All singing, all dancing
Then again, this isn't the first time Brown and Keenlyside have worked together. In 1998 Brown was invited to stage Monteverdi's Orfeo, for the Thétre de la Monnaie in Brussels. Keenlyside was offered the title role - and jumped at the opportunity. "At the time, I didn't even know who Trisha Brown was," he says. "I didn't know anything about the dance world and still don't. But I like using my muscles, my body. So I thought, 'Well, this will be fun,' and I just threw myself in at the deep end." At their first meeting, they immediately hit it off, with Brown being particularly impressed by Keenlyside's athletic background and by his single-mindedness: "I met him in an office and when he was leaving, he said: 'Make me work.' That is a gift to me. That means that I can really make demands on this guy."
Brown's intention with Orfeo was to invigorate what she saw as a rather staid art-form: "I couldn't stand the lack of energy on the opera stage." In the rehearsal room, however, she was faced with a problem: how to overcome the lumbering, self-conscious physical inadequacies of the cast of singers. "I would say that a lot of those people didn't know that they had a body below their lungs," she says.
Even Keenlyside found the process, in which Brown created sleek, sculptural hieroglyphics on her own dancers and transferred them to the cast, excruciatingly difficult. "I thought that I'd be able to cope with it whatever it is. I was strong and I was quick and I could jump. But when it came to it, there was absolutely not the simplest thing that the dancers did that I could do."