In the current climate of bombastic choreographers, who will pack a piece with far too much movement and thematic material to absorb in one or even many sittings, Brian Brooks’ minimalist style is a welcome change. I like to think of Mr Brooks as the Steve Reich of choreographers: he is able to draw seemingly infinite variations out of a single idea.

Run Don't Run © Julieta Cervantes
Run Don't Run
© Julieta Cervantes

Mr Brook’s newest piece, Run Don’t Run, is an exploration into the spatial contradictions of bodies in motion, according to his press release. That’s a bit of a mouthful, but Mr Brooks’ work fortunately doesn’t read as ambiguously, or as full of jargon. Hundreds of cloth strands were stretched and suspended across the BAM Fisher space – stretched so tightly that at first I assumed these were wires. Throughout the piece, the eight dancers manipulate the cloth strands with metal fastenings to create a suitable stage space for each section of the hour-long piece. The piece’s opening images are the most arresting: two dancers raise a third over their heads and carry him or her, Barbie-doll like, horizontally across the space. (Much of this piece is executed in the horizontal plane – I repeatedly imagined the dancers as hieroglyphics.) Dancers bounce, both in unison and in canon, across the space too. Carlyle Eckert is bent and hoisted like a basketball. Dancers are then carried plank-style across the space. All happens with the same focused, unhurried intensity. It’s a quiet piece. The dancers’ facial expressions make them appear detached and yet stoic, as if they have just come back from a group trip to electro-shock therapy treatment.

The dancers’ interactions with the cloth strands – recoiling and rebounding from them, lying atop them, pressing against them until they are quite close to the audience – gave the piece a decidedly voyeuristic feel. Mr Brooks is infatuated with port de bras: his dancers perform highly detailed swoops and swivels with their arms, often invading the negative space of the person they are partnered with. It all happens very quickly and entirely in unison. Such precision must have taken intense rehearsal – there is no room for mistakes.

Occasionally, Mr Brooks’ movement is hypnotic for such long stretches of time that it can bleed into monotony. Wave after wave of swimming arms can be difficult to watch. But he has assembled something quietly compelling here. It is the least performance-driven piece I have seen of late, and this matter-of-fact approach to the movement is fascinating in its indifference.

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