Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer | March 10, 2014
Trisha Brown Dance Company gives eloquent, meaningful performance at PlayhouseSquare (review)
The invisible barrier between artist and audience seemingly dissolved Saturday night at Cleveland's PlayhouseSquare.
So affecting were the performances by the Trisha Brown Dance Company on its likely last appearance on the DanceCleveland series, one almost imagined the troupe had somehow slipped the full Ohio Theatre into a trance.
Ascribe it to the meaningful quality of Brown's work. Not only did her dancers Saturday give some remarkably lithe, lyrical performances but the pieces themselves also stood for something, revealing profound truths about life and humanity.
Take "Set and Reset," for instance, the first and oldest work on the program, from 1983.
A snapshot of urban living, the piece resonated powerfully with all who've ever felt small and alone among millions in a giant metropolis.
Wearing loose clothes meant to look scruffy and stained, to a score featuring urban noises, the dancers did what people in large cities do every day: mill around, pair off, bump into each other, fall in line. It was orderly, functional chaos, and mesmerizing to behold.
Equally but much differently moving was "If You Couldn't See Me," a solo from 1994 originally performed by Brown herself. There, the messages were that dance conveys more than meets the eye and that intimacy takes many forms.
Dancing with her back firmly to the audience in hot red light for 10 minutes, Cecily Campbell revealed more of her personality and physicality than if she'd sat on stage and addressed the crowd. Through the choreography alone, loose and impulsive, she made herself known.
Fewer, less poignant emotions were stirred by "Les Yeux et L'ame," a suite from Brown's 2010 adaptation of "Pygmalion." Formal in nature and full of patterns broad and intricate, the setting of music by Rameau evoked intellectual rather than visceral admiration.
The most touching aspect was a hugging motif. Time and again, pairs within the ensemble engaged in beautiful intimate embraces or the group as a whole traced circles evocative of the gesture and conveying the love felt by the mythological sculptor for his creation.
An air of rawness permeated the show's hard-hitting, rhapsodic finale, "I'm Going to Toss My Arms If You Catch Them They're Yours," from 2011. With no sets, little music, and only simple white costumes on the dancers, the focus was squarely on the movement.
What's more, that plainness, along with a group of large industrial fans blowing strongly from one side of the stage, also served as a striking metaphor: universal forces bear on us all and lead everyone to the same exposed point in the end.
The choreography was loose and free, and highly individualistic, the performances lucid and compelling. All the while, the fans continued their assault, blowing off items of clothing one by one and gradually leaving all in their undergarments, encapsulating in a single half-hour the essential, leveling nature of existence.
Brown herself, incapacitated by a series of mini-strokes, is no longer a creative force. But if there was one thing Saturday's performance made perfectly clear above all, it's that Brown's work not only endures but remains as vigorous as ever.