Brian Brooks. Maybe you've heard of him; maybe you haven't. Don't be surprised if you find your self in the latter category. Even the dance world is still getting acquainted with the choreographer coming to the Dallas City Performance Hall this week as part of TITAS' 2014-2015 dance season. Though Brooks has been creating work for more than a decade--and dances that have received both national and international attention--he hasn't become a name common amongst dancers and dance critics; at least not yet.
But, this might not be far in the future for the choreographer whose work in the past three years has won him a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Joyce Theater residency, a commissioning from retiring New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan, and a booking at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival. How did it all begin for Brooks? It started in his early teens when his Drama Club friends introduced him to dance.
"At the time, I had been focused on visual art and set design, but the collaboration and community I found in dance was irresistible," Brooks says. "I formed a student dance company and produced my own choreography for three years before ever stepping foot in a dance studio. At age 17, I took my first dance class, studying on scholarship at the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio in Boston."
That's pretty late in the game to start formally training, but Brooks is a natural. He fell right into step with the rhythms of dance and the geometric patterns and architectural structures that are created. Yet, even though, he dances six days a week and performs almost every month, he doesn't classify himself as a dancer. "I was a choreographer before becoming a dancer [and] to this day, I identify as a choreographer and have never truly felt I am a dancer," he says. "I've always felt a bit like an outsider."
But outsider no longer, as he has been busy working on many high-profile productions, collaborations, and, well, did we mention, he's a Guggenheim Fellow? His visibility has gone up exponentially in the last two years, allowing him to continue creating and performing new dance works, and introducing his work to new audiences and new cities.
These accolades have also created a shift in how he perceives himself and his career, he says. "I feel as though I'm finally accepting my career as a choreographer, feeling more confident than before that this is a legitimate job and a sustainable job. Artists in this country face many obstacles. Fulltime positions are rare for dancers and even more so for choreographers. One must piece together a network of support and projects to survive, a network that usually changes year to year. The recent influx of support for my work has been the most dramatic shift in my life..."
Now, he and his company will travel to Dallas, crossing one more item off his bucket list.
"Performing my work in Dallas has been a long-time dream, and so this production is personally and professionally a thrill," he says. "I have a lot of respect for TITAS and their vision. I'm humbled to have my show presented on their stage. I'm also looking forward to some barbecue."
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We have plenty of that waiting for this product of the New York post-postmodern dance scene, and plenty of people waiting to soak up his energy and revel in the work that he will present.
On the bill for his Dallas premiere are four older pieces from his repertory, an excerpt from "Motor (2010)"--which he personally considers the breakthrough piece for his company--"Descent (2011)," "Torrent (2013)," and "I Am Going to Explode (2007)," Brooks' signature solo, and two newer works, Division and a untitled work from 2014.
"Each piece has a tremendous amount of energy, which is something my group has become known for. I like to infuse dance with a lot of athleticism and partnering work, drawing one's attention to the effort involved in dance rather than hiding it," he says. "While some of my movement draws from ballet and other dance forms, I'm also pulling in ideas from the street, from sports, from physics. The invention and excitement in this show comes from the unexpected movement used in the pieces...There are a few surprises in the performance as well, moments that evoke humor and whimsy and remind me how fun I think dance can be."
Brian Brooks Moving Company, Friday, November 21 and Saturday, November 22 at 8:00 p.m. at the Dallas City Performance Hall, 2520 Flora St., Dallas. $25-$75.