The Persistence of Vision (Trisha Brown’s, That Is)

The Persistence of Vision (Trisha Brown’s, That Is)

“You have a hope and a dream,” Ms. Lucas said. But early on, it wasn’t easy to describe the site-specific “In Plain Site” series. Every one, after all, is different. Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and the Clark Art Institute presented an outdoor “In Plain Site” that featured the company performing “Group Primary Accumulation” on rafts in a pond filled with lily pads.

Ms. Lucas and Ms. Madden followed their guts. Now Ms. Lucas said that she and Ms. Madden try to make their decisions based on what feels right. In that way, they are influenced by Ms. Brown who always left room for instinct. She liked happy accidents.

“ ‘In Plain Site’ unfolded and developed into a really nice model and through that model people were like” ‘Are you still performing the repertory? Why aren’t you performing the repertory?’ ” Ms. Lucas said. “So this unfolding of momentum happened, and I think we just braved it. And went for it.”

For the Joyce season, the company is presenting “Groove and Countermove” (2000), set to music by the jazz composer Dave Douglas; “Geometry of Quiet” (2002), to Salvatore Sciarrino’s flute score; and “L’Amour au Théâtre” (2009), inspired by Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opera, “Hippolyte and Aricie.” Adding dancers hasn’t been easy for the organization financially, Ms. Madden said, but five were chosen from an audition held last November in New York. They were apprentices until August.

Ms. Lucas’s focus is on restaging the works — she spends the bulk of her time with the dancers in rehearsals — while Ms. Madden focuses on the educational component. This semester, she is at Sarah Lawrence College working on a reconstruction of a combination of Ms. Brown’s “Set and Reset” and “Line Up” (1976).


Diane Madden, left, and Carolyn Lucas, the company’s artistic directors.

Nathan Bajar for The New York Times

As for staging the proscenium program, Ms. Lucas hasn’t done it alone: generations of Brown dancers have helped. This has made Ms. Lucas even more aware that the extended, multigenerational family of dancers that Ms. Brown left behind is a valuable resource, especially when the current group includes only one, Leah Morrison, who worked directly with Ms. Brown.

“What I started to discover was that the dancers who didn’t know Trisha had a pretty brave and trusting passion to her work,” Ms. Lucas said. “They still wanted to do it. You really sense that the newer dancers are really there. It’s extraordinary.”

And their sense of responsibility for the work is palpable. “Maybe we’re not generating material,” said the dancer Amanda Kmett’Pendry, “but everything is new again because we’re trying it on for the first time. And I can also say that I miss her even though I don’t know her, which is really kind of a sad feeling. She’s really present in the room.”

The group still rehearses in Ms. Brown’s SoHo loft, which is now the property of her son. (Ms. Brown’s husband, the visual artist Burt Barr, died in 2016.) Ms. Lucas implemented a change this year, partly because of the new dancers: They warm-up by dancing sections of Ms. Brown’s repertory. Ms. Lucas said that, every day, Ms. Brown would perform “Locus,” a 1975 work that moves through all parts of the body.

“We never had company class,” Ms. Lucas said. “There are dreams and movement toward having that on the horizon.”

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