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Early Tharp Lovers: We've Got Great News for You
Those of us who love Twyla Tharp's early works were jazzed to hear that she will expand As Time Goes By (1973) for The Royal Ballet this fall.
ATGB, original cast with Richard Colton (left), Pamela Nearhoof (right), photo courtesy DM Archives
This was a beautiful, dreamy, swirly ballet that was her first totally classical piece. Her Deuce Coupe a few months earlier was a hit that mingled the Joffrey dancers with her own dancers, performed to songs by the Beach Boys. It integrated modern and ballet, streetwise and classical, and took New York City by storm. Naturally Robert Joffrey asked her to make a second ballet ASAP.
For music, she chose excerpts of Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony. Her plans for The Royal Ballet include using the entire symphony.
Beatriz Rodriguez in center, @ Tom Rawe
We asked William Whitener, one of the original dancers in As Time Goes By, to comment. A member of the Joffrey Ballet since 1969, he had danced in Deuce Coupe as well. He found his Tharp experiences so challenging, so enticing, that he joined her company a few years later and danced with her from 1978-88. As artistic director of Kansas City Ballet, he staged ATGB for that company in 2005. (It's also been done by Paris Opera Ballet and Boston Ballet II, but it has not been one of the go-to Tharp ballets like In the Upper Room or Nine Sinatra Songs.)
Here is what Whitener says about ATGB:
"There were high expectations and excitement when As Time Goes By was created. It followed in the footsteps of Deuce Coupe, which had revolutionized the dance world. Twyla worked closely with Haydn's score during the creative process. As dancers, we dove deeply into the choreography, which has complex combinations and phrases of movement that are rooted in ballet vocabulary. The leg and footwork are highly articulated at all tempos. The port de bras integrates formal classical ballet technique with a natural flow of movement and force. We shifted directions with split-second timing in tightly woven patterns and broad sweeps of movement. As the ballet concluded, the cast quietly watched from the wings as a lone male dancer gently unspools gorgeous adagio movement. Audiences responded audibly to the rigor, humor and tenderness in As Time Goes By. My friend and colleague, Tommy Tune, likened the work to a flock of birds in flight."
William Whitener at left, with Christine Uchida and Donn Edwards, © Tom Rawe
The expanded ATGB, titled The Illustrated Farewell, comes to the Royal Opera House in London November 6–17. It shares a program with Arthur Pita's premiere The Wind and Hofesh Shechter's Untouchable (2015).
I'm already dreaming of a quick trip across the pond that week.
My dance coach wants my word that I'll keep competing under his school's name for the next year and not audition. I'm 18 years old and already doing lead roles and winning medals. I love his teaching, but shouldn't I be ready to go out and get a job?
—Gil, Las Vegas, NV
How do we make ballet, a traditionally homogeneous art form, relevant to and reflective of an increasingly diverse and globalized era? While established companies are shifting slowly, Richard Siegal/Ballet of Difference, though less than 2 years old, has something of a head start. The guiding force of the company, which is based in Germany, is bringing differences together in the same room and, ultimately, on the same stage.
Before she became the 20th century's most revered ballet pedagogue, Agrippina Vaganova was a frustrated ballerina. "I was not progressing and that was a terrible thing to realize," she wrote in a rough draft of her memoirs.
She retired from the Imperial Ballet stage in 1916, and for the next 30-plus years, devoted herself to creating a "science of ballet." Her new, dynamic teaching method produced stars like Rudolf Nureyev, Alla Osipenko, and Galina Ulanova and later Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And her approach continues to influence how we think about ballet training to this day.
But is the ballet class due for an update? Demands and aesthetics have changed. So should the way dancers train change too?
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
Claude Debussy's only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, emphasizes clarity and subtlety over high-flung drama as a deadly love triangle unfolds. Opera Vlaanderen and Royal Ballet of Flanders are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the composer's death with a new production of the landmark opera that is sure to be anything but traditional: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet are choreographing and directing, while boundary-pushing performance artist Marina Abramović collaborates on the design. Antwerp, Feb. 2–13. Ghent, Feb. 23–March 4. operaballet.be/en.
Black History Month offers a time to reflect on the artists who have shaped the dance field as we know it today. But equally important is celebrating the black artists who represent the next generation. These seven up-and-comers are making waves across all kinds of styles and across the country:
When a new director began transforming Atlanta Ballet a couple of years ago, longtime dancer Alessa Rogers decided to finally explore her dream of dancing in Europe. "I always had this wanderlust," she says. She wasn't set on a particular city or company, but thought learning French would be fun. She began her research that September, making note of repertoire and the number of dancers as well as which companies employed foreign, non–European Union dancers. "I saw that Ballet du Rhin was looking for dancers," says Rogers. "They also had a new director coming in, so I thought it could be an opportunity." After sending a video, Rogers traveled during her layoff week to take company class. She was offered a job on the spot.
Uprooting and moving out of the country, far away from your support system, language and customs, is not something to take lightly. While it can push you as an artist and be an exciting opportunity for personal growth, working as a dancer in a foreign country comes with its challenges. Lots of research and an adventurous spirit are required.
Justin Lynch is surprisingly nonchalant about the struggles of being a full-time lawyer and a professional dancer. "All dancers in New York City are experts at juggling multiple endeavors," he says. "What I'm doing is no different from what any other dancer does—it's just that what I'm juggling is different."
While we agree that freelance dancers are pro multitaskers, we don't really buy Lynch's claim that what he does isn't extraordinary. In fact, we're pretty mind-boggled by the career he's built for himself.
At the annual Gala de Danza in Los Cabos, Mexico, the lineup of performers is usually pretty typical gala fare: You can expect celebrity performers like Lil Buck, reality stars like Ballet West's Beckanne Sisk and "So You Think You Can Dance" finalist Tate McRae, plus principals from top companies like New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck and Daniel Ulbricht.
What's absolutely not typical? The venue.
At 5'10" I felt like an ant in the studio with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. The San Francisco-based company is full of statuesque dancers whose passion is infectious. Every story was told not only through their movement, but through the expression on their faces and their connection to one another.
We talked to artistic director Alonzo King about his love of collaborations and why he thinks politicians need to dance more.