fluid and it lacks the vitality of the opening work. The chiming musical accompaniment of early 20th century composer John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes informs the dancers’ often mechanical and static structural movements, a complete opposition to Set and Reset.

The other two shorter pieces were a solo performed by Jamie Scott, If you couldn’t see me, and a duet by Stuart Shugg and Marc Crousillat, Rogues. The former emphasizes the beauty of Scott’s muscular and fluid form, from behind – you never see her face. This Brown-Rauschenberg collaboration, first presented in 1994, relies on the dancer’s skill in expressing her movement through her torso and limbs. The lighs create a sharp-edged form, building a live sculpture for us. Barefoot, Scott dances in silence at times, as if the music is irrelevant to her self-expression.

Like a middle child, Rogues seems to have been thrown onto the stage for the sake of filling up time. An unmemorable piece, the two men dance ever so slightly out of sync to an odd collection of excerpts from 70-something composer Alvin Curran’s Toss and Find.

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From → Contemporary

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