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

By: Sep. 21, 2017

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.

The closer was a highly anticipated World Premiere called "Dylan Love Songs", set to some of the most memorable and touching of Bob Dylan's hits including "Things Have Changed" and "Shelter from the Storm". The work was well-received, serving as a reminder of Tharp's far-ranging and quirky talent WITH the dancers evokING love and longing while one character in black with a cane seemed to me to foreshadow a possibly ominous future. Santo Loquasto's costumes gave each dancer a unique character while Jennifer Tipton's lighting featured follow spots and created large shadow images that came and went on the backdrop The images did not detract from the actual dancing, but rather enhanced it. Loquasto and Tipton also collaborated with Tharp on the other pieces on the program.

Performances of Twyla Tharp Dance will run through October 8th at The Joyce?Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street in NYC, with the following curtain times: Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30pm; Thursday and Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2pm and 8pm; and Sunday at 2pm. The company will also have a special Family Matinee on Saturday, September 23 at 2pm. Tickets range in price from $20 to $81 and can be purchased at, or by calling JoyceCharge at 212-242-0800. If you'll be in town, don't miss the chance to see Twyla and her talented troupe perform!

Photo by Robert Whitman