TWYLA THARP DANCE in a Three-Week Engagement at the Joyce

Twyla Tharp Dance
Broadway World

On September 19th 2017, opening night of a three-week engagement by Twyla Tharp Dance at the Joyce Theater, a program insert listed an addition to the roster previously slated for the evening. "Entr'acte" was to be danced "by the Company" right before the second intermission. At the appointed time, the legendary and inimitable Twyla Tharp took the stage herself and began to address the audience. Would she simply introduce what was to come? But then she invited dancers to join her, saying she wanted to show us what they "do all day". After that came a glimpse of a rehearsal with running commentary by Tharp that included witty references to her choreographic conventions. -- "There's a hitch kick in there somewhere." - and a moment when she joined a circle of dancers saying, "I'm in for Dan." Ah, but then the magic began to happen. She danced! Really danced! At age 76, with white hair and dressed all in white while sporting huge red-framed glasses, she moved with pizazz and performance quality to burn. What an unexpected treat that was!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The whole program turned out to be, overall, a joy to see. The opener was a welcome revival of "The Raggedy Dances" that premiered just shy of 45 years ago on October 26th 1972. The musical accompaniment included ragtime by Scott Joplin plus pieces by Charles Luckeyth Roberts, William Bolcom, and Mozart, played live by gifted pianist Joseph Mohan. All of the dancers glided from one style to the next with charm and prowess. I was particularly taken with Kara Chan, a small and spirited artist who moves with an ease that belies the difficulty of what she's doing. The dancegoers rewarded the cast with a rousing ovation, having clearly enjoyed the frolicking fun that is the hallmark of this work.

Following the first intermission came another of Tharp's earlier pieces, "The Fugue", which had its premiere on August 1st 1970. There is no musical accompaniment. On an amplified stage, the dancers' footfalls along with body slaps and clapping plus occasional calling out of counts (1,2,3,4) kept the rhythm. The work is wonderful to watch, but a bit too long for my taste.
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