If you haven’t seen dance at a museum lately, some good news. Gone are the days when dancers were brought in like bulky decor to inhabit dead gallery space. Synchronicity abounds, tickets are still low cost (often free) and the payoff can be huge.
In fact, some of the best dance I’ve ever seen has been in galleries. In the last few years, L.A. art museums in particular have been hosting some legendary dance artists, and the human figures I’ve seen moving in close proximity inside these hushed white rooms (or posed in the distance, on exterior balconies and hillsides) linger like ghosts whenever I revisit these spaces. The moment I am anywhere near the bleached geometry of the Getty now, I feel the shivery forms of the Trisha Brown dancers, whose clothes rippled in a light breeze as they passed movement phrases from terrace to courtyard to terrace. In my mind, those singular dancers — so fixed in focus, yet so airy and transcendental — haven’t missed a sunset there since 2013.
And last year, the intensity and clarity of a dance performance by the L.A. Dance Project and Silas Reiner — as part of the traveling exhibit “Leap Before you Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957” — was such an inhuman conjuring act, I sought to find the historic players from that era (Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Josef and Anni Albers, Jacob Lawrence) at the wine bar after the show. Then not soon after, LACMA presented several free choreographic and conceptual offerings from master William Forsythe, including a performance of “Stellentstellen (2016), ” which featured a shifting tangle of male limbs and torsos, dissembling and reassembling beauty and form like a pile of a fallen statuary working itself out.
Thus the must-see items on my dance calendar in the next few weeks will be at L.A. galleries and museums, including a return of the seminal Trisha Brown company. But first, on Feb. 23-25, the heralded new Performance Lab series at the Skirball presents a premiere work by choreographer Lionel Popkin, a former Trisha Brown dancer himself and a major improviser and the current Chair of the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at UCLA. Inflatable Trio, a work for three dancers set on an inflatable yellow plastic living room set, may contain some DNA strands from Pop Art, but the massive Roy Lichtenstein retrospective currently at the museum was just a fortuitous accident.
Popkin’s real inspiration was the specific gallery space, he says. “I knew I wanted to make a more intimate work that was less at home in a black box and more at home in a room,” he wrote in email. “A gallery feels more like a room and on tour we have plans to do it on stages with the audience seated with us when appropriate. Skirball was in many ways my ideal venue because of the ‘white box’ feel of its gallery.” Tickets available now.
Then next month, CAP-UCLA suddenly announced, Kristi Edmunds is bringing back the magnificent Trisha Brown company to re-infuse Los Angeles art and architecture with Brown’s spectral moving forms. A six-day program that will include city-spanning talks and performances, “Trisha Brown: In Plain Site Los Angeles” will move amidst the Broad and Getty museums, LACMA, and the Hauser Wirth and Schimmel gallery. This is amazing good fortune for all of us. Go! Go! Go!
Complete “Plain Site” program and related events:
Performances are free, except as noted, and open to the public during venue operating hours.
Monday, March 6, 8 p.m. at the Broad Museum
221 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles
Conversation with architect Liz Diller, art historian Susan Rosenberg and CAP UCLA Artistic and Executive Director Kristy Edmunds exploring Brown’s influence on architecture. For tickets visit thebroad.org.
Tuesday, March 7 at the Broad
221 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles
Public performances throughout the day with museum ticket. There will also be ticketed performances at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets for evening performances may be purchased at thebroad.org.
Friday, March 10 at the Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Dr., Los Angeles
2 p.m. public performance
5 p.m. private performance
Saturday, March 11 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
4 p.m. public performance
5:45 p.m. public performance
Sunday, March 12 at Hauser Wirth and Schimmel
901 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles
4:30 p.m. public performance
6 p.m. benefit for CAP UCLA (ticketed)
7 p.m. private performance