Dancegoers who caught Brian Brooks' American Dance Festival premiere in 2005 (or a subsequent stand at N.C. State in 2009) should be advised: With this choreographer, it's still all about the visuals. Instead of the buckets of color-coordinated confetti that buried the stage before the end of his earlier work here, 2010's Motor utilizes sky-blue cable—three miles of the stuff, reportedly—to form a tunnel or web over the stage and the audience. In Descent, diaphanous pieces of colored chiffon arc upward and waft down over dancer-held spotlights that cut through the darkness.
Critics remain divided about his work. Leigh Witchel's New York Post review notes that you can tell Brooks is a choreographer and a runner: "His dances are endurance tests for the performers. You feel as if you could burn calories just by watching them." Roslyn Sulcas in The New York Times praises the effect of "particles colliding and ricocheting within structural confines" as "an impressive demonstration of Mr. Brooks's ability to spin new combinations out of a single idea."
But they, and others, are still a lot less enamored with the lengthy, extended repetitions and incremental changes local audiences have also noted in his earlier works. Witchel notes that "Brooks seems so focused on the endorphin high that it doesn't matter to him if his dances actually go anywhere. There's too much marathon and too little journey." Sulcas concludes that his "visually arresting" moments don't always add up. With split decisions like these, regional audiences must reach their own conclusions. —Byron Woods