Yesterday, I had been trying to describe the wholeness of a favorite painter’s work, and the attempt reminded me of something I’d read a long time ago.
So tonight I re-read a 1986 interview by Marianne Goldberg with the choreographer Trisha Brown. I was looking for a couple of sentences in which Brown describes dancing in view of an audience. "What makes performing rewarding,” she says, “is when all of the person's person has arrived at the same moment. Feeling is present, physical skill, luck."
I’ve known that moment myself, and it’s what I look for in art and artists.
Here’s what I loved about Trisha Brown’s dances: their intelligence, their sensuousness, their grounding in the reality of the present, their surprises. When I saw her 1983 masterwork Set and Reset, I had been a choreographer for a long time. By then, and to my regret, watching dance had become a chore. I could almost always predict in any dance what would happen next. But that night, I was literally slapping my knee in surprise.
Brown wasn’t just messing with the compositional structures of modern dance. She was messing with her audiences’ perceptual apparatus too. She was setting up situations in which viewers witnessed their own brains struggling to figure out not only how dancers could walk horizontally around and down structural columns with apparent ease, but also how perceptions could shift from moment to moment: the dancers were freefalling, no they were climbing; they were small, no they were large. It was the best kind of liveliness and it’s one of the things that only great art can create.
Trisha Brown: All of the Person's Person Arriving
An Interview by Marianne Goldberg
The Drama Review: TDR
Vol. 30, No. 1 (Spring, 1986), pp. 149-170