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Post-Modern Classics, 12-4: Brown and Rainer Live
Stripping White Oak's Celebrity from its Integrity
By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000, 2008 Chris Dohse
(To celebrate its tenth anniversary as the leading dancer-driven publication, the Dance Insider is reflecting on Post-Modern classics, as captured by Dance Insider critics in performances around the world over the past decade. This Flash Review from the Dance Insider archive was first published on June 10, 2000.)
Forty years after its
genesis, Trisha Brown's and Yvonne Rainer's icon-blasting realness,
seen last night at BAM, still blows the cobwebs off mummified high
art seriousness and still awes the bedazzled sycophants of mummified
high art style with a wazoo full of ideas. Their dissimilar artifacts,
separately derived from Robert Dunn's 1960-62 workshop, strip the
White Oak Dance Project's celebrity from its integrity to reveal
its pith within complex, lexicon-defying vocabularies.
My taxi got lost on its
way to the Brooklyn Academy of Music so I missed a first solo, Mikhail
Baryshnikov doing Brown. My program opened with John Jasperse Lite,
"See Through Knot." All five dancers really strained their necks
into it, but the vast Gilman Opera House diluted somehow Jasperse's
odd, lugubrious time and stripped his signature idiosyncrasy to
compositional strictures. In this particular case of taking downtown
style off the street and marching it up the avenue, something got
lost in translation.
The correspondences of
Brown's 1979 "Glacial Decoy" are still filled with humor, subtlety
and minimal cool, but the rural still life idealized in Robert Rauschenberg's
slides smacks of cultural colonialism, if you bothered to look at
Baryshnikov in a Mark
Morris solo, "Peccadillos" ... Here's the stuff that fills the seats.
I bet the hoi-polloi would applaud wildly to watch either of them
wipe their ass. Morris manipulates expectations predictably (toy
piano, doll-like staccato) and the crowd chuckled and peed themselves.
A bonus treat, Morris jumped onstage to take a bow.
Rainer's collage of previous
elements/homage to the mythos of herself rations dance history in
real time. If I was a Marxist I'd guess "After Many a Summer Dies
the Swan" critiques commodity, smearing Have and Have Not across
Y2K complacency. Rainer is not shy to reveal her own mysteries.
Whatever her cast might be doing onstage, the framing device of
her intellect is always the real star. Her abiding humor surprises,
the sympathy with which she prods the images we call Twentieth Century
icons. Rainer is insistently, disarmingly clever; she discovers
previously undetected details of White Oak talents and defines their