Trisha Brown (1936–2017)

Alastair Macaulay reports in the New York Times that the dancer and choreographer Trisha Brown has died. The executive director of her dance company, Barbara Dufty, confirmed the death. In December 2012, it was announced that the two dances she had created the previous year would be her last. The Trisha Brown Dance Company will continue performing and teaching her work with initiatives such as an educational partnership with Bard College.

Brown was born in 1936 in Aberdeen, Washington, and moved to New York in 1961, a year before she helped found the Judson Dance Theater group. Along with David Gordon, Steve Paxton, and Yvonne Rainer, she extended the canon of modern dance as developed by Martha Graham and others. In 1970, Brown helped found another collective, Grand Union, as well as her own troupe, the Trisha Brown Dance Company. Her early works were generally performed in untraditional spaces for dance and without music.

The 1971 “Roof Piece” featured dancers across twelve roofs over ten blocks in SoHo, and her 1983 piece “Set and Reset,” with music by Laurie Anderson and designs by Robert Rauschenberg, became a seminal work in postmodern dance. Her other collaborations included working with cinematographer Babette Mangolte, as on Watermotor, 1978. She influenced a wide range of choreographers, from Mark Morris to Stephen Petronio, and her work is in the repertories of many dance companies. In 1988, the French government named Brown a chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters. In January 2000, she was promoted to officier and in 2004 to commandeur. She won a MacArthur Award, the first female choreographer to receive this honor, in 1991.

In January 2016, the Brooklyn Academy of Music hosted a season of the company’s presentation of her proscenium theater pieces. Since 2015, “Trisha Brown: In Plain Site” seasons have been given in special locations, including museums and outdoor spaces, amplifying Brown’s effortless affinity for naturalizing movement to the physical environment. Beginning in 2017, the company will reconstruct three of Brown’s proscenium works for domestic and international touring and increase its educational and engagement activities while continuing “Trisha Brown: In Plain Site.” For more on Brown’s work and legacy, see Douglas Crimp’s article in the January 2011 issue of Artforum.