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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Courtesy Hong Kong Dance Company

Here’s What Happened When Hong Kong Dance Company Trained Its Dancers in Martial Arts

When dancers here in the U.S. think about martial arts, what might come to mind is super-slow and controlled tai chi, or Hollywood's explosive kung fu fight scenes featuring the likes of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Martial arts in real life can be anywhere and anything in between, as the Hong Kong Dance Company recently learned. A few months ago, the company wrapped up its ambitious three-year embodied research study into the convergences between martial arts and classical Chinese dance. Far from a niche case-study, HKDC's qualitative findings could have implications for dancers from around the world who are practicing in all styles of dance.

Hong Kong Researcher/dancer Huang Lei performing in "Convergence"Courtesy Hong Kong Dance Company


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February 2021