Trisha Brown, judging by the audience reaction, is the dance world’s version of Marmite. Either you love what she does, or you hate it and, although the majority of the audience seemed to be firmly planted in the first category, there was a large percentage of the audience who found themselves resolutely in the second.
The programme for the evening is divided into four pieces, the first of which is entitled, If you couldn’t see me and is performed by just one of the company, Leah Morrison. She stands centre stage and as the then proceeds to dance the entire performance looking upstage, with her back to the audience. The costume, visual presentation and original music, a random series of notes played on tubular bells and keyboards, are by Robert Rauschenberg and, while the overall effect did elicit some curiosity, it left many people bemused.
After a short pause the full company of eight dancers take to the stage for the UK Premiere of Brown’s 2011 piece, Les Yeax et l’ame. Without doubt this is the strongest and best received piece of the night. The dancers wear very loose fitting costumes, by Elizabeth Cannon, which, as they move about the stage, seem to emphasise the fluidity of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s music.
Following another short pause, the full company return to the stage for the third piece, Foray Foret. This piece is also costumed and presented by Rauschenberg and it starts in silence. The dancing is energetic, with very deliberate angular movements, and soon, with the lack of any accompaniment, the sound of the dancers breathing and the occasional heavy landing on the stage is all that can be heard.
Then, in the distance, we hear the sound of a marching band which gradually gets louder. The sound appears to be coming from outside the back of the auditorium but soon it fades away only to return a short while later from somewhere to the left of the room. Again the music grows fainter and stops, reappearing over to the right of the hall a few minutes later. The piece comes to an end with the music, played by the still unseen band, now emanating from somewhere backstage and the performance breaks for an interval.
Maybe it is because there is only one short piece to follow, or maybe it is reaction to the first three pieces, but it is very obvious that a large number of patrons do not return after the break. Vast areas of, previously occupied, seating remains empty as the fourth piece, For M.G.: The Movie, begins.
Brown’s 1991 creation opens with three dancers on stage, two of them standing and facing upstage, with the third performer running. She runs in a figure-of-eight for what seems like an eternity before then running in circles, squares, rectangles, running back and forth and even running backwards. Sadly, Alvin Curren’s accompaniment of haphazard notes and random sound effects is insufficient to cover the sound of, yet more, patrons leaving.
The reaction from the remaining audience members was, on the whole, very enthusiastic but, as I leave the auditorium, all I can think about is getting home and enjoying some toast and Marmite.