Floor of the Forest was choreographed by Trisha Brown in 1970. I have never seen the work live, but I have stalked it on the internet and read about it in books. It is the kind of piece, I think, where just the describing, the narrative, the telling of such a work would bring a kind of pleasure. Some works of art (particularly performances) are more interesting to talk about or to describe than to actually watch. I have no idea if that is true for this piece, I somehow doubt it, it looks like too much fun. The photos documenting the piece give such a clear and aesthetic idea of what happens, one only has to glance at a photo and think, “Wow, so nice and cool”.
Clothes on a grid through which two dancers dress and undress, making their way across the space, pausing to rest in a hammocked shirt, sagging down with only a pair of pants to hold them up. Other write-ups and reviews I’ve read about the work seem to enjoy pointing out that the ordinary act of dressing, an otherwise vertical action, is flipped horizontally. It is a piece that is sculptural, choreographic, improvised within in a certain structure which means it is a work that is never the same, always changing but ultimately fixed in its concept and intentions.
However this piece is much more than ‘dressing’ and ‘undressing’ horizontally instead of vertically. In French, the verb porter means ‘to carry’. But, it also means ‘to wear’. And it’s true, we do carry our clothes. What I love about this piece, is that the clothes carry the body instead. And the line that is created by this switch is aesthetic, exciting and unusual. When the dancer is carried by the clothes, as opposed to the other way around, there is a constant flux between rest and tension. It can’t be easy to traverse this space, but there are moments of rest, of relaxation where the dancer gives weight fully into the structure. These moments are quite beautiful, I think.
Another interesting aspect of this piece is the structure itself, the way in which it is built at eye-level, the floor is raised somehow and dancers can sink downwards to be seen properly by an audience on chairs or on the floor. It’s as though the stage has been inverted with the grand moments being that of sinking under or downwards as opposed to leaping up and out. I think it’s wonderful that Brown used pieces of clothing in this work as opposed to strips of material to support the weight of the dancers. Clothes are objects that are made singularly for bodies, they are created to do things to the lines of the body.
Through this raised structure and horizontal nature of the movement, there is an extra dynamic that happens to the body’s lines and contours. A choreography and movement is created through the interaction of motion and form. It will also never cease to be fun when we see an ordinary daily object, such as a shirt or a pair of pants, transformed into something playful, magical and infinitely fun.
Perhaps this is why I like the piece so much. Because it seems to be driven by an idea of play, aesthetically it appears quite sculptural and of course it involves work, but ultimately – it looks like a nice thing to do. That may be a somewhat simplistic or unacademic observation. But it is much harder than you think, to choreograph something that looks like it would be a really nice thing to do. Trisha Brown. She’s just so great. Here’s a picture of her so you can see how wonderful she is: