In June Skidmore will be ground zero for an experiment whose impact will travel across the globe.
A team of leading designers and performers will
convene on campus to finalize and unveil the third work in the jazz trilogy of Trisha Brown, the renowned choreographer whose dance troupe will be in residence at Skidmore this summer. Brown’s collaborators for the trilogy are Dave Douglas and his band, painter Terry Winters, and lighting designer Jennifer Tipton. The artists will have three days at Skidmore to prepare the final work for a campus preview (which Brown is dedicating in honor of the 100th anniversary of Yaddo, the artists’ retreat in Saratoga Springs); the very next week they’ll premiere the work at the American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C.
The first installments in Brown’s trilogy—“Five Part Weather Invention,” which premiered in late 1999, and “Rapture to Leon James” (with music co-commissioned by Skidmore’s special-programs office), which followed in early 2000—met with widespread acclaim. A Washington Times review said Brown had managed “to make visual the way jazz thrives on improvisation.”
Back in the 1960s Trisha Brown danced with a film projector on her back that showed footage of her dancing—essentially partnering with herself. In the ’70s she worked with artist Fujiko Nakaya to stage a dance within a “cloud installation” generated by mist machines. Brown also became known for her dances without music. When she did adopt music, she worked with experimental composers like Laurie Anderson and John Cage. More recently she produced a series of striking productions based on classical music; her take on Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo
was hailed as “arrestingly beautiful and engaging” and played to sellout houses across Europe in 1998-99. Brown’s new work with jazz reflects, and reinforces, her passion for freewheeling collaboration across styles and disciplines.
Trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas says his primary influences are John Coltrane, Igor Stravinsky, and Stevie Wonder. Indeed many of his honors and awards have cited his integration of folk, orchestral, Indian, and electronic music into the vocabulary of American jazz. Douglas and a varying lineup of his band members provide the live music for Brown’s jazz trilogy. Abstract painter Terry Winters, the trilogy’s set designer, has been widely exhibited and has works in the collections of all the major New York City museums and others. For the first works in the trilogy, Winters produced a colossal set incorporating digital technology and then a simpler sculptural work. Lighting designer Jennifer Tipton has won two Tonys, an Obie, two Bessies, and several other awards for her work in theater, dance, and opera. She recently won a grant to work with the Wooster Group (directed by Elizabeth LeCompte ’67) in a National Theater Artist Residency funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The artists will all be at Skidmore June 22-24, with special campus preview performances slated for the afternoon and evening of June 24. After that, brace yourself: Brown’s creations tend to make quite a splash in the dance world.—SR