Montpellier Dance Festival Welcomes Trisha Brown Dance Company

Montpellier Dance Festival Welcomes Trisha Brown Dance Company
(Lois Greenfield/ Jack Mitchell)

After suffering for several years with Alzheimer’s disease, choreographer and artist Trisha Brown, an historic figure of post-modern dance, retired earlier this year following a career that spanned five decades. Diane Madden and Carolyn Lucas, who were appointed associate artistic directors of the Trisha Brown Dance Company in January, now take care of the invaluable repertory of the American artist.

Committed with the dancers of the company to an international tour of three years, they will present three works on June 27 at the Montpellier Dance Festival in southern France: “Astral Convertible” (1989), “If You Couldn’t See Me, If You Couldn’t See Us” (1994), and “I’m Going To Toss My Arms — If You Catch Them They’re Yours” (2011).


Madden spoke with BLOUIN ARTINFO France about this event and the tour.

How long have you been working with Trisha Brown?

I joined the company in 1980 as a dancer, adding the role of rehearsal director in 1984. Carolyn also joined the company in 1984 as a dancer and became choreographic assistant in 1993.

Why did the Trisha Brown Company decide to start such an ambitious three-year tour around the world?

To celebrate Trisha’s works for the proscenium stage, before transitioning the work into alternative spaces.

Can you tell us a bit about the dance works you will present at the Montpellier Dance Festival? Why did you choose these ones in particular?

We geared the program to take advantage of the Agora’s magical outdoor setting. “Astral Convertible” premiered in Montpellier (Cour Jacques Cœur) almost exactly 24 years ago. As requested by Trisha, Rauschenberg’s set design provides the light and sound specifically for use in outdoor venues. This was also one of the backgrounds in Burt Barr’s film “Aeros,” inspired by “Astral Convertible.”

The duet version of “If You Couldn’t See Me, If You Couldn’t See Us,” performed by Trisha Brown and Bill T. Jones, premiered on this same stage, and we are happy to bring the solo back, danced by Bessie Award-winning dancer Leah Morrison.

Trisha’s last choreography, “I’m Going To Toss My Arms — If You Catch Them They’re Yours” has a visual design by Burt Barr using 11 industrial fans evoking an atmospheric quality by interacting with the costumes and movement. We are looking forward to this first outdoor performance of “I’m Going To Toss My Arms — If You Catch Them They’re Yours,” and its first time being seen in Montpellier.

What are the major differences between “Astral Convertible,” created in 1989, and the very recent “I’m Going To Toss My Arms — If You Catch Them They’re Yours”? How has the dance of Trisha Brown evolved with time?

“Astral Convertible,” the final dance in Trisha’s “Valient Cycle,” uses a delivery system of lines, much like waves, linking vertical and horizontal movement vocabularies. Heroic and freewheeling partnering is also abundant in duet, quartet, and sextet configurations.

“I’m Going To Toss My Arms — If You Catch Them They’re Yours” is much more closely linked to Trisha’s visual art, using notions of calligraphy and moving sculpture.

The scenography and costumes of “Astral Convertible” and “If You Couldn’t See Me” have been created by the American artist Robert Rauschenberg. Do you still use the original ones?

Rauschenberg’s original designs are used. The costumes are reconstructed for today’s dancers. The technology in the towers that provides “Astral Convertible’s” light and sound has also been updated.

What is the relationship between Trisha Brown’s dance and music?

The relationship of Trisha’s work to music spans an evolution from silence to opera. In this program, all three dances were created independently of a sound score, with later collaboration to integrate music with the dance. It’s important to note though, in certain other works Trisha Brown has a provocative, deep, and rigorous relationship to music.

Do you feel you have a special link with this festival?

Montpellier has been a second home to the company, and supported Trisha’s work immensely. We have performed in both proscenium houses and in two locations outdoors. “Astral Convertible,” “If You Couldn’t See Us,” and “Geometry of Quiet” all had their premieres in Montpellier, as well as it providing a background in the film “Aeros.” While Trisha choreographed “One Story as in Falling” for the company of Dominique Bagouet, Montpellier graciously hosted the TBDC company in residence for an extended rehearsal period. So yes, our link is extremely special.

How did you work on these dance works? I presume that Trisha Brown hasn’t been able to work anymore since she is ill?

Trisha has been depending on our direction of her repertory and new work for decades, leaving time for her to focus creatively. Now that Trisha has retired, we are well equipped to maintain her work. Our future holds the challenge of sustaining her legacy with the same spirit for investigation and collaboration she values and has inspired within us, doing so with the present company, it’s extended family of dancers, and other artists and institutions.

Where will you go after Montpellier?

In the summer we’ll be performing at the American Dance Festival, and in Berlin and Sao Paolo .

Will you come in Paris?

Yes, in the midst of a seven-week European tour in autumn 2013, we’ll be presenting two full programs at Théâtre de la Ville with Festival d’Automne, October 22 through November 1. The Paris Opera Ballet will simultaneously be performing a reconstruction of Trisha’s “Glacial Decoy.”

If you had to describe in a few words the career and the work of Trisha Brown, what would you say?

Trisha Brown is an extraordinary woman, both a choreographer and visual artist. She is a fearless investigator of dance vocabulary and form, both rigorous in structure and rigorous in language steeped in non-literal imagery, nature, geometry, and physics, and we are all happier for it.

Which dance work do you prefer in her repertoire?

Each of Trisha’s choreographies is an invaluable stepping-stone in her creative evolution. No single dance could exist without the discoveries of what came before and therefore all are of equal importance.