New York

Trisha Brown Company

Trisha Brown’s choreography has long pursued the kinds of structuring possibilities which have compelled Donald Judd: accumulating patterns: the establishment of rhythm and character (both of design and of dancers) through serial repetition of what appears to be simple, affectless motion. She too has developed earlier atavistic forms to a new expansiveness. Until now, for instance, she has largely avoided music to preclude associative colorations; that she commissioned Robert Ashley to score Son of Gone Fishin’ indicates that, like Judd, she is in consummate control of her technique and her ideas, and that she is ready to work on a broader scale.

The theatrical rumblings implicit in Judd’s latest sculpture found direct and fortuitous expression in this collaboration. Judd worked on both projects together, in August and September, by which time the choreography for Son of Gone Fishin’ had more or less been set. Thus two firsts were marked—Judd had never designed for the stage, nor had he predicated his work on anyone else’s. His seven sets—proscenium-spanning canvas drops of undiluted painters’ colors (Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Permanent Green Light)—punctuated Brown’s piece in the slowly undulating triadic phrases that defined his sculpture: Cerulean covers Cobalt by two thirds, then lifts to all Cobalt; Cobalt lifts one third to show green, then lifts to all green; Cerulean drops two thirds over green, then drops all the way; Cobalt drops two thirds over Cerulean, ending the dance in a reversal of the opening.

This color-field progression was extravagantly beautiful in itself, but its chromatic saturation all but gobbled the dancers in spite of Beverly Emmons’ lightings (precise and sensitive as usual). Judith Shea’s spare, limp costumes (loose tank tops, baggy-seated culottes, color-keyed to the backdrops, further diluted the particularities of motion. Brown works with small casts and small movements. The six dancers in this piece were given a vocabulary of perhaps six or seven steps, performed in varying combinations and staggered timing: Judd’s august rhythm and trumpeting colors made them look busy, and made Brown’s intricate patterns merge. The colors also projected psychological overtones (sunny blue, moody blue, go green, etc.), overwhelming Brown’s subtle humor, which emerges from detail, juxtaposition, and individual bodies. Ashley’s music plotted a rather independent, Apollonian to Dionysian course of its own.

Son of Gone Fishin’ should be considered a promising first collaboration. The imbalance was a matter of scale, not of chemistry or concept.

Lisa Liebmann