Trisha Brown’s revolutionary dance comes to Philly rooftops, woods, and waterways

When the late Trisha Brown first started dancing on rooftops of the lofts in SoHo 1971, many of her neighbors might have thought she was crazy. Decades later, “Roof Piece” is performed around the world from New York City to Florence, Italy. Now, it’s made its way to Philadelphia for the first time. 

It is part of a free, outdoor series called “In Motion, In Place” happening now through Sunday throughout Fairmount Park.

Barbara Dufty, executive director of the Trisha Brown Dance Company, offered a little history of how “Roof Piece” came about:

“[Brown] lived in SoHo in the lofts before they became the SoHo we know today. She and all of her friends inhabited those lofts, and she had a lot of friends who were artists and dancers, and she always said nobody would invite me to be in their company, so she had to make dances outside of the theater. So, she thought of this idea of seven rooftops in SoHo. She went to each person to go up on their roof. It was a big ordeal back then, and it became one of her iconic pieces. When people write about arts in the 70s in New York, ‘Roof Piece’ is often mentioned.”

Oluwadamilare Ayorinde is going on 13 years with the dance company. Based out of New York, he said this particular series is much different from any he’s done in the past for a number of reasons. Although he’s danced in public spaces before, he’s used to the stage. 

“It requires a lot of vigor because there’s a lot of focus involved. Our task is to follow the person who’s in front of us. The person at the head of the line is creating and generating movement, and we’re trying to be in sync with that person. It’s almost like a game,” he said. 

“We’re trying to be as clear as possible. We’re trying to be in unison. It’s fun but also challenging.” 

“Roof Piece” is followed by two more performances – “Raft Piece,” in which dancers are floating on the reservoir at the Discovery Center and “Foray Foret” on the grounds of historic Mount Pleasant, both in East Fairmount Park. Each of the performances was choreographed by Brown, who was known for her pioneering, post-modern approach to dance. 

“Raft Piece”

“We were just thrilled that they wanted to work in these really unconventional locations so that we could change the way people feel about Philadelphia parks and maybe see a new area they hadn’t before,” said Ellen Ryan, Senior Director of Strategy & Planning for Fairmount Park Conservancy. 

“Trisha Brown, as a choreographer, loved to take risks, and I think that’s something the Fairmount Park Conservancy can really appreciate.” 

Images: Vikki Sloviter

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