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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Houston Ballet's "Dancing With Myself" Captures How We All Feel Right Now

What are dancers to do when they're still stuck at home in isolation? After all, there's only so much time you can spend taking barre, tackling your reading list (or Netflix queue) or ticking items off your to-do list. Even wistfully looking out the window has lost its appeal after a few months.

That's when you need a dance party—even it's for a party of one.

With its latest digital release, Houston Ballet tapped into our stir-crazy desperation and turned it into a celebration for 61 dancers shaking it in everything from PJs to formal gowns. Rehearsed entirely on Zoom and with choreography by artistic director Stanton Welch, "Dancing With Myself," set to the Billy Idol classic, is the #IFeelSeen moment dancers need right about now.