REVIEW: Brian Brooks Moving Co. At Gotham Dance Festival 2012
When it comes to Brian Brooks Moving Company, endurance is an understatement. In the opening of the Joyce’s Gotham Dance Festival, the company commanded attention with smooth, seamless movement and an ability to take and give weight with ease. In its New York premiere, the company’s most recent work Big City mirrored the constant motion of New York with a pounding score by Jonathan Pratt.
The work begins with one male walking precariously across the torso of another rolling below in the center of angular metal beams that frame the stage. Immediately the audience is on edge, holding their breath in hopes that the balance will remain a success. This feeling remains for the entirety of the piece and throughout much of the evening’s works.
Brooks’ choreography proves consistent in its ability to gain the investment of his audience. Impressive coordination and unison constantly create anticipation for what will come next, and the complexity of movements instigated from a frequently changing body part makes even repetition feel unpredictable.
At one point a female duet builds into a billowing swirl of daring leaps to and from the floor and in and out of each other’s arms. The piece seems to be reaching its peak, but then a simple duet occurs. Dancing in his own work, Brooks carefully places himself along the floor acting as stepping stones for dancer Jo-anne Lee to calmly progress through the space.
Big City was emotional, where other pieces lacked feeling. The care and intent of every touch and glance between dancers creates a sense of community that the audience can connect with. In a standout duet between Brian Brooks and Bryan Strimpel manipulate each other and shift across the stage gracefully without disconnecting. Despite these impressive moments, the piece fails to end as strongly as it began. The curtain closes on the dancers still moving. Perhaps Brooks was aiming to suggest the never-ending motion in New York, but the choice felt rather like indecision on how to create closure.
Brooks’ Descent is equally compelling in athleticism. An image of one dancer perched sideways across the back of another slowly drifts across the stage. The image is striking, as is much of the quick yet clear partnering that appears in the work. Repetition is used at its best, forcing the eye to attempt to decipher patterns of waving limbs. I find my attention being strategically directed during two sections of the work. The first occurs simply as various colored scarves are floated through the air by dancers swishing a black board back and forth below. The second occurs with sudden bursts of dancers throwing themselves in the air to be caught by another who is just arriving. It’s exciting to watch, but their fearlessness onstage is exploited to consume my interest. Both moments create tension that insists upon attentive viewing, but the piece lacks the continuity to tie them together. If there is a question of compositional tools swaying my interest during Descent, it is confirmed when watching Brooks’ Motor.
Brooks performs alongside dancer David Scarantino in a duet that is simple for the eye but clearly difficult for the body. The pair continuously hops in perfect unison; switching directions, feet, and speed as though they are controlled by the same brain. The potential of a few moments create questions and an increasingly intense fixation on their every move. Will they break unison? Will they stop hopping? The questions make the piece satisfying and a notably enthusiastic response verifies that the audience is impressed. Much of the evening is more intelligently crafted than emotionally stimulating, but Brooks’ skill in developing enviably riveting and physical work is undeniable.