Twyla Tharp – for a start, isn’t that a wonderful name to conjure with? (Her parents clearly had a vivid imagination—her younger sister’s name is Twanette.) I’ve known of Twyla Tharp’s work, peripherally, for years, and loosely associated her with Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor—that style and period of choreographers—but I had never seen a full length piece she had written. The closest I got was when she was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2008 (the Kennedy Center Honors are my favorite awards, notwithstanding how pleased I was that “The Artist” did so well at the Oscars last night) and the tribute to her included some of her work. So, when I started reading the underwriting copy on WBJC about Twyla Tharp’s “Come Fly Away” to music of Frank Sinatra, I was excited to be able to secure tickets for the Lyric.
Truth to tell, I didn’t know quite what to expect; whether it would be Martha Graham navel gazing, or Merce Cunningham’s avant-garde, or something entirely different. It turned out to be something entirely different. The fact that it was Frank Sinatra’s music, with a live, on-stage big band was a clue. It is highly kinetic, wildly inventive dance, with a loose plot of four couples in a 1940’s New York nightclub, exploring love in its various guises. The stories, while useful as a kind of hook, were really incidental to the artistry, as is invariably the case with dance (and opera, for that matter!) Most, if not all, the dancers clearly had ballet training, which was evident in the solid core of technique, but it is virtuosic in an entirely different way—it is fiercely athletic and even acrobatic, it’s sensual and daring, and you, as an audience, can’t miss a second because the inventiveness just keeps on coming. It’s not profound (although some sequences are moving) but the sheer force of creativity and the remarkable polish and panache of execution are thrilling.
So, now I’m keen to become even better acquainted with Twyla Tharp.dance, fun, new york, theater