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Review: Twyla Tharp Adds To Her Body of Work—’Dylan Love Songs’ at the Joyce

By Sheila Kogan, Contributing Writer, September 25, 2017

With the world premiere of Dylan Love Songs at the Joyce Theater, Twyla Tharp once again proved the power of popular music to inspire her special choreographic magic. No stranger to melding these art forms — having previously created the highly successful Broadway production Movin’ Out (2002), set to the music of Billy Joel, as well as a previous foray with Mr. Dylan in her The Times They Are A-Changin’ (2006), also presented on Broadway — Bob Dylan’s recordings of his folksy/bluesy songs provided the perfect support for Tharp’s slouchy/loose-limbed style, here laced with some classical ballet technique. The movement was fascinating and performed exquisitely by Tharp’s excellent company. There was a man in a dark overcoat who insinuated himself throughout. I’m not sure what he represented, whether it was a version of Dylan overseeing the action, or the darker edginess of Dylan’s songs, and I’m not sure if the layer of mystery or his somewhat sleazy persona added much; but the piece stands as a testament to Tharp’s continued artistic ability and is a fine addition to her worthy list of dances.

I saw the program on a Saturday matinee designated as a “family matinee,” and as a result, there were a number of young children in the audience. All were very attentive and respectful (except for one wailing child who was whisked away). Twyla Tharp’s Entr’Act seemed to have been directed at the children who giggled at some of the sillier moments of tomfoolery. Tharp actually performed in the piece. Her hair now is bright white and she showed little expression, but she can still move—a feat within itself at her age (76). It’s also commendable that the Joyce has established focused programming to introduce a younger audience to dance.

The program opened with Tharp’s The Raggedy Dances (1972) performed to a pastiche of ragtime music brightly played on the piano by Joseph Mohan. The movement to the syncopated rhythms was joyous, quirky, often off-balanced or unexpected, and great fun. The dancers were all excellent, able to handle the choreographic changes with seeming ease. Also on the program was The Fugue, performed by three dancers with no instrumental accompaniment, just the sound of hard shoes and some thigh slapping. Although it was an interesting experiment and well performed, I missed having music.

Twyla Tharp’s small company is a mix of men and women of various heights and ethnicities, but each is clearly well trained and performed Tharp’s particular style with gorgeous ability and stellar stage presence. Working well as an ensemble, with each being a standout — cheers and bravos to all.

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Twyla Tharp Dance at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue through October 8, 2017.  Twyla Tharp, Artistic Director, choreographer. Costume design by Santo Loquasto; lighting design by Jennifer Tipton. Dancers: John Selya, Matthew Dibble, Reed Tankersley, Daniel Baker, Kaitlyn Gilliland, Kara Chan, and Kellie Drabnick.

The Raggedy Dances: Scott Joplin, Charles Luckeyth Roberts, William Bolcom, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Joseph Mohan, pianist.

Entr’Acte: Blind Willie Johnson, David Kahane, Uri Caine, Roy Eldridge, John Lurie and Franz Schubert.

Dylan Love Songs: Bob Dylan.

 

Cover: Twyla Tharp; photo: Robert Whitman.


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