"oh! isto é tão contemporâneo"

(a dance by Trisha Brown
and a photograph by Babette Mangolte)

For Trisha the choreography was testing how improvised
movements appear at a distance and are transformed
by transmission by a succession of dancers mimicking
with variation what they see and how what has been transmitted
at one end is different when received at the other end.
The dance tested the erosion of movement by transmission
as in telegraphy. It also was about revealing the majesty
and privacy of downtown roofs and the sculptural effect
of its water towers.
The dance was made of improvised movements influenced
by the series Accumulation and Group Primary Accumulation
choreographed by Trisha Brown in 1972 and 1973,
and how dancers positioned about a block apart over a large distance
transmitted those movements. The distance was the numbers of city
blocks in New York City from West Broadway and Houston
to White Street and Church at the other end. Altogether the distance
was seven blocks north to south and three blocks west to east.
(@ www.babettemangolte.com)

Only a few people were present to watch Trisha Brown’s
dance performance Roof Piece, high above the streets of downtown
Manhattan in 1973. With fourteen dancers spread out between water
towers and chimneys dotting the roofs in a line stretching from 420
West Broadway into an area just above Wall Street and back again,
at best you would see a fragment of the action. The contact sheet
of photographs taken by the French-American film-maker and
photographer Babette Mangolte in July 1973 uniquely depicts
the punctual concentration and simultaneous dispersion of the
performers and spectators present at the scene. For one of the few
chroniclers of the spectacle, Don McDonaugh, then-editor
of Ballet Review, it was a unique experience: ‘You were up in
a completely different world, totally removed … and nobody even
knew this event was taking place except for the few other people
who happened to be on rooftops that day.’ Similar to the children’s
game of Chinese whispers, Roof Piece consisted of a sequence
of studied gestures, a kind of performative Morse code that
travelled from one performer to the next. Independent of the
spectator’s spread-out position across various rooftops, Brown’s
choreography and its particular vocabulary of contradictory
movement and repeated gestures subsequently faded away
in the overlap of distance and duration.
(@ www.afterall.org)

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