Repetition promotes tedium in Brian Brooks’ latest work
As demonstrated by Brian Brooks Moving Company’s premiere at Dance Theater Workshop, some artistic strategies are best avoided. Making movement that’s too often repetitive and rendered slowwwwly over excessive stretches of time, then naming your dance “again again” tempts a viewer’s snarkier inclinations. Allowing movement to be upstaged and engulfed by an unwittingly comical art installation doesn’t help.
Brooks and dancers Nicholas Duran, Alexander Gish, Jo-anne Lee, and Weena Pauly have a kind of Pilobolean athleticism tempered with an unexpected smidgen of awkwardness that inspires momentary interest in their activities. They do a few things that I could indeed watch for a reasonably long time; for example, Duran smoothly, continuously repositions Gish’s limp arm and flopped-over torso as if the tall, imposingly broad-shouldered Duran were Gish’s angelic escort encountered in some coldly-lit afterlife way station. During this passage, other dancers lie flat on the floor as if dead. Tom Lopez’s soundscape hints at vehicles zipping along a “Jetsons”-style cosmic freeway.
That’s just one among other plausible narratives. Brooks likes insect imagery. His dancers often crawl the wall or floor and scramble over one another’s backs in strict, regulated formation, behaving in ways that—to an empathetic human—look impersonal and unfeeling. Some of Lopez’s music suggests a spacious but industrial forest layered with muffled, unidentifiable grunts and high pitched, mechanical bird trills—a simulation at once remarkable and unnerving.
In another scene, Brooks moves his upturned hands along the floor so that Pauly can use his palms as stepping-stones as she walks. He later crouches, presenting his left shoulder and thigh for her to sit upon in dreamy contemplation. I wish I could say the vivid sounds and images lead somewhere, but it’s unclear where Brooks wants them to take us.
Installation artist Anakin Koenig’s white fabric sculptures amusingly unfurl across the floor like ballooning New Year’s Eve noisemakers. At first they appear to be clouds but could be cocoons—sometimes deflated and withered—or oddly-shaped waterbeds or, in one segment, the schematic of a bubble bath billowing around Brooks’s lolling form. Near the end of “again again,” two other forms inflate and bob like…well, like the heads of huge, unruly penises. But perhaps it’s time for me to book a session with Dr. Freud.