Friday, June 10, 2011

After 38 Years, Trisha Brown's "Roof Piece" Ventures from SoHo to the Meatpacking District

Performance views of Trisha Brown Dance Company performing Trisha Brown, Roof Piece, 1971/2011, on and around The High Line, New York, June 9, 2011.

Excerpts from Trisha Brown, Roof Piece, 1971/2011, on and around The High Line, New York, June 9, 2011. Video: 16 Miles.

The gods favor Trisha Brown and her dance company. That's the only conclusion I can draw after watching a devastating torrential thunderstorm suddenly clear just moments before 7 pm last night, right before the scheduled start of a performance of Brown's seminal 1971 Roof Piece along the southern stretch of The High Line. The piece was performed without a hitch, and the storms resumed within hours of its conclusion. Unbelievable.

It's hard to believe, but this is the first time that Roof Piece has been performed on outdoor rooftops since 1973, when it was staged in — or above — SoHo. Earlier this year, some New Yorkers saw a modified version of the piece, titled Roof Piece Re-Layed, at the Museum of Modern Art, with Brown's dancers sending choreographic signals around Yoshio Taniguchi's airy atrium. Each performer watches another in Roof Piece, miming the movements they see, creating a chain of slowly evolving dance over the course of about 30 minutes. Even in the austere environment of MoMA, it was a thrill to see. But a thought lingered: What would this look like outside, with a dancers transmitting the piece along an expanse of roofs?

We now know that it looks gloriously fresh — and wonderfully strange.

Brown's dancers, all sporting bright red outfits were positioned throughout the area. There was one high atop a building just south of Gansevoort Street, and two standing on the long, low roofs of the DeBragga warehouse (one of the last remaining meat companies in the Meatpacking District). They were secreted in semi-hidden positions along the elevated park and the base of the Standard Hotel — did passersby think the large crowd had gathered to watch one of its notorious displays of flashers? — and arrayed across the buildings to the east of the walkway, where Sperone Westwater once resided.

When Roof Piece was performed in 1973, viewers watched the string of dancers from the top of a building on Wooster Street. The High Ligh, though, allows for a more participatory spectacle. You can spot dancers through the leaves of the thick shrubbery along the bottom of the path — enjoying a personal show — and then wander up to the Standard, where the largest crowds gathered last night. If you go, walk back and forth between the sides of the park and follow the passage of the dance's movements. Seeing every dancer requires some work, but as you suddenly spot each one — shimmying, popping, and swaying away — you may feel a refreshing shock of recognition, a humane sense of alarm.

Another 7 pm show is scheduled for tonight, and 5 pm and 7 pm performances are to follow tomorrow. There are reports of incoming thunderstorms. Keep your fingers crossed.

No comments: