Some of a Thousand Words (West Coast Premiere)

Wendy Whelan
Brian Brooks
Brooklyn Rider

Herbst Theater, San Francisco
November 30, 2017

“In ballet they call it a mistake. In modern we call it improvised.” Brian Brooks

“Some of a Thousand Words” ends where it began. This creative hour-long performance concludes with a segment started five years ago when Brian Brooks choreographed “First Fall” specifically for Wendy Whelan’s “Restless Creatures,” a performance in which he also danced. Within that dance–now the final of six segments in this West Coast première–Brooks carries Whelan’s ballet leaps through the air, slowing them down to indulge her exquisite line, her feet seldom touching the ground. At the same time he rumbles her around into fast and lyrical movements that spin her out of her 30-year classical ballet training into a curvaceous modern dance vernacular. He is her human trampoline and also the bulk that she lunges against, until they sensually roll and fold into one another at the closing.

The rest of “Some of a Thousand Words” is clearly designed equally as much for Brooks, to show off his talent as a dancer and his unique choreography—a sort of contact improve meets whirling-dervish snake dance. Whelan even begins the program synchronistically mimicking his every move as the transference of his idiom slowly takes her over. Her learning is visible, like she is still digesting this new-to-her form of movement. She does so reverently, with mental sharpness and visible curiosity. They are perfectly matched in size and complementary in body types, with Whelan being all about slinky line, ethereal extension and acuity, with Brooks sensuously moving his fit yet relaxed body casually through endless chaotic patterns. They share their intimate relationship with Brooklyn Rider, a leading-edge chamber music ensemble consisting of the standard, two virtuosos violinists, one viola, and one cellist, who vigorously propel the performance through original music as well as pieces by Philip Glass, John Adams, and youngest of these minimalists, Tyondai Braxton. They perform as perfectly and meticulously as the dancers, even having an entire segment just to themselves. The music is such a complex driving force to this performance that solos by Whelan and Brooks nearly play second fiddle to the intensity of the compositions and their skillful execution.

“Some of a Thousand Words” expands and shifts through its various stages, requiring ones’ attention to see how it weaves gracefully towards “First Fall.” Along its trajectory one other poetic segment arrives with the creative use of two Windsor chairs that both dancers are in constant motion with, moving the chairs around the stage, repeating similar patterns, and slithering off them onto the floor. Whelan side-falls to Brooks perfectly timed catches and is stood back up on the chair. Here the two are the most seriously playful, with the choreography the most consistently tactile. “Some of a Thousand Words” is a delight in its simplicity and clear vision, and folds nicely back into itself, to end where it began.

David E. Moreno

David E. Moreno E-RYT500, YACEP, SFT, is an internationally recognized yoga instructor who came to yoga after dancing professionally in a variety of modern dance companies and light opera productions. He also trained in experimental dance including the early phases of Steve Paxton's contact improv, the environmental happenings of Anna Halprin, and the deep inner dance of Continuum with Emilie Conrad. His commentaries on yoga have been featured in an assortment of yoga journals and magazines, and he is the producer of yoga DVDs and eBooks.