I'd like to correct something I wrote in last week's newsletter.
I said that no 20th or 21st century choreographer interested me as much as Balanchine, and I bet I triggered a lot of defensive rebuttals from my readers with that comment. But I'm here today to say I'm sorry for not thinking long and hard enough before writing that. Balanchine's ballets will always be what makes me tick, but there are others I love watching, too.
I love Mark Morris and Paul Taylor, and some tappers are absolutely amazing to watch-- mind blowing technique and style to send you over the moon. But Twyla Tharp is probably the person whose life and work have that sort of rich, complex, raw yet painstakingly polished texture that hits me at my core like Mr. B's, and who does work that if not strictly classical or neoclassical ballet, is very very balletic and often on pointe.
Twyla Tharp fascinates me as a person, as a choreographer, as a dancer, as a director, as a creator. Her body of work (someone out there correct me if I'm wrong) is as diverse and eclectic as Balanchine's, and she is not quiet about how influential his work has been on hers. She gives credit where credit is due, and takes credit the same way. She's legendary for being a hard driving person to work for, but it's the toughest kind of tough love. (And she is know to be a notoriously tough interview subject-- just ask Martha Ullman West, who I remember telling me how short a patience Twyla had during their conversation.)
Without having danced for her (or in any of her pieces, which is a huge regret), I can tell that working with Twyla takes the deepest emotional and physical commitment, but there's likely not much sense of sacrifice-- because being pushed to do your absolute best and most, by someone who knows you can, is in her words, a luxury.
From the many interviews I've read and heard, it's clear that Twyla has the utmost respect for the dancer's body and a lot of knowledge about it, too. She's written several books (another reason I admire her) about the creative process, living a physical life to the fullest, and a memoir. THE CREATIVE HABIT: LEARN IT AND USE IT FOR LIFE, is really, really really interesting even if you don't consider yourself a creator. The processes she lays out can be a map for any kind of reflective life.
Here are several clips of her work, interviews, and some things I've stumbled across on the internet that are just neat to read. Apologies to Twyla for my statement last week and thanks to Kurt Froman for finding and posting the marvelous clip of the PBS series "Dancing," that has footage of Twyla in rehearsal that will demonstrate everything I've tried to explain above.
One last fun fact: although I've never even met Twyla in person, her son Jesse was a classmate of my sister's in elementary school. :)