Choreographer Trisha Brown (1936–2017) is renowned as one of the most influential abstract artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Emerging from Judson Dance Theater and the 1960s avant-garde, Brown invented what she termed her ‘pure movement’ abstract vocabulary in the 1970s, rejecting narrative, psychology and character as bases for dance-making. Yet Brown’s notion of abstraction, when examined across the long arc of her fifty-year career, is more complicated and elastic than previously known. This essay addresses selected choreographies dating from her first decade as a choreographer, the 1960s, to the production of her first opera L’Orfeo
(1998), underscoring how memories, images, language and stories fueled a previously unexamined dynamic relationship between abstraction and representation that profoundly influenced her choreography’s development.
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