Yale Dance Theater announced last night that its spring 2014 project will focus on the work of postmodern dance pioneer Trisha Brown.
Each year, YDT brings Yale students into contact with professional artists for a semester of developing new choreography or reconstructing already existing works of dance. Through physical engagement with the choreographies of the artist they study in a given semester, dancers in the program research the history of and the ideas sparked by the artist’s work. Dancers also compose blog entries to reflect on their experiences. As part of the spring 2014 project, students will reconstruct selections from two of Brown’s most famous choreographies, exploring the mind-body connection central to Brown’s work.
“[Brown’s work] relates to the work that we’ve looked at — task, action, movement for movement’s sake — but also shifts us into a new realm of mind-body connection,” said YDT director Emily Coates ’06 GRD ’11.
Although some themes tackled in the spring 2014 project will be similar to those of the previous year’s project, Coates said, students will gain a new understanding of the relationship between dance and visual art. In the case of “Newark,” one of the pieces YDT will explore, the flow of the choreography is influenced by an elaborate set on stage. Although the YDT’s performance of “Newark” will not include such a set, dancers will still recognize the interactions between visual art and choreography by learning how a mental image can affect their movements.
Aren Vastola ’14, a student coordinator of the project, said he expects blog posts will frequently address the question of how the audience’s perception of dance as a visual art is different from the artist’s physical creation of dance as a performance art. Another important question the dancers will have to grapple with is how to reconstruct an already exisitng work for a new stage.
“I think one challenge is always going in with so much knowledge and so many ideas about the work that you sort of need to let go a little bit to encounter it physically,” Vastola said. “There are going to be impressions that arise [while] doing it that you can’t get from a book.”
But contextual knowledge of a dance is necessary for the creation of a successful reconstruction, said Carrie Brown, the education director of the Trisha Brown Dance Company. In order to interpret a reconstructed role, a dancer must have a deep understanding of that role, she said, adding that combining the history and ideas behind a specific movement with the movement’s physical practice creates a richer performance than learning a choreography without any background knowledge.
“It’s one thing to understand [a work] conceptually, but it’s another to understand it bodily,” said Iréne Hultman, rehearsal director for the project and former dancer and rehearsal director with the Trisha Brown Dance Company.
Trisha Brown began her career in the Judson Dance Theater, where her investigations of movement challenged the definition of performance. Brown’s work bridged the gap between the worlds of art and dance and catalyzed a new type of creativity within the dance community, Hultman said.
Hultman said that through the project, dancers will gain a kinesthetic sense of Brown’s work and of the field of dance in general. Even after participating in just a few workshops with Trisha Brown dancers, Vastola said that his sense of body awareness and weight management during a dance improved. According to Hultman, working with “Newark” will be an invaluable experience because the piece — and Brown’s work as a whole — is considered groundbreaking in the history of dance.
YDT will hold an information session on Nov. 6.