Throughout its 52-year history, Trisha Brown Dance Company has exclusively presented the work of its founding artistic director, choreographer Trisha Brown, who died in 2017. But the company announced on Monday that it had a choreographer do its first dance. Outside of Brown: Judith Sánchez Ruíz, who will premiere “Let’s Talk About Bleeding” at the Joyce Theater in Manhattan during the company’s 2023 season.
“We’re happy to do Trisha’s work forever,” said Barbara Dufty, the company’s executive director. “But we feel the space wants more and we want to highlight a new voice, an artist who has a connection to Trisha’s legacy.”
Born in Cuba and educated at the National School of Arts in Havana, Sánchez Ruíz danced with the Brown company from 2006 to 2009. She founded her own company in 2010. Years spent dancing in Sasha Waltz’s band, she established herself as an independent, self-taught choreographer there.
Carolyn Lucas, assistant artistic director of the Brown company, said that she has been following Sánchez Ruíz’s career for a long time with admiration. But it was a series—specifically the 2020 solo—that Sánchez Ruíz created to commemorate Brown after Brown’s death that convinced Lucas to commission him. “It was beautiful,” Lucas said. “Such a command showed such a deep material mining. For me, thinking of a choreographer to be invited was just that.”
Lucas described the commission as a big but inevitable step. Like many dance troupes built on the work of a single deceased choreographer, the Brown troupe has a core mission of preserving and performing the repertoire left by its founder, but “it’s no secret that presenters need new work,” Lucas said. He added, “I’m really confident in persuading Judith to talk to Trisha’s legacy.”
Sánchez Ruíz – speaking on a phone from Hong Kong, where he is a resident artist at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts – said he felt extremely grateful to Brown. “I was 33 when I auditioned for the company and had a baby,” she said. “It felt like a miracle to be accepted. And in what I’ve learned about composition and how to produce material creatively, I always call my Trisha years my PhD.
“After leaving the company,” she continued, “Trisha came to all my premieres and it meant the world to me. We had a lot of talk about being a female choreographer, about perseverance and courage.
Sánchez Ruíz described working with current Brown dancers, many of whom are new, as intergenerational communication. “I actually teach them,” she said—about what she learned from Brown, what she’s learned since, and what she’s learned from the dancers. Making the first foreign commission for Brown’s company is “a huge responsibility. I’m very curious how it will turn out.”