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The show hadn’t even started and I was already in awe: Brian Brooks and Philip Trevino had created an installation that occupied the entire stage and from any seat you could see hundreds of red “cloth strands stretched across the stage–creating a strobe-like flurry of actions captured, suspended and broken apart” (to quote the program).

Even more captivating was that the theater—Fisher Space, one of the smaller theaters at BAM where the seating is modular and varies according to each new show—was set up to bring to bring the stage and the audience very close together, with only a narrow long strip of dance floor as a stage and a few rows of seating on each side.

In the beginning dancers crossed the stage with pedestrian movements, walking with pauses during which they would lean into the fabric, or sideways in a group of three with someone standing on both partner’s palms in the middle. Each movement was repeated several times to form a motif, revolving around linear  body shapes directly facing the audience.  Each pattern, however, was given an extra dimension by the use of the red spider web decor. At first, the dancing seemed purely to demonstrate the potential and bounds of the fabric in which it took place; the moves didn’t seem like they were made to stand on their own.

This was my first experience of a dance performance for which the driving purpose was the set. I became more fascinated by the means with which the installation could be manipulated by the dancers rather than the prescribed dance moves.

Against the sound of electronic remixes, the dance shifted as two dancers introduced a fast-paced and intricate gesture phrase–made of circular motions emanating from the elbows–which progressed into a duet, as their arm movements became intertwined and linked. The chain of gestures grew as company members joined in this wave of slicing curves. For the first time in the work, the dance completely detached from the installation.

This phrase simmered down and gave way to a new chapter of the work, where the dancers physically changed the set by clipping the pieces of fabric together. Eventually, the center looked like one thick piece of fabric, the strands forming two cones on each end. The company continued to dance new duets and solos that merged the linear movements of the beginning with the rounded gestures from the partnering work. The weight of each performer on their partner changed over and over, creating unlimited configurations of circular motion.

Finally an electric guitar struck a chord and the dancers all gathered upstage to indulge in adagio movements: kneeling, sliding down, lying on the ground, slowly moving towards an incredibly powerful light on the opposite side, which reminded me of the light a rock star might see staring out into the audience. Re-emerging from the other side of the light source in a line, the dancers took to lying flat on the floor, on several of the fabric cords, and formed a chain to take turns rolling across the stage. Little by little, they broke out of the line, stood up, and leaned one after another against the strips of fabric, cycling me once again back to the motif set up in the beginning.

Brian Brooks and his Moving Company successfully brought visual and live performance together for this gorgeous night at BAM. Though the piece did not convey to me specific emotions or a narrative, his simple and striking patterns brought me into a new and stunning imaginary world.

Written by Alexandra Pinel

Alexandra Pinel is a choreographer, dancer and arts administrator from Paris, France. She graduated from George Washington University, in DC, with a BA in Dance and Art History with honors. Allie dances with Movement of the People Dance Company and for Amy Jacobus Projects and was a recipient of the Maida Withers Dance Construction Company Award for Innovation in Dance and a Luther Rice Research Fellowship to study dance in Berlin, Germany.
Most recently, Alexandra choreographed a music video for Chinese punk band Re-TROS and had her dance film for the anniversary of the Rite of Spring featured on NPR radio’s blog. Mrs Pinel works at the Harkness Center For Dance Injuries and for choreographer Luciana Achugar. She is also a member of the Junior Committee of Dance/NYC.