REBECCA BROOKS: Hopeful Grief
Contemporary dancer and choreographer Rebecca Brooks believes in the power of dance as a healing agent for the total body, mind, and spirit. By successfully incorporating the tenets of different body-based modalities into her movement vocabularies and expressions, she commits herself to a literal healing experience of movement. She generously offers this knowledge base to herself, her dancers, and her viewers. Formally trained as an Alexander Technique instructor, Brooks is deeply concerned with the functions of the body and their impact on our experience of the world. Phenomena like posture, alignment, and somatic awareness all become paramount as she builds movement material. Thus, hers is choreography of re-aligning, re-examining, and feeling the expanse of one’s body in space through mindful micro-movements that take precedence over the sometimes tyrannical demands of contemporary choreography and lofty artistic visions. Participating in one of her dances appears to be like taking a crash course in self care. She teaches her dancers how to perform their best physical, psycho-emotional selves by privileging their journeys toward self-awareness as the ultimate goal of the choreographic process itself. And audiences, by proxy, receive it like a spiritual intervention and reparation.
As a dancer in her own work and in the work of others (Luciana Achugar, Walter Dundervill, Maria Hassabi, Susan Rethorst, robbinschilds, etc.), Brooks tends to inhabit space steadily and gently, always aware of each muscle, vertebrae, and rotation. She produces long, languorous movements, with each moment extended until it fully understands itself. Hers is a movement practice in service of the body’s inherent desire to return to a state of open-heartedness before the external trauma of mundane life solidifies, armors us, and keeps us from the subtle sensory details of our own consciousness. Embodying all of these aspirations, Brooks moves with a grace and poise that is unparalleled by most, and she is unafraid to fill postmodern dance spaces with a simple and sincere beauty.
Like most artists, Brooks uses personal stories as a platform to ask more questions about the human experience. She imbues the shapes that her dancers meticulously carve with her own experience of loss, rendering her dances with a soft focus, rounded melancholic edges, and enough space for viewers to actually feel themselves in relation to the dance. Her work both depicts and elicits a kind of hopeful grief—a heavy, gravitational grief that is fully embraced and embodied, while still moving towards its potential for transformation and transcendence. For example, in her most recent evening-length work, Still Left on this Rock (which premiered at Danspace Project in April 2014), Brooks had her dancers lie prone on top of one another, and engage in an ancient Tibetan meditation practice called Tonglen: one breathes in the pain and suffering of the other while simultaneously breathing out an offering of ease and peace. In this way, Brooks’s work promotes intimacy, a sense of collective loss and healing, and a “pedagogy of presence” that empathetically traces the natural rise and fall of life’s unavoidable vicissitudes.
Rebecca Brooks’s dances hang on stage like a rich, reflective pause. She expresses stillness through movement: a quiet and quieting labor.
For more about past works and to stay abreast of upcoming teaching and performances, visit rebeccakelleybrooks.com.
CASSIE PETERSON is a New York-based writer and thinker. She works as a psychotherapist by day, and moonlights as a dramaturge, essayist, and contemporary dance critic.