When Twyla Tharp has a vision, she twists, bends and sometimes juxtaposes it with three or four of her other visions until the final product is a work of creative genius. This tendency is manifested in her dancers’ bodies and is illustrated in her choreography. Known by many as America’s greatest living choreographer, Tharp revolutionizes dance fusion through her unique integration of ballet, modern and jazz dance.

Charles Goddeeris
Man, these guys sure can dance!
[Courtesy of Twyla Tharp]

But Tharp is not one to pursue all of her visions. In 1988, she brought her modern dance company to a close after 20 years due to a lack of sustained interest. Soon after, she started missing her troupe, so she formed another, which eventually collapsed as well. A third troupe came and went, just like the others. But with her fourth and most recent group of dancers, the innovative and stylish Twyla Tharp Dance Company, her work has finally paid off.

The TTDC is composed of seven veteran dancers from institutes such as the American Ballet Theatre, the New York City Ballet and the Joffrey and Feld Ballets. These dancers left their prestigious jobs because they were attracted to Tharp’s artistic visions of dance. And, because of this, Tharp chose these dancers because of their unconventionality.

When Tharp picks her dancers, she walks into a ballet company, looks around and selects the dancers whom everyone else ignores. Often, these dancers might be the ones with less than “ideal” body types or with otherwise “ordinary” talent.

It is this type of unconventional practice that brought Tharp a lot of criticism from the public eye. Many complained that she was trying to combine ballet with “lower” dance forms. Her objective, however, was simply to intensify, complement and transform ballet, keeping in mind its strong resilience. Tharp became known as a “crossover” choreographer because she was the first to step over the boundary between modern dance and classical ballet.

Some of the troupe’s most popular pieces, including Mozart’s “Clarinet Quintet, K.581” and “Surfer at the River Styx,” will be performed this weekend at the Power Center. The Mozart piece is noteworthy because the dance takes place on the beach, focusing on the interactions between men and women. There are traditional male/female couples, but Tharp also created a trio of lovers, which make the story all the more exciting. This dance is filled with acrobatic yet sexy lifts, designed to draw attention towards the inner thighs.

The “Surfer at the River Styx” is based on Euripides’ “The Bacchae.” An interesting thing about this piece is that it displays one of Tharp’s most notorious trademarks: the juxtaposition of ballet with various forms of boogie.

Other featured dances in this weekend’s programs are “Westerly Round,” with music by Mark O’Connor and “Sinatra Suites,” a dance set to one of America’s most popular and beloved singers.

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