After nearly a week of films, a symphony concert and a piano “conversation,” (cross-reference below) it was a great pleasure to experience the steady artistry and thought-provoking ideas and vision of Twyla Tharp Dance. Even in our “modern” world of art-by-balance-sheet—which rules out live musicians realizing the scores—the audience was left entirely on its own—no second takes or rambling program notes—to make what it would of the three works presented.
Even the King, had a slight edge on the wide-ranging trio. Schönberg’s chamber score is faithful to Strauss’ original structure, but moments of dissonance, embellishment and vastly altered colours make this the perfect choice for the backdrop of the King’s dilemma. From the moment he takes stage, shared only with his perpetually empty throne, Matthew Dibble delivers a performance that transcends his supple body and lifts these favourite waltzes to places never imagined. Time and again, I was struck by the fluidity of his arms, which provided a dazzling visual legato.
The rest of the company provided relief and support as the Kaiser “pressed his suit.” Lynda Sing played the object of competing affections with poise and dexterity, effortlessly soaring around the check-tiled floor with just the right measure of aloofness. “Waltz No. 4” let the prideful green suitor make his case, only to be followed by a near dance-duel in the jagged “Waltz No. 5.” The choreography took us seamlessly from thought to thought—particularly the transitions, which were memorable for their variety and ease of movement.
As the coda came to its poignant then hopeful finish, our king—like the arranger—was left alone and misunderstood.
The evening began with the delightfully energetic Westerly Round, a kind of “For the Love of Three Cowboys.” Emily Coates dashed through Tharp’s paces with verve and a compelling sauciness that left everyone grinning with the fun. Mark O’Connor’s score was a marvellous soundscape, although the demands of the solo violin part were occasionally more than the unidentified fiddler could handle. Of the men, Charlie Neshyba-Hodges was the standout, combining first-rate athleticism and deft characterization into a telling result.
For the final offering, Scott Zielinski’s eerie lighting (using shadow and silhouette to—literally—terrific advantage), Santo Loquasto’s costumes complemented Tharp’s haunting vision magnificently in Surfer at the River Styx. Principal composer Donald Knaack (like my own Environment Symphony) is a convincing proponent of hitting all manner of “garbage” to produce unique, yet ever-ready sounds—another river of sticks.
Here the storyline mattered less than the sea of bodies encircling the lime green protagonists as they made their way through this truly fantastic piece. The glue to the performance was the solid technique of every member of the company, which provided them the ability to execute everything from “on point” to campy flirtation with the “pajama boy,” to circus-like “chien chaud” competition. A veritable tour de force.
Once again Dibble and Sing led with authority, but the teamwork of this excellent troupe ensured the success of this stimulating dance/soundscape. The shift into David Kahne’s homophonic—near Satie-like in its simplicity—coda was entirely convincing as the sacrificial soul was reverently lifted and carried off into the night.
No one should miss the opportunity of attending Twyla Tharp Dance whenever their busy touring schedule brings them nearby. JWR