A figure in red slowly lifts her arms. She sweeps them out to either side of her body, continuing to lift them until they form a straight line with her shoulders. For a moment, the figure is still. Then her knees bend, pulling her torso down; when they extend back up, her arms move, too, rotating in opposite directions. The figure is smiling.
She is also on a rooftop, dozens of feet in the air. And dotting the tops of nearby buildings are other specks of red, executing the same motions as the figure, just barely out of sync with her and each other.
This is Trisha Brown’s Roof Piece, a landmark work of 20th-century choreography that claimed an entire neighborhood (New York’s Soho) as its stage and the very precepts of Western dance (spectacle, narrative, and transmission) as its themes. Brown, an avant-garde dancer and choreographer who redefined her field over a career that lasted from the 1960s until her death in 2017, first performed this work with a group of collaborators in 1971. It has since become one of her most iconic pieces, celebrated for its expansive and playful simplicity.
Next week, Roof Piece’s provocations and pleasures will be on display here in Philadelphia—and at the Parkway Central Library—for the very first time. Across a six-day span, the Trisha Brown Dance Company will share In Motion, In Place, a series of free outdoor performances throughout Fairmount Park and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Presented by Fairmount Park Conservancy with the support of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the performances are part of a worldwide project to bring Brown’s work into site-specific engagement with new places and audiences, especially those unfamiliar with modern dance. Thanks to their inventive staging—on roofs, floating platforms, and historic mansion grounds—and clear, dynamic motion, the three pieces that comprise In Motion, In Place will offer a delightful viewing experience to all.
The Free Library is thrilled to partner with the Conservancy and the company by offering the rooftop terrace of Parkway Central Library for use in all four performances of Roof Piece that will occur as part of In Motion, In Place. Reserve your free tickets and join us at Logan Circle on Tuesday, September 24, and Wednesday, September 25, at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. to witness the remarkable 360-degree choreography of this piece as it activates the skyline of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Over the weekend, visit Mount Pleasant Mansion and the Discovery Center for performances of Brown’s Foray Forêt and Raft Piece.
Brown’s legacy lives on not just through her company, but in multiple media—films, photographs, and the written word—all represented in the Free Library’s collections. Explore Brown’s work with the streaming documentary Speaking of Dance: Trisha Brown, or read about her in her fellow dance pioneer Yvonne Rainer’s excellent memoir Feelings Are Facts. Both feature prominently in Sally Banes’s compelling history Reinventing Dance in the 1960s: Everything Was Possible, which also examines the philosophical and aesthetic underpinnings of dances such as Roof Piece. Check out this and more at the Free Library after you enjoy In Motion, In Place, and help us welcome Trisha Brown Dance Company to Philadelphia!