Brian Brooks Moving Company, Raleigh, NC

Written by:
Alyssa Schoeneman
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Brian Brooks Moving Company

Three works choreographed by Brian Brooks
Stewart Theatre, Raleigh, N.C.
Nov. 17, 2011

As evidenced by scattered mid-show applause and even a premature standing ovation, the Brian Brooks Moving Company impressed its audience. With the use of some creative set design, the company, which includes three men, three women and Brooks himself, transformed the stage of NC State’s Stewart Theatre into a portal of sorts for the evening’s first piece, “Motor.” The second half of the show featured a brief, choreographically dense solo by Brooks entitled “I’m going to Explode,” and an ensemble piece called “DESCENT” that ended a bit too soon.

“Motor’s” enticing set design pulled audience focus immediately upon entering the theatre; white strings anchored by an arc centerstage extended outward and upward into the audience, juxtaposed against an otherwise entirely black set design. Throughout the piece, dancers used the spatial and visual separation onstage for unmasked entrances and exits, which forced the men and women to be body conscious and performing at all times. The work’s early choreography featured an all-male trio and an all-female trio dancing in unison as two separate units; dancers wove in and out of one another, periodically suspending movements as dictated by composer Jonathan Pratt’s musical phrasing. An element of restraint — both choreographically and physically — was evident as the dancers began switching partners for brief lifts and floorwork, but the dancing never looked lazy.

Choreographic phrasework grew more physically intense as the piece progressed; as dancers repeatedly lunged, jumped and lifted one another, it became clear why they had been conserving their energy in earlier sections. Brooks’s repetitive choreography at times gave the impression that the dancers were cogs in machines — machines that dissolved only when movement themes had been fully explored, and had left their images burned into the audience’s memory.

“Motor” culminated in a nearly seven-minute long unison duet between Brooks and a male company member. What was originally perceived by the audience as a short series of hops continued throughout the section; the men’s hopping pattern became a complicated interplay of spatial facing and body angle on top of the interplay between hopping leg dominance and choreographic phrasing.

Initially clad in black pants and button-down shirts, offstage dancers periodically removed items of clothing to reveal black undergarments by “Motor’s” end. Though the scantily dressed dancers could have easily become sexualized objects, their emotionless faces and neutral body language toward one another portrayed them otherwise. Removal of clothing was also evident in Brooks’s solo piece.

Brooks began his solo, “I’m Going to Explode,” by removing his dress shoes and suit jacket, two actions that gave the impression that he was escaping the pressures of the working world. Cue LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge,” a tongue-in-cheek chronicle of “cool” by singer James Murphy, and the prolonged image of Brooks stuck in a sort of choreographic CD-skip. Brooks’s seamless flow and steady footing allowed his dense, chaotic choreography’s many gestures to live and be fully expressed within their own unique pockets of time. Only for brief moments did Brooks come out of his trance-like breakdown, showing his more human side by loosening his tie while walking a few strides. The piece ended as it began, with Brooks reassuming his real-world costume, complete with suit jacket and shoes, after a final freakout stage right.

The evening’s final piece, “DESCENT,” featured the entire company amid transformative lighting design. Beams of light accented by billowing fog streamed across the stage’s canopy as pairs of dancers entered, one on the back of the other. A contact improvisation-based duet between Brooks and a male dancer gave way to a breathtaking progression of fabric manipulation; dancers fanned white, pink and red scarves up into the foggy atmosphere as they crossed the stage, creating constantly morphing imagery. Set to piano music by Adam Crystal, “DESCENT” highlighted the BBMC members’ technical virtuosity as they engaged in a series of jumps and lifts across the stage. These passages gave way to limb-heavy partnering sequences and an ending that offered little resolution.

The N.C. State audience gave the BBMC a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of the evening, making it clear that Brooks knows how to get everyone’s intellectual motors running — just his dancers’.

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