Stephanie Williams, Cory Stearns, Catherine Hurlin and Duncan Lyle rehearsing In the Upper Room. PC Kelsey Grills

The Adrenaline Rush of Twyla Tharp's Upper Room Is Coming Back to ABT

Waves of sheer dance inventiveness come rolling toward you. Dancers in sneakers, pointe shoes or ballet slippers mingle: it looks like a free-for-all but is carefully plotted out. Philip Glass' music lets the dancers ride his gorgeous momentum.

This is In the Upper Room, the celestial yet kinetically charged ballet made by Twyla Tharp in 1986. It hasn't been done by American Ballet Theatre since 2012 and now it's coming back with full force.


What the dancers do is almost superhuman: They run backwards, they skip, they undulate, they help each other fly in the most unlikely ways. The intertwined shapes are bold, the interactions are witty, and the energy is non-stop.

The rehearsal that we observed, run by former Tharp star Shelley Washington, was the second cast of the stompers: Catherine Hurlin, Stephanie Williams, Alexandra Basmagy, Brittany DeGrofft, Calvin Royal III, Cory Stearns and Duncan Lyle danced fabulously. It was thrilling to see this masterpiece up close.

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Ana Maria Alvarez. Photo by Tyrone Domingo, Courtesy Alvarez

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Just Awarded Four Dance Artists $275,000 Each

At a time when many artists are feeling more financially strained than ever before, one of the most coveted grants in the arts is expanding. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has responded to the economic crisis by handing out eight Doris Duke Artist Awards, up from six in 2019.

What's more, half of those have gone to dance artists: Ana María Alvarez of CONTRA-TIEMPO in Los Angeles, Sean Dorsey of San Francisco's Sean Dorsey Dance and Fresh Meat Festival, Rennie Harris of Philadelphia's Rennie Harris Puremovement and New York City contemporary choreographer Pam Tanowitz.

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