Review: Twyla Tharp Dance Company

Twyla Tharp Dance

Twyla Tharp could certainly have her choice of dancers for her 50th anniversary tour — which kicked off its nearly two-month run in Dallas on Friday night — and many of her 13 dancers are indeed new to her. But she also knows there’s something magical about working with dancers who have been part of her company for more than a decade.

Those four Tharp vets — John Selya, Matthew Dibble, Ron Todorowski and especially Rika Okamoto — were standouts in a tight group of dancers who have exquisite form and the fluidity to dance Tharp’s requirements for her vocabulary, steeped in classical technique but filled with loose-limbed control and a terrific sense of humor.

The program, which features the world premieres of Preludes and Fugues and Yowzie, each preceded by an original Fanfare composed by John Zorn, repeats Saturday night.

They came together beautifully here. The 45-minute piece, with the men in tan pants and shirts and the women in short dresses of muted colors (costumes for both pieces are by Santo Loquasto), used the entire ensemble for some of the movements but was at its best when using three dancers in a pas de trois, sometimes three men, other times various configurations.

There were somber and reflective moments, and the idea of circles is prominent, but one of Tharp’s gifts is her ability to juxtapose the movement with the music. A few times, as Bach’s music called for reverence, her dancers moved in comic and unexpected ways, regardless of time signatures.

If the title Yowzie evokes slapstick and irreverence, the dance itself took those ideas to another level. Set to New Orleans-style jazz standards arranged and performed by Henry Butler and Steven Bernstein and the Hot 9 (the music for both works is canned), this dance is filled with delicious comedy, with performers dressed in baggy tie-dyed outfits.

As your feet tap to the music, your heart flutters and your face fills with smiles. Dance can evoke many emotions, but it’s impossible to leave after seeing these works without understanding the world is a better place for having them in it.
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