Trisha and Bodies


What I like best about Newark, and Early Works, about Trisha’s choreography in general, is its acceptance of the body. Any body. Any size, any shape, any training. She takes strong, multidirectional bodies and equalizes them, unifies them – her choreography does not discriminate. This in some ways forces you to rediscover your own body as you learn her phrases. In Newark, it’s not the shape the body makes that produces the desired movement; it’s the directionality, the moving through space, the intention that creates the phrase (and often does result in a shape). But this approach takes a huge pressure off the body doing the moving; everyone can move, while not everyone, depending on their body, can replicate a shape. Throughout rehearsal, Irène told us to pay attention to how our personal body related to the choreography: some people need to take a bigger step here to cover the same distance, some need a wider base because they balance differently, see Geoffrey on the tapes, he places his arm here while Lance keeps his closer to the body – for Irène, it was about adjusting the movement so it fit our body, not the other way around. Which was honestly such a relief after coming from a more restrictive, shape-oriented ballet background.

In fact for me, coming from a period of not dancing, of realizing and understanding my not-ballet body and what it could do, the relief that Newark provided really allowed me to invest in the movement itself, invest in the exploration. One of the most common pitfalls in ballet is the mistaking of strength or control for containment, for keeping energy inward – young dancers forget to breathe during adagio, because they are so focused on tensing every muscle in their body. Trisha does not let you fall into that trap; her control is in the lack of control, the letting go, the freeing up of the body. Your energy is directed, it has arcs and lines through space, and you are to follow its trajectory, release it from yourself. When you free up the energy, the impetus, the springlike source, you free up your body too. In warm up, Irène would emphasize this same sort of freeing up, releasing connective tension, feeling your body in the space of the room, or in the space another created. We would bounce and shake and feel our limbs, our wrists and hips, our necks, essentially free in their joints. We got loose. And that was what Trisha’s movement required: a looseness, a willingness to lack control, a body that expelled energy, that didn’t get hung up on fitting shapes. You really did have to re-find your body, and convince it that this was something it didn’t have to worry about, this was something it could just do. It could just move, regardless of its bone structure or flexibility or foot arch. This aspect of Trisha is what allowed us to learn so deeply in the movement: it was about the looseness and the direction, not the build, of the body.