I saw Twyla Tharp today for the second time ever and it was wonderful. The first time was in 1973, and I believe it was at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. My live-in girlfriend at the time was in the theater program at Pratt Institute and got student tickets to a lot of things, but the thing I found interesting, at least more interesting than seeing Oklahoma! At the Met was going to see Twyla Tharp. That I’d even heard of her is a testament to her talent and popularity, or maybe it was just the haircut. She certainly was an interesting looking woman, even in 1973. I said hell yes, I’ll go with you.
What we saw that night was Deuce Coupe- a piece Twyla had choreographed to the music of the Beach Boys. I knew nothing of modern dance then and know precious little now but I have to say I was blown away then and blown away today.
My wife Danusia is a big Pina Bausch fan and I’ve gone with her to see two Pina Bausch performances, both at BAM by the way, and though beautiful and entertaining, quite amazing in its own way- they didn’t blow me away the way Twyla Tharp does.
I saw the ad in the paper a couple of months ago, and I’ve always wanted to see Twyla Tharp dance again. I figured she’s pretty old now but I was sure she must still be in great shape. I told Danusia and she said yes, we should go and got tickets.
And last week she realized she was going to Maine to do aSoundBites performance today. Bummer. I tired to sell the ticket, actually I would have given it away, but my Facebook invitation to an extra ticket got no takers.Then there was the question of where were the tickets.
“You have to pick them up at the box office, under Will Call.” That got my anxiety going. Will they believe I was Danusia’s husband? Would they believe I was Danusia? Ask for I.D.? I already had an inkling of a notion to sell the extra ticket to a complete stranger.
The woman at the box office gave me no problem. I spelt the name right, and when she asked me to sign I scribbled something illegible and got the tickets. I glanced outside to see if anyone was asking “tickets? Extra tickets?” Like at a rock concert, but there was no one. I figured I could at least put my coat on the empty seat, reserve it for Danusia’s spirit.
The show started on time, surprisingly. Twyla came out all dressed in white to wild applause. Well at least I applauded wildly.
She started talking about this new project, Minimalism and me. The first part of the show was Twyla standing at a lectern while explaining early works performed by her wonderful dancers. They are Matthew Dibble, Ron Todorowski, Reed Takersley, Kara Chan, Kellie Drobnick, and Mary Beth Hansohn. I didn’t remember all that, I’d be a terrible reporter; I copied that from my program. But they were all such wonderful dancers I would be seriously in not mentioning them.
Twyla talked about the first piece, Tank Drive as a female dancer came out and held a position for the whole three minutes plus of Petula Clark’s “Downtown.”
A woman who can mix a tank drive with the song Downtown is surely someone special, a person in sync with the ultimate in hip sophistication.
Which is why I was blown away in 1973 when I watched her and her company perform ballet top the music of the beach Boys.
Mistakenly I thought I had seen Eight Jelly Rolls when I saw that show, I almost said to the young woman sitting next to me “I saw this in 1973.” But then I realized Jelly Roll Morton ain’t the Beach Boys.
After the first part of the show, which was basically a primer on Twyla Tarp’s repertoire and early career, she did not dance. But she was very smart and clever, and I laughed a lot. The dancing was superb, involving a group of extras mixed in with the company of six to replicate some past glories.
As she announced the intermission she said they’d be back with the Eight Jelly Rolls and a special surprise from “now.”
The Eight Jelly Rolls were wonderful, I mean I’ve always loved and appreciated Bob Fosse, the extent of what I know a choreographer to be but the moves I saw today were nothing short of breathtaking.
So when Twyla came out for the last piece, the “from now,” I did almost lose my breath.
I certainly had to fight back tears as Twyla demonstrated that at the age of 77 she can still bust a move. When it was done I shot out of my seat- there had to be a standing ovation for this genius and if it was only going to me so be it. But just about everyone stood, and the applause lasted a good five minutes.
As I left the Joyce Theater after sitting in the second row center for a performance that brought tears to my eyes I knew I was going to have to write about it. Thanks for getting me to write again, Twyla. And for being such a talented human being.