Straight from Twyla's Mouth
This weekend, the students of Juilliard's dance department will perform three very different masterworks: Eliot Feld's Celtic-flavored The Jig Is Up; Lar Lubovitch's Concerto Six Twenty-Two, with its celebrated duet for two men; and Twyla Tharp's casually virtuosic Baker's Dozen. Though longtime Tharp dancer and repetiteur Shelley Washington set Baker's Dozen on the dancers, Tharp herself took time to work with them as well—a rare opportunity for students. DM spoke with Juilliard senior Evan Schwarz about Baker's Dozen and dancing for Tharp.
What has been most challenging about Baker's Dozen?
There’s a very small amount of unison. For the first 10 or 12 minutes of the piece, everyone is always doing something different. You’re connected to the other dancers, but never in step with them, so it's easy to lose your place. It’s also extremely fast movement, but the overall look should be one of calm. You have to be mellow and speedy, an odd but fun combination.
What advice has Shelley Washington given that's unlocked the work for you?
She’s really allowed us to find the movement for ourselves. She said something that Twyla actually said to her: Know you’re great until you’re told you’re not. Don't let anything get in your way.
How much time did you have with Twyla Tharp?
She visited while we were rehearsing in the studio. We did a few runs, and she watched, gave some notes, and then talked generally to the group about how we should feel while dancing the piece. She told us to dance like we're a community—not to play to the audience, but to act as if we're a family having a good time together. The idea is to be lively but not showy.
Tharp is known for being tough. What was she like?
Once she arrived, we all stood up a little straighter; we were definitely nervous. But she was nice, just quiet and to the point. She didn’t say much, but what she did say was calm and helpful. She wasn’t scary—after the first ten minutes, at least.
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: