Tharp and Baryshnikov: the team most talented

January 27, 1993|By J.L. Conklin | J.L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

Washington -- Just in case you haven't heard, two old friends have gotten together to dance.

Twyla Tharp and Mikhail Baryshnikov, along with a select group of nine dancers, have brought their national tour to the newly gilded Warner Theatre in a program of Ms. Tharp's original and eclectic choreography, "Cutting Up."

The three main concerns of dancers -- performance, bodies and food -- provided a framework for the program Monday night. Three acts, "Shtick," "Bare Bones" and "Food," were decidedly different, uniquely Tharpian and accessible on several levels, and left the audience on its feet cheering. Each act had its own flavor, from the straightforward show-biz themes in "Shtick" to the nostalgic veneer of dances past in "Food" to the wonderful splicing up of classical and modern motifs in "Bare Bones."

Of course, Ms. Tharp's dancers were technically brilliant (Aaron Cash, Art Palmer and Jamie Bishton provided several notable moments); the dances were seamlessly constructed; Sterling Smith's music nicely complemented the dance; and Jennifer Tipton's lighting designs were first-rate. But in the end, everyone was there to see Misha dance Twyla's dances.

The main event of the evening was the second act, "Bare Bones." Using snippets of the sinfonia from the works of composer Pergolesi, Ms. Tharp alternated solos and duets for herself and her guest artist. Ms. Tharp's nonchalant but steely attitude toward movement allows her and her partner to investigate and incorporate any movement that comes along. But don't be fooled: She's serious about her flippancy, and everything is meticulously planned, despite its off-the-cuff appearance.

Ms. Tharp's choreography has a gleaming wit; when combined with the Mr. Baryshnikov's musical acumen and split-second timing, "Bare Bones" becomes a magical splicing of various classical and pedestrian movements. He waves his hand abstractly and suddenly his arm crystallizes into fancy footwork. Then a rash of classical cliches take shape. One heroic pose after another, and Mr. Baryshnikov jauntily exorcises a host of ballet princes.

Part of the delight in watching Ms. Tharp dance is anticipating what will come next. It's always a process of discovery, and watching her take a simple movement and take it to its conclusion is exhilarating.

A whirlwind spin that leaves her in a predictable but controlled reel is her kind of kinesthetic humor.

You can get intoxicated from watching dance, and Ms. Tharp, Mr. Baryshnikov and company are as potent and as much fun as champagne.

DANCE REVIEW

What: "Cutting Up," featuring Twyla Tharp and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: Warner Theatre, 13th and E streets N.W., Washington, D.C.

Tickets: Sold out.

Call: (202) 783-4000.

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