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    Bryan Strimpel and Dani McIntosh in Brian Brooks Moving Company 2012
    Photo by Matthew Murphy
    Bryan Strimpel and Dani McIntosh

    Trying to Build Beyond Success

    Brian Brooks Moving Company at The Joyce


    If only the second half of the Brian Brooks Moving Company show at The Joyce had been as strong as the first.

    Choreography by: Brian Brooks.
    Dancers: Brian Brooks, Meghan Frederick, Jo-anne Lee, Danielle McIntosh, David Scarantino, Bryan Strimpel and Evan Teitelbaum.
    Music by: Adam Crystal, Jonathan Pratt.
    Costumes by: Roxana Ramseur, Liz Prince.
    Lighting design by: Philip Treviņo.
    Film: Brian Brooks.
    The Joyce
    May 30-June 3, 2012

    The first half, before intermission, was a bit greatest hits — beautiful, humorous, mesmerizing by turns. Descent (2011) seems far deeper than the memory of last year. As people carried across stage like wooden dolls give way to fabric pieces lofted across stage like smoke, the energy softens but the suspense remains. Soft and violent vie throughout, in a duet of two men flopping and catching each other and in endlessly looping dancers jumping and catching each other. Layering is a constant, too, from the front to back transverse parallel lines of the opening sequences to the multiperson pushup/pile-ons toward the end. Soft plucked guitar music (Adam Crystal) and softly broken lines of sidelight (Philip Treviņo) give a good ambient bed, and costumes of well chosen solid colors (Roxana Ramseur) add beauty and grace to dancers who already have both. Meghan Frederick, Jo-anne Lee, Danielle McIntosh, David Scarantino, Bryan Strimpel and Evan Teitelbaum all give Descent a quality of smoothly shifting perpetual motion, which only ends as the last dancer lies on the piled group.

    Bryan Strimpel and Evan Teitelbaum in Brian Brooks Moving Company 2012
    Photo by Matthew Murphy
    Bryan Strimpel and Evan Teitelbaum

    Rapid Still is Brian Brooks humor at its best — a spastically floating Brooks caught aloft hundreds of times in a sort of farcical film version of David Parsons' Caught solo. Sliced snippets of gasps and exertion jitter as awkwardly as the levitated Brooks, adding humor. The element of wonder is here, too, though, as we ponder his time aloft in a fetal position 2 feet off the floor. And, wonderfully, the soundtrack ends with a scrambled grunt as Brooks finally crashes to the floor. As with many of Brooks' creations, there is an underlying bed of serenity, here in the softly lit calm of the large room he floats around.

    The hypnotic male duet from Motor served to remind how exceptional the entire piece was at last year's show. Brooks, in sync with David Scarantino, makes hopping on one foot a thing of beautiful endurance. Like Philip Glass music, the movement seems unchanging while it shifts smoothly through different versions and loops of itself. Music by Jonathan Pratt, though, powers Motor, here with brawny horn blasts of tubas and trombones over a delicately shifting bed of percussion. It is remarkable how the two stay together in the absence of clear musical cues and while hopping and turning all around the stage on one leg at a time. Small pauses, like landing solidly on one leg after long hopruns on the other, add depth and flavor to the otherwise nonstop movement over the course of at least ten and possibly fifteen minutes or more.

    After a 40-minute intermission, Big City goes for ambitious and comes back with less. The opening, and a longer reprise of the opening, are beautifully tense, with one dancer walking or standing on another who is lying and rolling on the floor — intriguing tests of balance and pain. Light reflecting harshly off the forest of jointed metal joists hanging from the stage ceiling, and plucked-pianostring music that becomes abrasive, are two factors that don't help overgrounded, possibly overthought choreography get on its feet. There is a dullness to much of the energy onstage, so overstimulation and understimulation seem to get equal time. The metal pieces are fairly interesting at first glance, but the manipulations the dancers have to do, to get them to hang suspended, look awkward and difficult and take enough time to be distracting. When they are suspended, they remain static and linear, losing much of the appeal they had. The ending arrives with little sense of finality or development, seemingly arbitrary. Perhaps the distractions overwhelm the message, or perhaps distraction is the message.

    JUNE 1, 2012

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