Hingham native Brian Brooks pushes physical and artistic boundaries onstage at the Citi Shubert Theatre.
Brian Brooks Moving Company’s Run Don’t Run is danced amidst hundreds of taut strings.
Brian Brooks is coming home. Not just hopping the Acela to check out his old Hingham haunts. No, this is the big time—the splashy homecoming that every kid who’s ever set foot on his high school stage dreams about. His name is on the marquee, he’s performing with his own dance company, and the artistic vision is entirely his. “It’s the first time I’ve performed in Boston,” Brooks says. “It’s a pretty big moment for me.”
The New York–based choreographer’s troupe, Brian Brooks Moving Company, performs February 28 through March 1 at the Citi Shubert Theatre as part of its Celebrity Series. Fresh off a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, Brooks will present a series of pieces that, characteristic of his work, test the limits of the human body. Call it extreme dance. “I’ve always been interested in what really rigorous physicality can do for us in terms of communicating,” he explains. “We care so much about training the body to do something just unbelievable and refined.”
Growing up in Hingham, Brooks says, he was naturally drawn to the performing arts: “I had a very fast and strong connection to dance making, and it seemed intuitive.” He built sets for the drama club, took dance lessons, and choreographed Hingham High shows like Anything Goes and Grease despite having no formal choreographic training. “I remember telling my mom I was going to move to New York and become a choreographer,” he says with a laugh. Trips to Boston Ballet as a student at the city’s celebrated Jeannette Neill Dance Studio further fueled Brooks’s ambition: “A few patrons took me to Boston Ballet, and I saw Twyla Tharp’s In The Upper Room. I’ll never forget that.”
Descent, another piece by Brooks, explores the paradoxical relationships between bodies.
Joining Brooks on the Shubert bill is dancer Wendy Whelan, whose retirement last year from New York City Ballet inspired lavish tributes. For the classically trained Whelan, working with Brooks was creative love at first sight. Their initial encounter was at the Fire Island Dance Festival, where both were performing. “The audience just went bananas for his work, and I thought, This guy is amazing!” she recalls. Whelan also noticed him wearing his Top-Siders offstage. “And I thought, You are preppy! He’s unpredictable, and his work is unpredictable.”
Like Brooks, Whelan has a ferocious determination to push both her body and her artistry as far as she can—not to mention her comfort level. “No Nutcracker—that’s over,” she says emphatically about her ballet days. “I’m really determined to go forward with the new Wendy.” Enter Brooks, who choreographed the dramatic duet First Fall for them to perform together. “It’s a new duet unlike anything I’ve ever done,” Whelan says. “It’s something unique to me. It’s so incredibly close-knit between the two bodies…. It cannot be done separately in any shape. I can’t remember the dance alone. I need an extra body to dance with.” Feb. 28–March 1. Citi Shubert Theatre, 270 Tremont St., 617- 482-9393