Choreographer Specualtions_ Twyla Tharp

I adore ‘Movin’ Out’- the musical that brought some of the best dancers in the world to portray characters in Billy Joel songs while a band plays on a lofted stage above their heads. I love the music, the story, the costumes, but mostly I love love love the choreography.

I will never forget my senior year of high school when I was back in St. Louis Missouri and had to take ‘government’ class. (ugh, requistites!) The teacher was your average mid 30’s guy, who took his wife to see ‘Movin Out’ for Valentine’s day, or their anniversary or something. He was so excited to tell me the next day how he had been dreading the show but was soooo impressed with the guys who were so strong- basically I think he was saying he was shocked with how un-gay it all was (perhaps since the male dancers are portraying mostly young soldiers in Vietnam with gorgeous girlfriends, and wearing normal pants. no tights here!).  I love it when a performance can change someone’s idea of what the art is, what it has the ability to portray (more than fairy tales and fru-frus).

In my junior year of college, Butler got the rights to perform one of Tharp’s earlier works. I really really wanted to be cast or understudy this piece based on my ideas of what her work was like. ‘Movin’ Out’ is sensual, aggressive, jazzy, heavy on dazzling things like lifts, turn,s and extension. Not so with ‘Torelli’, the piece my fellow dance majors performed. It was spastic, weird, set partially in silence, and left all of the dancers with horrific bruises from throwing themselves on the ground. So glad I dodged that bullet!

Even if I don’t like all of her works, I appreciate that Tharp has a range. Some of her earlier things like Torelli have more modern or dare-I-day avant garde influences, while what she seems to be turning out more recently draws on more jazz and commercial styles. What I take issue with now is the cut-and-paste approach that she seems to be bringing to project ideas.

I can’t judge the choreography in her new work, ‘Come Fly With Me’, currently on Broadway. I haven’t seen it yet. With budget as tight as is it at the moment, I’m not sure I will shell out the bucks either.  This is Tharp’s third dance musical based on the music of one artist, the first being the super-successful ‘Movin Out’ (Billy Joel songs) the second being the big flop set to Bob Dylan music. I can’t even recall the name. I’m going to call it ‘sad-eyed choreographer of the lower east side’ even though I highly doubt that’s correct.

Come Fly With Me is set to Sinatra music, of which I am not always a huge fan. It is also said to look like a classier less-cheesy version of ‘Dancing with the Stars’. I liked the ballet/jazz influences in Movin’ Out, if I want ballroom, I’ll just watch ‘dancing’ on hulu. Worst of all is the fact that Tharp has ALREADY created a series of dacnes set to Sinatra music, entitled ‘Sinatra Songs’. She’s even using some of the same songs in ‘Come Fly With Me’. Don’t get me wrong, I like Sinatra Songs a lot, but I don’t want to slap a ‘NEW WORK!’ title on it and pay a ton for something that not only has been done, but has been done by this specific choreographer before. How different can her approach really be using the same style and music? As I said, I like the unexpected in a performance, and here I feel like I would know exactly what I was about to served.

If she’s going to continue in this ‘tribute musical to a specific musician’  (and she’s not alone; Mamma Mia= Abba songs, and I’ve seen a dance work called Anytown by dance company ‘Shapiro and Smith’ set to Springsteen songs)  I think she should at least not use singers she has already used for inspiration. I would like for her to use less classically accepted singer/songwriters as well. Who needs to hear more of the Beatles or Ella Fitzgerald? I think someone needs to create a musical dedication to the songs and career of Britney Spears.

It would feature a young catholic school girl with a bad habit for drugs (toxic/ gimme/oops i did it again) who goes a little nuts (Crazy) in a public place, is arrested and sent to prison and beaten by guards (hit me baby one more time) until she meets a tough-girl who makes brit her bitch (I’m a slave) until poor britney can’t take it any more and breaks away from her protectors heavinly-tattooed wing (over-protected) and tries to escape (sometimes I run). A lady gaga musical would also be great. Then there’s also Vanilla ice, or other one-hit wonders. At least that one would be short.

2 thoughts on “Choreographer Specualtions_ Twyla Tharp

  1. Of course the Brit-Twyla fiasco would have to include a scene where Brit changes her babies’ diapers at the table of an expensive restaurant while the babies, who will be played by Verne Troyer and Warwick Davis (so you will not be in attendance) sing “Born to Make You Happy”. And the grand finally will be a pumped-up version of “Stronger” with fireworks and confetti.

  2. OMg I love your idea of the Britney musical. Graham is reading right now a biography about The Talking Heads and Twyla is in a ton of the book. He came dowstairs from reading it one day and was like…Twyla seemed like one weirdo!

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