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Photo: Sébastien Mathé

By Patrcia Boccadoro

PARIS, 22 FEBRUARY 2006—Although Trisha Brown enjoys a well-deserved reputation as one of the most daring figures in post-modern American dance, it seems no reason to pretend that I enjoyed her company's programme at the Palais Garnier recently. It was hard going.

Her newest investigation, with the unlikely title of How Long Does the Subject Linger on the edge of the Volume, was performed on a stage set no different from the foggy January night outside as a quasi transparent screen with a lighted triangle hanging in the air was already stretched across the front of the stage as one entered the auditorium.  When the piece began, the triangle gave place to moving graphic designs which now and then flickered and burst across the bodies of the seven dancers behind, as if they were part of the action.  

Her work, which proved to be an exploration of multimedia and artificial intelligence, was set to recorded music by Curtis Bahn, but  a constant chorus of coughs, sniffles and sneezes from the audience predominated over the various soft clicks and tinkles  initially programmed to accompany the piece. The choreography, or what one could see of it, was almost non-existent and it was rather like visiting a contemporary art biennial and trying to figure out what it was one was looking at, hardly surprising considering the implication of artists and computer experts Marc Downie, Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar.

Trisha Brown Dance Company: Geometry of Quiet
Photo: Sébastien Mathé

The second offering, Geometry of Quiet, an abstract piece constructed in 2002 and first performed in Montpellier, was, the programme read, "a study in space and slow motion to the softest of scores", but alas, the audience seemed sicker than ever as all that was heard as the work began in silence, were the continuing snuffles and splutters which again competed with Salvatore' Sciarrino's music when it began, nevertheless admirably interpreted on stage by flutist Mario Caroli.

 The dancers walked on in slow motion trailing billowing white curtains behind them, themselves clad in shapeless ill-fitting suits, colourless and dreary. Lying heaped on the floor, they looked like large sacks of flour.

Unfortunately, many spectators left before the third work, Present Tense, began, which was a shame.

Trisha Brown Dance Company: Present Tense
Photo: Sébastien Mathé

Six dancers, in twos, then in groups forming an intrinsic whole as much as if they were pieces of a jig-saw puzzle, presented an almost continuous flow of movement to six pieces chosen from John Cage's Sonates et interludes pour piano préparé. Against a vivid blue, green and orange decor by American artist, Elizabeth Murray, the dancers themselves, in red and yellow, came together, broke lightly apart, and moved simultaneously as if they were one. At one moment they were pushed along horizontally in what became a quite fascinating aerial ballet not devoid of emotion.  

It was probably a pity that this programme was presented at the Palais Garnier, where many in the audience had seen two of Brown's works, Glacial Decoy, which entered into the Paris Opéra Ballet's repertoire in 2003, and a creation, O zlozony / O composite in 2004, both interpreted by the French company's spectacular dancers. Brown's troupe, not in particularly fine form, suffered by comparison.


Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe and is the dance editor for

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