Dance performance reimagines legendary Trisha Brown choreography

By Emma Yarbrough | Emory Report | April 4, 2018

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The world-renowned Trisha Brown Dance Company presents “In Plain Site,” a site-specific work performed at various locations across Emory’s campus. Performances are April 7-8. Photo by Kat Schleicher.

In October 1979, the Trisha Brown Dance Company presented one of the first modern dance performances on Emory’s campus as part of a symposium entitled “Intellect and Imagination.”

Nearly 40 years later, the Trisha Brown Dance Company returns to campus April 7-8 to perform “In Plain Site” as part of the 2017-2018 Candler Concert Series.

One of the most acclaimed and influential choreographers and dancers of her time, Trisha Brown, who passed away in March 2017, created groundbreaking work that forever changed the landscape of art. Today, the Trisha Brown Dance Company perpetuates Brown’s legacy through its “In Plain Site” performance series, reinvigorating her choreography by staging it in new contexts including outdoor sites and museums. 

The Trisha Brown Dance Company has been engaged with the Emory community all year, scouting the campus for ideal locations to stage her famous works. This fall, company dancer Jamie Scott and associate director Carolyn Lucas conducted a two-week residency on campus during which they engaged in a Rosemary Magee Creativity Conversation and set Brown’s historic work “Solo Olos” on six Emory Dance Company members.

Learning and performing “Solo Olos” allowed the Emory students to embody a piece of history, a rare opportunity for young scholars.

“Dance history is a funny thing,” says Greg Catellier, choreographer and professor of practice in the Emory Dance and Movement Studies Program. “For dance scholars, understanding the place of a choreographer or dancer in the history of the form primarily revolves around observation and understanding of visual aesthetics.”

“Through dancing significant historical works, dancers who are also scholars have an advantage because they can understand history kinesthetically,” he adds.

“I really admire Trisha Brown and saw the chance to be in one of her pieces as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Elise Stumpf 19C. “At first the piece seemed daunting because I was trying to imitate her movement, but I think in doing that, I realized it’s not about imitating her as much as it is about embodying a feeling and quality, which made the movement feel more natural to me.”

“‘Solo Olos’ is such an iconic work within not only Trisha’s repertory, but also within the postmodern dance era,” says Maggie Vail 18C. “It’s really beautiful and fulfilling to be a part of a work that is constantly changing.”

The six Emory students in the “Solo Olos” cast had the opportunity to share this work with other students from the Southeast at the American College Dance Association Conference at Coker College in early March. 

“As the Emory students performed ‘Solo Olos,’ their peers slowly recognized the structure of the piece and showed their appreciation through audible gasps and cheers,” says Catellier. “It was a privilege to share this critical piece of history with colleagues from other colleges.”

Now the Emory campus has a chance to experience a piece of history reimagined, with a series of Brown’s iconic works performed across campus for “In Plain Site.” Those who were around for the 1979 performance may even recognize a piece or two, says Catellier. “As many as three of the pieces on the 1979 program will be performed.”

Performances of “In Plain Site” are Saturday, April 7, at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. and Sunday, April 8, at 2 p.m. and begin at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. In the event of rain, the performance will take place in the Schwartz Center’s Tharp Rehearsal Hall.

All performances are free and open to the public. For more information, visit arts.emory.edu or call the Arts at Emory Box Office at 404-727-5050.