Defying gravity with Trisha Brown


Long before moving to Philadelphia or taking on her role as curator of the Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series, Lisa Kraus spent five formative years as a member of Trisha Brown Dance Company. She remembers that tenure as challenging and inspiring: “As a dancer, Trisha coaxed out the most brazen, fearless, daredevil dancing that I could have imagined.”

Hearing the news of Brown’s retirement from choreography in late 2012, Kraus was determined to bring the company to Philadelphia. TBDC hasn’t performed in the city for 20 years and is in the final months of its “Proscenium Works: 1979-2011” tour, the last time the company will perform Brown’s work for the proscenium stage before focusing on more site-specific works.

Related: Surround yourself with emojis at DesignPhiladephia Festival

That show, which will come to Bryn Mawr College Oct. 23 and 24, will be the centerpiece of “Trisha Brown: In the New Body,” a yearlong festival celebrating the groundbreaking postmodern choreographer’s life and work.

It kicks off this week with the opening of “(Re)framing Collaboration,” an exhibition of visual art by Brown and her collaborators at the college’s Canaday Library, as well as a week of free master classes and talks at Drexel University by dance critic Wendy Perron.

“At the time when Brown entered the dance field, there was a revolution taking place,” Kraus explains. “The definition of dance was stretched wide open.

“But the thing that was so unique about Brown is that she pioneered a new physical language that has to do with working with the weight of the body, working with the force of gravity, working with instructions that ask the body to do the impossible.”

Walkingon walls

A founding member of the Judson Dance Theater, Brown formed her namesake company in 1970. Her early work used ropes and harnesses to allow her dancers to defy gravity, walking on walls or along rooftops. Over the course of her career she collaborated with other influential artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Laurie Anderson.

Some of those pieces will be on the program of “Proscenium Works,” while early pieces will make up another program at the Barnes Foundation in October; the festival will continue with lectures and discussions, culminating with a performance of Brown’s “O zlozony/O composite” by the Pennsylvania Ballet in June.

“I want people to know why it is I love this choreographer so much and have for nearly 40 years,” Kraus says. “To some, even work she made in the 1970s might seem radical now. It’s time we all caught up with her.”

If you go

Trish Brown: In the New Body starts Sept. 29 and runs through June 12. For more details, go to

More from our Sister Sites