Brian Brooks Moving Company
Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center.
November Dance in Dallas
After a couple of heady years, Brian Brooks is the current “it” boy of contemporary American dance. Since 2012, the 40-year-old choreographer has won Guggenheim and New York City Center fellowships, a Joyce Theater creative residency, a high-profile commission from New York City Ballet legend Wendy Whelan, and a spot in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s cutting edge Next Wave Festival.
His aptly-named Brian Brooks Moving Company makes its Texas debut Nov. 21-22 as part of the TITAS dance-and-music series. The New York-based troupe will be showing six Brooks pieces—they have been called daring, risky and wildly imaginative—at Dallas City Performance Hall. “I’m very aware that people are more aware of my work now,” says Brooks. “Every kind of angle that my company operates in has had a big thrust. It put my name in a lot of different conversations.”
Brooks is not the only audacious dance-maker presenting work this month in the Dallas Arts District. The troupe of local writer-teacher-choreographer Danielle Georgiou, heavily influenced by performance art and German tanztheater, appears next door at the Wyly Theatre from Nov. 13-23. Her DGDG: Danielle Georgiou Dance Group was the only dance company invited to participate in the Elevator Project, a season-long AT&T Performing Arts Center series occupied by small theater companies.
And if that isn’t gutsy enough for you, you can count on Southern Methodist University’s crack Meadows Dance Ensemble to bring an eclectic mix of styles to its annual Fall Dance Concert on Nov. 6-9 at the college’s Bob Hope Theatre. Professor Christopher Dolder premieres a multimedia experiment called Handle that uses video projection, motion sensing, permeable walls and costumes with handles sewn in, to question whether what we see is really there. The program also includes the premiere of choreographer Alex Sanchez’s homage to Bob Fosse, Dancin’ Man, and the revival of two 2011 works by Meadows artist-in-residence Adam Hougland, To the Fore and Cigarettes.
Rooted in the Brooklyn/downtown/post-postmodern dance scene, Brooks marks the 2010 piece Motor as his turning point. He had worked before with elaborate sets he sometimes calls installations, in this case silvery-blue cables that surround the dancers on both sides and from above, creating a kind of proscenium within the proscenium. Since then, he has used cloth strands in Run Don’t Run and a kinetic sculpture of aluminum columns for Big City.
He also began letting instinct and intuition take over. “Something was shifting,” he says. “The work was explaining something to me rather than me feeling like I was dictating a new dance work. I felt swept away by the creative process. I had connected to the piece very personally and then the fact that it resonated with other people gave me a lot of trust with that process.”
Brooks compares the interactivity at his shows both between the dancers and with the audience to a sporting event. “When we talk about risk in dance, what are we talking about?” he asks. “Because we’re not jumping off the proscenium to the theater floor. I try to remove the theatrical distance. So part of the risk is held by the audience. You can feel the quick decision-making, you can feel the ‘Oh, how is that happening, how are they doing that?’ You’re watching it, but you can’t quite understand how the mechanics are working. I’m trying to fire your sympathetic neurons, and you’re twitching a little in response to what you’re witnessing.”
The Dallas concert includes an excerpt from Motor, plus Descent (2011), Torrent (2013), an untitled 2014 work set to the music of Steve Reich, the recently premiered Division and Brooks’ signature solo, I’m Going to Explode, from way back in 2007. It’s set to the lyrically humorous, and for Brooks ironic LCD Soundsystem song “Losing My Edge.” “I’ve channeled my anxiety into this eight-minute virtuosic rant,” he says.
For NICE, her look at social expectations through the writing of 1920s etiquette authority Emily Post, Georgiou is collaborating with actor-costume designer Justin Locklear and musician Paul Slavens, who will perform live, original compositions and eerily misogynistic songs from the early 20th century. “These songs may sound antiquated at first listen, but the attitudes are often the same as music today—just not as ‘nicely’ written,” says Georgiou. Through aggressive, emotive movement, in which the audience is immersed, the piece explores the way people hide their true feelings and motives in an effort to be nice. Georgiou’s previous work, including Dirty Filthy Diamonds and What This is Not About, also dealt with how pop culture influences our view of ourselves, particularly the pressures put on women and the resulting social anxiety. In one scene, DGDG member Haylee Barganier gets so excited putting on lipstick for a formal dance that it ends up smeared across over her face. “We want to look our best, don’t we?” Georgiou asks. “Because when we look our best, things just seem to go right, or so they say. What happens when you trick your mind into thinking you’re having a good time? That’s what we’re trying to get at with NICE.”