The sexy, playful, and gender-free dances of Brian Brooks Moving Company have been enlivening the contemporary dance scene for a decade. "My interest is simple," says the affable Brooks. "I think of dance as a visual art form -- sculpture with the added elements of time and motion." Just 33 years old, Brooks will celebrate his company's 10th anniversary with performances as part of the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Festival at the Ailey Citigroup Theater in New York City. The company's festival performances began March 12 and will continue March 13 and 15 at 8 p.m. and March 16 at 2 p.m.
Brooks formed his first dance company in his hometown of Hingham, Mass., when he was 14, without any training. At 17 he won a scholarship to study in Boston. At 20 he came to New York City and danced for three years with Elizabeth Streb, who was known for her extreme action spectacles. At 23 he formed the Brian Brooks Moving Company; at the same time he cofounded the Williamsburg Art neXus (WAX), an arts facility in Brooklyn.
Brian Brooks, Edward Rice, Weena Pauly, Jo-anne Lee in Acre
Brooks is known for his precise, demanding, vigorous choreography and his dances devoted to different hues. His work examines the concept of endurance, asking dancers to launch themselves impetuously into the air but also to repeat laborious gestures for an extended period of time with subtle changes. The dancers often resemble foot soldiers in boot camp or superheroes, but the mission is always team-oriented -- and fabulously attired.
For the last week of this year's Harkness Festival, Brooks and his lively young troupe will present repertory hits from the past 10 years -- featuring dances, costumes, and decor from works designed entirely in pink, blue, orange, green, white, and black -- and the world premiere of a new work, Happy Lucky Sun, performed of course in yellow.
Brian Brooks and Aaron Walter (in the air); Edward Rice and Weena Pauly (in the corner) in Happy Lucky Sun
Included among some of the work that will be performed is a duet from Dance-o-Matic, the technotronic, bubblegum "pink" dance he premiered in 2002. In it Brooks stands on the shoulders of partner Weena Pauly, both dressed in sparkling pink bathing suits and pink feather boas, as they do a sidestepping, knee-dipping routine across the stage to the song "XXX" by Peaches. Another work, faster! (2001), is bathed in orange, with an orange circle on the floor recalling a circus ring. From 2004's Acre, known for its green horizontal panels, the company will perform a section built around running, in which partners use suspended lifts to extend the running motions. And from 2006's again again, a dance about the absence of color, the daredevil troupe will perform a gravity-defying section in which dancers run up the wall and jump off it, occasionally supporting each other as they walk across the wall, parallel to the floor.
But dance connoisseurs will be most interested in Brooks's latest work, Happy Lucky Sun, which addresses collision and the attempt to resist gravity. Brooks says it is the most extreme piece he has ever created. Although it incorporates the reiterative but slowly changing movements that have become the company's trademark, the dance has a different momentum, which Brooks describes as "a lot of little tornados." Imagine a rugby game where every player is the ball. Running around in a tight circle, dancers jump sideways at one another and are caught, bringing jumper and catcher to the ground, in a section which gets faster and faster as it goes on. In another phrase, dancers dive towards each other and are suspended in air by opposing arms propelling the oncoming force upward. There are no mats to cushion hard landings, just each other's bodies. As in other works, the dance's cheery title and furnishings become ironic in context of the rigorous choreography.
Brooks is using the visual art model to distinguish his retrospective. The seats at the Ailey Citigroup Theater will be removed, creating an open gallery. The entire floor space will be used as a stage, with highlights from Brook's repertory being performed in colored areas located throughout the theater. An exhibit card will accompany each area. Seating will be located in modules around the space, with inflatable plastic chairs also available. "It's designed for viewing from all sides," says Brooks. The colors of the dances, like their energies, will bathe the audience in a fluorescent glow.