This September, dance and nature lovers enjoyed a series of free outdoor performances throughout Fairmount Park and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. The series, titled In Motion, In Place: Trisha Brown Dance Company in Fairmount Park, was presented by Fairmount Park Conservancy with the support of a grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and with the cooperation of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and other partners.
The public performances presented three works by the late, pioneering post-modern choreographer Trisha Brown. Foray Forêt was staged on the grounds of historic Mount Pleasant in West Fairmount Park, Raft Piece on the reservoir at the Discovery Center in East Fairmount Park and Roof Piece along the rooftops that surround Logan Circle. In Motion, In Place marked the first time these works were presented in Philadelphia, expanding on Trisha Brown Dance Company’s recent engagements with presenters worldwide to explore outdoor spaces such as the High Line in New York and the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy.
The series of international projects created site-specific performance experiences with local partner organizations. Special focus was put on audience engagement, breaking down access barriers and providing a more intimate experience to an audience that includes families and people less familiar with modern dance. By making these performances free and presenting them around the city, Fairmount Park Conservancy and its partners intended to attract diverse viewers and invite audiences to experience Philadelphia’s parks in an entirely new way. This project continued the Conservancy’s increased focus on cultural programming in Philadelphia parks, which has so far included collaborations with West Park Cultural Center in West Fairmount Park, Amber Art & Design at Hatfield House in East Fairmount Park and with FringeArts in LOVE Park during the Fringe Festival.
Q&A About Free Dance Performances in Outdoor Philadelphia Locations
How are the dancers dealing with the challenges of performing in this natural setting and inclement weather?
The project team has protocols in place to protect the members of the dance company in case of inclement weather. The company always comes up with solutions to avoid cancellations. If it were to rain, most of the performances will be moved indoors to the Discovery Center.
How are they handling safety issues involved with dancing on the rooftops and visibility for viewers?
The project team has protocols in place to ensure the safety of the members of the dance company. The dancers are placed strategically on the roofs to ensure visibility to other dancers as well as the audience on the sidewalks and parks below and in buildings on Logan Circle. In addition, we’re working closely with local design builders Tiny WPA and Philly Scenic Works to build custom platforms for Roof Piece and wooden rafts for Raft Piece, which will allow the dancers to perform on flat, sturdy and elevated surfaces.
What is the intended meaning of the title, which embraces two opposing forces? The title of the series, In Motion, In Place, alludes to the beauty of the dance performances that bring movement to the park setting while the “in place” reference reminds our audience that it is the landscape setting that intensifies the experience of the dance performance. The place, that is the park setting, is an integral part of the artistic experience.
What are the creative opportunities that have emerged through this innovative approach to dance? By taking dance out of the proscenium, we have removed some of the barriers that currently exist for such performances. This series of performances, on four days in September, are all free of charge, allowing new audiences including children to partake of these cultural offerings without leaving their neighborhoods or worrying out prohibitive price points. We hope this attracts the dance faithful as well as newcomers to the medium so that we can see people of all ages and from all walks of life enjoy the performances and experience our parks in an entirely new way.
What are the goals of this project and related ones going forward? Fairmount Park Conservancy’s mission is to bring Philly’s parks to life, and we believe that public spaces should hum with the vibrancy and enrichment of live performance, visual arts and other multi-media culture. We hope this ambitious dance series ushers in a new era of extraordinary cultural happenings in Philadelphia’s beautiful and beloved parks.
Would you like to add any other points about these performances or plans for future collaborations? The Conservancy is grateful to the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage for their invaluable support and guidance on this project.
Raft Piece at the Discovery Center
For more information, visit myphillypark.org.
About Trisha Brown Dance Company
Trisha Brown Dance Company (TBDC) is a post-modern dance company dedicated to the performance and preservation of the work of Founding Artistic Director and Choreographer, Trisha Brown (1936-2017). Established in 1970, TBDC has toured throughout the world presenting the work, teaching and building relationships with audiences and artists alike. Brown engaged collaborators who are themselves leaders in music, theater and the visual arts, including visual artists Robert Rauschenberg, Donald Judd, and Elizabeth Murray and musicians Laurie Anderson, John Cage, and Alvin Curran, to name a few. With these partners, Brown created an exceptionally varied body of work, with premieres and performances for NYC audiences and international counterparts. When Brown retired as head of her Company in 2013, the Board appointed longtime Company members Diane Madden and Carolyn Lucas as Associate Artistic Directors with the mandate that they present her dances in a variety of spaces, indoors and out, proscenium and alternative; develop, deepen and expand the Company’s educational initiatives; and treat the Company’s archive as a living organism to be used to better understand her work, in particular, and dance in general. Learn more at https://trishabrowncompany.org.
About Fairmount Park Conservancy
Fairmount Park Conservancy exists to champion Philadelphia’s parks. The Conservancy leads capital projects and historic preservation efforts, fosters neighborhood park stewardship, attracts and leverages investments, and develops innovative programs throughout the 10,200 acres that include Fairmount Park and more than 100 neighborhood parks around the city. For more information, visit myphillypark.org. Follow facebook.com/fairmountparkconservancy and @myphillypark on Instagram and Twitter.
About Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) advances the prosperity of the city and the progress of her people through intentional and sustained stewardship of nearly 10,200 acres of public land and waterways as well as through hundreds of safe, stimulating recreation, environmental and cultural centers. PPR promotes the well-being and growth of the city’s residents by connecting them to the natural world around them, to each other and to fun, physical and social opportunities. PPR is responsible for the upkeep of historically significant Philadelphia events and specialty venues and works collaboratively with communities and organizations in leading capital projects and the introduction of inventive programming. To learn more about Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, visit www.phila.gov/parksandrec, and follow @philaparkandrec on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.