An Ode to the Great Trisha Brown

There is something quite strange about trying to describe your emotional connection to someone you have never actually met.

This is how I have always felt about the incredible Trisha Brown.

In the wake of her recent passing, I would like to describe how her work influenced my life as a dance artist.

Her work first touched my life as an undergraduate at Missouri State University. As a student in the dance department, we were always being exposed to different styles of dance via video, history lessons, guest artists, etc.

I rarely felt truly connected to any of it.

Sure, I found that my body gravitated towards fall and recovery technique (some pun intended), which made me study movers such as Doris Humphrey and Jose Limon. While these choreographers have been largely influential to me, and have undoubtedly produced great works, there is just something else that I was searching for in my undergraduate years.

My first exposure to Spanish Dance

Upon my first introduction to Trisha Brown’s work, I daresay I fell in love with her cool, bold, post-modern style.

My fellow dance majors and I were attending the annual dance film festival and all of a sudden there was Spanish Dance.

I was enthralled and entranced by its rhythmic simplicity and repetitive nature. I had never seen anything like it and I couldn’t get enough of it.

If you are not familiar with the piece, (description linked above) it is performed by five women who are evenly spaced across the stage or performance area. The first woman starts to swing her hips in rhythm to the music and slow lift her arms while slowly walking forward towards the next woman.

It takes the entirety of the piece for all five women to move, the same simple, rhythmic movement. For me, there has always been something absolutely brilliant about this piece. It was the first time I truly understood the power of repetition.

I cannot tell you the amount of times that I have referenced this particular piece of choreography to my own students and company while trying to get them to understand the importance of simplicity and clarity in choreography.

While Spanish Dance is just one of many incredible, avante garde, boundary breaking pieces of work that Trisha Brown choreographed in her lifetime, it is one that has truly impacted me as a choreographer.

Spanish Dance will always be an inspiration

In times when I feel like I just need to make another phrase or wonder if my work is too repetitive, I remember the simple hip swinging repetition of Spanish Dance.

I could ramble on for pages about my personal reactions and relationships with many of the works of Trisha Brown, but I think by now you understand that her work and artistry has deeply touched my soul.

I am deeply saddened to hear that she has passed away, but all at once so grateful that I was fortunate enough to study her work and her legacy from such a young artistic age.

May her legacy live on and may we all remember that boundaries are often made to be broken.

“Dancing on the edge is the only place to be” – Trisha Brown

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