BODIES IN TRANSLATION: Week 5, Much Needed Perspective

The Pennsylvania Ballet will be the first American ballet company to learn Trisha Brown’s O zlozony / O composite (performances June 9–12 tickets/info), a 2004 trio made for the Paris Opera Ballet. These essays, written by long time Trisha Brown Company dancer Neal Beasley, detail the experience of setting Brown’s work on the Pennsylvania Ballet dancers.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this trip looking out my hotel window. In the distance I can just make out the arching cables of the Walt Whitman Bridge, whose towers jut in contrast to the low-lying roofs of Southeast Philadelphia. I used to love the lifestyle of living in hotels and being in transit. Having spent so much of my adult life on tour, I’ve grown to enjoy the parenthetical space, the remove from the day-to-day of my life. At times being somewhere else has helped me reframe things, offered perspective. And as a former boyfriend once noted, as we left yet another boring dance performance where seemingly random choreographers were placed side by side, context has everything to do with how something is seen, with the ways in which we assign value.

On Friday—the last Friday I will spend with these dancers—the Company, along with some administrative staff and the other people here directing rehearsals, gathered to watch a run of the entire Balanchine and Beyond program, which premieres this Thursday. It was the first time, really, that anyone had fully seen the work I’ve been doing here, and the first time that I had seen O zlozony / O composite in the context of the other pieces on this program. The number of dancers involved in the other pieces, and the fact that they have more than one cast set to perform, has meant that their rehearsals have always had people watching. Our process has been much more private, at times just myself and one dancer alone in the studio. Ian Hussey, a principal dancer I’ve been working with, told me this week that our rehearsals, on account of their intimacy, have been something of a respite, a bubble in which to focus on work without the other social drama happening in the Company as of late. But Friday was our moment to step out and see how our work would withstand the weight of so many eyes.

The feeling of being watched is so familiar—and yet it never loses its power to transform the way that something feels, even the way it behaves. This is just as true in performance as it has been shown to be in quantum physics. The dancers handled themselves with surprising confidence, showing only momentary stutters and perhaps a bit of nervous acceleration in tempo. I’m not sure that I fared so well, leaving the rehearsal with sweat rings under my arms, and a self-consciousness from feeling equally on display.

This has happened to me every time I have directed a revival of this dance. O zlozony / O composite is usually on a program with much flashier works, with works that revel in the virtuosity of the balletic body and/or the dramatic affect of emotional posturing. It always sits quietly, like a thoughtful student in the corner of a classroom: alert, engaged, but not brazen or overly ambitious. While on its surface it resembles the other pieces and is clearly made for classical dancers, one still feels in its choice of vocabulary and compositional logic that it comes from a different lineage of thought and aesthetics than the one that produced George Balanchine, Hans van Manen, or any of the other choreographers the piece has shared a bill with to date.

Sitting next to the other restagers on Friday, I smiled as they all hummed along to Paul Hindemith’s score for The Four Temperaments, the Balanchine work being performed on this program. They marked the choreography in their chairs, reminisced in whispers about which roles they had danced. At dinner that night, I listened as they swapped stories about all the acquaintances they have in common. I know for a fact that almost no one in that room on Friday had seen much (if any) of Trisha’s other work, though they may know her name. While a lot of this feeling comes more from my own baggage than from the reality of the situation, it can be hard not to feel like an outsider. Though my job here is to reconstruct the choreography, it is hard not to simultaneously feel like an apologist for Trisha Brown. (more…)

Essay by Steve Paxton: Notes on a video of a Glacial Decoy rehearsal led by Lisa Kraus and Diane Madden with the Stephen Petronio Company

Editor’s Note: When invited to take part in the Trisha Brown: In the New Body project, Steve Paxton chose to write about how Trisha Brown’s movement is transmitted from one dancer to another. Brown’s Glacial Decoy has gone into the Petronio Company repertory as part of the Bloodlines project, Petronio’s homage to important works by post-modern choreographers.


The revelations of this video provoke a kind of awe in me. I have seen live performances of the dance, and though I enjoyed them, I did not see very far into the dance. Maybe it was the costumes, which are tent-like affairs of chiffon. Possibly meant to be transparent to reveal the body, I found their shape more convincing than their transparency. This video of dancers in practice clothes shows me the dance I missed. There is a sort of shimmer to the movement itself, like light reflecting on the moving surface of a pond splendidly aglitter.

Trisha and I met in 1959 at the American Dance Festival in New London, Connecticut. We met warmly over the decades, but she didn’t reveal her inner feelings. She had a poker-faced presentation. Once I challenged her to a game of Double Solitaire, in which all the cards of either partner on the table are available for either person to use in a race to lighten the cards in hand. It was convivial until the game started. Then she struck. She was lightning fast. Her concentration was intense. The competition provoked her and she reveled in it. The game was quickly over; she won, and I had not even got up to speed. I feel the same way examining Glacial Decoy.

What shimmers is her attention, romping through her body, stimulating changes in support, gesture, and the momentum of her parts. There will be other water metaphors in this essay, so I want to think about shimmer for a moment. To know shimmer would be to understand the relation of wavelet and trough to sun. Over the surface, wind will blow unevenly, and wavelets will rebound from shore, running both fore and backward over the surface. Each glitter is a miniature sun, dancing on the surface and reflecting when the mirrored surface wrinkles.

The company, about eight dancers, is well set up in terms of running the phrases; I hear that it isn’t practical to slow down and invest the phrases with all the detail they contain because the dance operates on momentum. This is not just the momentum of the mass of the whole body, but the momentum of swinging arms, legs, the tilt of the pelvis, the inclination of the head, the specific range of a step to constrain the body despite all the elaboration of gesture. The strategy of rehearsing is to add details to the ongoing flow. I am interested in how these details are added in, how the quick changes of physical focus are conveyed.

I think these thoughts because of a rehearsal I saw some years ago in the Brown studio. Diane Madden and Carolyn Lucas were directing it, the company was learning from a video that ran at one side. The company was split, each small group running different aspects of the dance. A new member was being initiated. She seemed to have a good grasp on her phrase, and Diane let her work, then stepped in close to modify movement, make suggestions, remind her of the cascade of details which make up a Trisha Brown phrase. Suggestions like, “As you round the corner let the tension in the supporting leg relax to take the weight down so the torso twist has a ground,” and “Let the arms swing to the side here, while the spine bends and the head turns.” That kind of thing. Of course, I don’t recall the specific instructions, but I remember the kind of instructions Diane made to turn a competently danced series of movements into Trisha Brown movement. (more…)

BODIES IN TRANSLATION: Week 4, Paying Attention

The Pennsylvania Ballet will be the first American ballet company to learn Trisha Brown’s O zlozony / O composite (performances June 9–12 tickets/info), a 2004 trio made for the Paris Opera Ballet. These essays, written by long time Trisha Brown Company dancer Neal Beasley, detail the experience of setting Brown’s work on the Pennsylvania Ballet dancers.

On my first day back in Philadelphia after a three-week break from rehearsals, I pass one of the dancers from the Company on my walk to the studio. She is on her typical route, on a typical Monday, crossing a heavily trafficked bridge on North Broad Street. While there is nothing out of the ordinary about this moment, seeing her—and as simple as it sounds—I am struck by the thought that for the three weeks I have been absent she has been doing exactly this. She hasn’t left. This is where she lives and works, her home. I am suddenly aware of my own transience, of my position at the periphery of life here. She is in her element, in the comfort of familiarity and routine. I am walking into a world that has been moving along without me.

Being on the outside affords me a particular vantage point, allowing me to see, ideally, those things which comfort and familiarity can obscure. As I walk into the week, I am somewhat unsure of the state in which I’ll find the piece we’ve been rehearsing. My work is to watch, notice, and comment: to look for and articulate the things that make this dance and these dancers what and who they are. My job is to pay attention.

As we begin again my own body feels different, less ready to move. The energy in the room is more static; we step more politely around one another and stare more blankly. It takes time to remember how to talk and work with one another. I am conscious of the time that has passed, of a certain stiffness that needs massaging out of the room. We are warming up, relocating the stride in our working process.


Every day this week Aaron Anker and I work one-on-one on the solo section he is performing. He is the only dancer in the cast with whom I have such regular contact, though only for small, half hour blocks of rehearsal. As the week progresses, I am amazed at what happens as we examine this solo again and again, taking the time to return to something that is already known. With each day we become more aware of nuance, noticing exactly where things are not quite working and beginning to articulate why. We are honing our attention, attune to increasingly subtle layers, accumulating more and more detail. By week’s end, it almost looks like a different solo, and Aaron almost like a different dancer. It’s remarkable what time and focus can do, in ways that I still find surprising. (more…)

Getting to the Nuts and Bolts of Trisha Brown

Getting to the Nuts and Bolts of Trisha Brown, written by Julia Lendy, is reposted with kind permission from the FringeArts Blog (

On April 29, Trisha Brown’s dance legacy was represented by three generations of her dancers in a rehearsal studio on the top floor of the Main Building at Drexel University for In the New Body: Nuts and Bolts. Facilitated by Lisa Kraus, the project director of Trisha Brown: In the New Body (a yearlong festival of Trisha Brown’s work) and a former Trisha Brown Dance Company (TBDC) dancer, Nuts and Bolts was an open rehearsal and discussion for audiences to observe a Pennsylvania Ballet company rehearsal for O zlozony / O composite, the Trisha Brown dance that will be part of the Pennsylvania Ballet’s “Balanchine and Beyond” program (June 9–12, tickets) at the Merriam Theater.

Photo by Johanna Austin

The Rehearsal

TB-6The floor was occupied by three Pennsylvania Ballet dancers—Ian Hussey (principal), Lillian de Piazza (soloist), and Aaron Anker (apprentice)—along with Neal Beasley, the youngest of the present TBDC legacy, who is setting Brown’s work on the dancers. The four of them were chatting, warming up, stretching, and reviewing the movement phrases they were about to share.

Stephen Petronio, TBDC’s first male dancer, sat in the front row, and he was hard to miss. He’s very tall with a shiny bald head, black thick-rimmed glasses, and a stately gray tuft of hair hanging from his chin. He possessed the air of being very important—many people were trying to talk to him at all once before the rehearsal started.

Those familiar with Trisha Brown and her work know that her creative process as well as her work is far from conventional—and this was manifest as soon as Beasley counted the beat using the alphabet instead of numbers. After one or two cycles of the alphabet, Beasley revealed that using the alphabet instead of a dancer’s go-to counts of six or eight was a tradition that Brown’s dancers started.

Each movement was deliberate, and monotonous in its rhythm dynamic, evenly fitting the steady timing of the alphabet, with each position or transition filling up one count (or letter). The vocabulary he used while he practiced the phrases with the dancers was colorful and rhythmic—almost poetic.

Beasley’s directing style was less critical instruction and served more as a reminder for the dancers of the origin and intent of the movement for unification, as well as to capture Brown’s original intent.

160429_TBNB_072The Video Archive

When Brown’s aesthetic is ever in question, Beasley and the dancers refer back to Brown’s video archives. In following the experimental philosophy of the Judson Church Movement, Brown believed art was created in the process, which inspired her to catalogue her creative processes on video, which are all now treasured sources for dancers who study and perform her work.

Beasley explained to the audience that he often uses the videos as a teaching tool in rehearsal. Beasley and the dancers then demonstrated a section of the dance when Lillian is lifted under her arms by Ian and Aaron where one leg stretched out behind her with the other one bent under her—and employed the video (which the audience could not see) when the lift wasn’t feeling or looking right. They tried the lift again with what Beasley called the “helicopter energy” they saw in the video. After two or three attempts, the lift looked completely effortless and significantly less awkward. The dancers achieved the desired helicopter energy, suspending Lillian through the air as if she were a feather. (more…)


The Pennsylvania Ballet will be the first American ballet company to learn Trisha Brown’s O zlozony / O composite (performances June 9–12 tickets/info), a 2004 trio made for the Paris Opera Ballet. These essays, written by long time Trisha Brown Company dancer Neal Beasley, detail the experience of setting Brown’s work on the Pennsylvania Ballet dancers.


The Louise Reed Center for Dance is currently undergoing a facelift. The building, which houses the rehearsal studios of the Pennsylvania Ballet and the classes of its associated school, begins halfway down a block in a somewhat liminal corner of Philadelphia. Wandering north on Broad Street en route to the studios, after passing through the portal of City Hall, one gradually feels Center City give way to more industrial spaces: cranes, sidewalk closures, and hospitals erode the tourist’s bubble of shops and restaurants; the sensation is that of moving away from, rather than towards. My first day of rehearsal, when I finally found the building number on a plastic tarp hanging from the side of a construction trailer, I pulled out my phone, confused. But by peering just past the muddy corner of the construction site—one among many in this neighborhood—the words Pennsylvania Ballet, perched high on the side of an otherwise nondescript brick building, confirmed that I had indeed found my destination.

A small collection of tables and chairs form a cozy waiting area near the entrance, where Tara Lorenzen—another Trisha Brown dancer who has been here assisting with the rehearsal process—and I sit and have lunch, occasionally joined by a few of the company members. Alongside rehearsals for O zlozony / O composite, the company has been preparing an entirely different program of works that will premiere in May. The studios are peppered with brightly colored romantic tutus—worn in rehearsals for George Balanchine’s Serenade. Once we chuckled as a long, neon pink bundle of tulle, worn over a pair of Uggs and under a blue polar fleece, flew out the front door in a screeching attempt to protect her moped from being damaged by sanitation workers. “Ugh, this place is so ghetto,” another dancer remarked, referring to both her ensemble and the gruff timbre of her dealings with the men. “I mean, look at studio A,” he said, gesturing to the muddy construction pit. “We don’t even have a studio A.”

Our rehearsal process is happening in the midst of transition—and it isn’t just the building. Just this past week, the company received (mixed) press about a changing of the guard being initiated by (and in response to) the arrival of a new artistic director, the former American Ballet Theater star Angel Corella. One headline read “Nearly 40 percent of PA Ballet dancers leave or are let go”—a group of words that, even being aware of the news, made me wince. While none of this affects me directly, at times I can’t help but feel the tension thick in the air, or notice the whispered conversations tucked into studio corners. I also can’t help but think of Ballet Preljocaj, a French company with whom I danced from 2007 to 2009, who lost 17 of its 24 dancers in one fell swoop only a few short years before my arrival. The dancers who lived through that time remember Preljocaj’s deep sense of abandonment, and often attributed the peculiar remove he exhibited in rehearsals to that mass departure. It had become difficult for him to trust his dancers now that he had felt the fragility of working relationships. Part of me wonders what kinds of dynamics will emerge in response to the change here at Pennsylvania Ballet, and if there will be a similar reticence that creeps into the work lives of those who remain. While no one’s employment is ever guaranteed, I’ve never experienced a fear-filled work environment that was conducive to people doing their best. We need to be able to trust one another.

Teaching O zlozony / O composite to these dancers has reminded me exactly how much trust is required in creative partnerships, perhaps nowhere quite like in the quiet of a dance studio. The act of watching and being watched, the critical eye turned towards the body in the search for the often-elusive aha moment, demands that the people in the room, all of us, contend with our vulnerability. So much of what I personally face during the hours in rehearsal is the nagging sense of being a fraud: that I actually don’t know how to impart to these bodies the things that my eye sees in their dancing, the lessons that my body holds in a way that is mysterious to me—the qualities that make this dance, and so much of Trisha’s work, what it is. There was a day when one dancer, while working one-on-one on the solo section he will dance—a long and quiet, geometric phrase—seemed to retract as we spoke. His arms crossed, he stared down at the floor, and I knew we had reached a critical, if uncomfortable, threshold. While he heard the things I was saying—about gravity, about falling, about releasing the muscularity in the way he used his arms—and understood, there was the very real frustration of not being able to integrate the information, to feel something different, to actually experience, rather than just hear, what I was saying. And I, too, felt at a loss. I’d said the same things, day after day, but was afraid I had not yet found a way to offer him—any of them, really—an experience as opposed to simply an idea. (more…)

BODIES IN TRANSLATION: Week One, Beginning at the Beginning

The Pennsylvania Ballet will be the first American ballet company to learn Trisha Brown’s O zlozony / O composite (performances June 9–12 tickets/info), a 2004 trio made for the Paris Opera Ballet. These essays, written by long time Trisha Brown Company dancer Neal Beasley, detail the experience of setting Brown’s work on the Pennsylvania Ballet dancers.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”
Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind


I’ve never been a fan of beginnings.

Before the first step of anything, the range of possible experiences is alternately exhilarating or terrifying, depending on my state of mind. A mentor once told me that at the outset of any venture, the difference between a sense of dread and adventure is just a question of perspective; the feeling is roughly the same.

I was with Trisha Brown in 2004 when she was making O zlozony / O composite for the “étoiles” of the Paris Opera Ballet—her first commission for a ballet company—so, to be fair, this isn’t exactly my first time at the rodeo. In fact, the restaging of this dance has been my domain many times, whether rehearsing the original cast for subsequent revivals, or teaching new generations of Parisian dancers the particular logic of its movement sequences. Each time, however, I have to stare down my own resistance. As a modern dancer in the universe of classical ballet, I often feel like a foreign peasant in a royal court.

In the days leading up to the start of rehearsals here in Philadelphia, I played a series of imaginary encounters in my mind. Like any good fantasy, these images were born of lived experience: the many hours in the sunlit studios of the Palais Garnier, piano accompaniment echoing through dusty old hallways. I imagined the bustling of ballet dancers, the sound of the vinyl booties they wear to keep their feet warm scraping against the floor as they scurry from one rehearsal to the next. I imagined the vague sense of watchfulness, the glances shot up while sewing a pair of pointe shoes—an attempt to assess who this new body is who walks around barefoot. Is friend or foe? Is he worth taking the time to acknowledge? Entering the ballet world is like entering another Anglophone nation: we speak the same language, but it sounds completely different. Our customs vary just enough to warrant wariness.

But above all I imagined the dancers that I would be working with. Dancing is such an intimate affair, and this dance in particular: a trio for two men and one woman. So much depends upon the nature of the communication between the bodies in the room; the ability to articulate what is and isn’t happening at a given moment; a receptiveness to correction, to new ideas and new information, and to the inherent power dynamics at play—for all parties involved; and an agreement to work together to understand and build something, the final form of which depends entirely upon everyone in the room.

While some rehearsal processes can be construed as an exercise in obedience, with the dancers’ successful adherence to the director’s will as the primary aim, Trisha’s work has always demanded a true sense of agency in the dancer: an awareness of one’s individual trajectory, its relationship to the other bodies in the space, the rhythmic structures of the phrase material, how those align or break from the surrounding rhythms, and how one is always making choices in moving from one moment to the next. This requires a degree of cooperation and responsibility that becomes impossible if dancers aren’t open to communicating, verbally and physically.

So the questions that swirled around my head were: Would they be open to thinking about their bodies differently? When I talk about the more fundamental physical values of Trisha’s work—the play of gravity on the limbs, mechanical efficiency, geometry of the joints, or cause and effect between seemingly unrelated parts—would they look at me like I have two heads? When I first encountered Trisha’s work, I was encouraged to let go of some things that I had once valued in my dancing (especially certain effortful notions of what was “impressive”) in order to discover new sensations. Can I convince them of the value of learning to move in ways that seem contrary to what they’ve spent their lives learning to do? (more…)

Essay: Trisha Brown’s O zlozony/O composite by Susan Rosenberg

O zlozony/O composite will be performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet from June 9 to June 12, 2016, at the Merriam Theater as part of the company’s Balanchine and Beyond program. See here for details.

O zlozony o composite

The Pennsylvania Ballet’s performances of Trisha Brown’s O zlozony/O composite (2004) mark a major event: the first occasion that this work will be presented by an American dance company. Emblematic of her ever-expanding appetite for new creative challenges, it is the sole ballet that she created during her fifty-year career. Realized on commission from the venerable Paris Opera Ballet, the ballet’s premiere at the Palais Garnier in December 2004 met with great acclaim—but also wonder and surprise, given Brown’s longstanding reputation as one of the greatest experimental choreographers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Brown (b. 1936) embarked on her career in the 1960s and 1970s, dedicating herself to the invention of abstract movement vocabularies. Exploring the body’s relationship to gravity, its internal mechanical logic and its natural, as well as counter-acting momentums, she embraced a democratic approach to the simultaneous activation of movement impulses throughout the entirety of the body. Different from all major choreographers of her day, Brown’s dances were presented in alternative, outdoor sites, and primarily in international art galleries and museum exhibitions. Eschewing sets, costumes, music, storytelling, or psychological characterization, her dances offered audiences an unadorned aesthetic experience parallel to the abstract art of her contemporaries.

A major turning point in her artistic development occurred in 1979, when she first created a dance for the theatrical stage. This inaugurated her embrace of collaboration, with artists of her generation contributing sets, costumes and music to her productions. Brown entered a new phase of her career in 1998, when she directed Monteverdi’s opera L’Orfeo, and then in 2002, created a danced interpretation of Schubert’s Winterreise set to the poems of Wilhelm Müller.

The librettos for these works inspired Brown to introduce poetic imagery and lightly connotative gestures to her abstract movement—an approach that significantly influenced her work on O zlozony/O composite, for which the Paris Opera Ballet’s Director, Brigitte Lefèvre, gifted Brown three principal Paris Opera Ballet dancers—the “étoiles” Aurélie Dupont, Nicholas La Riche, and Manuel Legris—as participants in this novel creative experiment. Brown’s first step was to commission an original sound score from composer Laurie Anderson. Together the two artists selected a poem by Nobel Prize winning author, Czesław Milosz (1911–2004), in particular to his Ode to A Bird, (1959), whose first line, as rendered in Polish and English, provides the ballet’s title.

The text itself functioned as “readymade” libretto and shared touchstone in Brown and Anderson’s work together on a twenty-minute ballet comprised of ten two-minute sections. Anderson incorporated a whispered Polish version of the poem into her electronic soundscore’s resounding gongs, string sections, and percussive drumming. The poem served as a source for Brown’s infusion of imagery into the ballet’s movement; it also influenced the set design by Latvian-born, New York-based artist Vija Celmins. She expanded a longstanding motif in her prints and drawings—abstract renderings of a starry night sky—to a theatrical scale. Together the sets and costumes make for a monochromatic stage environment, which showcases the dancing’s delicacy and lyricism.

Brown’s ambition was to fuse her own idiosyncratic movement language with ballet’s technical vocabulary, of which she had only minimal experience. Aware that ballet choreography is organized through a codified vocabulary of preexisting positions, jumps, turns, shapes and elevations—each having its counterpart in short-hand French language terminology—she developed a new movement lexicon, instructing company veteran Diane Madden to create a simple alphabet of twenty-six movements, A, B, C, D, and on. The result was a series of gestures, closely related to Brown’s first explorations of abstract movement in the 1970s, and in which isolated body parts are configured in relation to the body’s center and its immediate surrounding, but the actions barely travel in space.  Madden then sequenced these alphabetic/kinesthetic units by spelling out, letter by letter, the first ten lines of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s 200-line lyric poem, Renascence (1912), which begins: A.L.L. I. C.O.U.L.D. S.E.E. F.R.O.M.W.H.E.R.E.I.S.T.O.O.D.

In an intermediary step, Brown invited former New York City ballet dancer, Emily Coates, to set Madden’s simple movement phrase on pointe. Brown gathered insights as to how her relaxed, released, personal movement language would be assimilated by ballet dancers, whose bodies are imprinted by years of training, characterized by uplifted physical carriage, effortful muscular actions, and cultivated stage presences—artifices of ballet performance that run counter to Brown’s artistic principles. (more…)

Interview with Eva Karczag

“I think the most profound way she taught me was through osmosis—watching her, sensing her . . . dancing with her.”

Eva Karczag (c) Nienke Terpsma

Eva Karczag began learning Elizabeth Garren’s roles in Line Up and Locus, from her, in the winter of 1979. but it was in the summer of 1979, during the Trisha Brown Dance Company residency at Aix-en-Provence, that she started working with the whole company. She left the company in 1985.

On March 12, 10am–4pm Karczag will be leading the workshop Deep Dive for Philadelphia area dancers. Click here for more information. The evening of March 12 at 7pm,  Karczag and Lisa Kraus share their experiences as dancers of Brown’s work through conversation and demonstration in Play and Replay. Click here for details.

Q: What was your first encounter with Trisha Brown’s work?

Eva Karczag: Prior to coming to New York in August of 1975, I was dancing with Richard Alston’s British experimental dance group Strider. Just before Richard and I left England, Strider was at Dartington College at the same time as Steve Paxton, who was teaching there. The last thing I remember Steve saying to me when we said good-bye was, make sure you contact Trisha Brown when you get to New York. Of course, I had read Yvonne Rainer’s book Work 1961–73, but I didn’t especially single out Trisha from the other dancers. However, when I got to New York, I took Steve’s advice, and called Trisha, thinking that I’d be able to take classes with her. What Trisha told me was that she didn’t teach, she choreographed. I placed Trisha on hold.

Some time during winter 1975/76, Richard Alston and I were invited to a showing of Trisha’s work in her loft at 541 Broadway. It could have been Jan 1976. There was a lot of snow. The two pieces I remember are Pamplona Stones and Locus. By that time I had been practicing the Taiji for three or four years, had taken Alexander Technique lessons for a couple of years, and had had experience with Release Technique and Contact Improvisation. I was trying to imagine where this softer, more aware and respectful way of moving in which I was immersing myself, could be taken within a dancing vocabulary, into dancing that was released, fluid, organic, and physically complex and challenging. Locus, and particularly Trisha’s dancing, was the embodiment of what I was searching for. I was blown away by the beauty of the movement I saw at that rehearsal—it flowed, had an inner drive that came from ease rather than forcefulness or excess tension. Then and there I fell in love with Trisha’s way of moving—her freedom, her flow, her quirkiness, her body intelligence and the lush sensuality of her moving, the intelligence of the rigorous structures she set in motion, the complexity and depth that so clearly lived within the unpretentious, functional presentation of her dances, and her exuberant and ever-present humor. I remember leaving that rehearsal completely ignited by what I had seen. I may have levitated home through the snowy streets, and I knew that this was the kind of dancing I wanted, even needed, to do. I wanted to dance Trisha’s dances. I wanted to dance with Trisha Brown. After that rehearsal, I went to see Trisha’s New York performances every time I could, and when Elizabeth Garren left the company, and Trisha asked me to think about whether I would like to take Elizabeth’s place, there was nothing to think over: I immediately said yes.
 Dancing with Trisha changed my dancing, and changed me, in profound and unceasing ways.

Q: What were rehearsals like? How did Trisha create work on the dancers?

Eva Karczag: Rehearsals were challenging, engaging, focused, and a lot of fun. Trisha taught us material and showed us how to be specific and true to the movement; she gave directions and plans of action, then gave us freedom to explore and play. We learned to aim for the best and let go of what didn’t meet expectation. She treated us as adults and I always felt respected and valued. At the time I danced in the company, Trisha was still dancing with us. I think the most profound way she taught me was through osmosis—watching her, sensing her . . . dancing with her.

When she taught us material, she would sometimes give us her image or source. This gave added flavor to a movement. She was very specific about the details of the body. Mostly I remember this information being given through showing us the material over and over. (more…)