Tharp's works a bit too new, but sure to please

September 16, 1994|By J.L. Conklin | J.L. Conklin,Special to The Sun

If you've ever wondered what makes Twyla Tharp dance, or how she concocts dances, her latest endeavor -- "New Works," now at the Kennedy Center -- will give you a closeup view of the choreographer's personality and methods.

Ms. Tharp has changed how dancers dance, but also dance's basic ingredients. It was a real treat to watch her and a select group of dancers work through their dances in an informal setting.

For two months, seven dancers and Ms. Tharp have taken up residency in Washington, to create the "New Works." The results are mostly untitled dances and semi-dances. Some are fully realized, others are snippets. Whatever shape they are in, though, they are entertaining.

While Ms. Tharp and company didn't always give polished performances, there was enough professionalism on stage to keep everything neat and tidy. Dancers Stacy Caddell, Melinda DeChiazza, Petter Jacobsson, Shawn Mahoney, David Porter, John Selya and Shawn Stevens have joined Ms. Tharp.

Ms. Tharp is more noted for her choreography than her dancing, but she is still in control. Seeing the performance toward the end of the run, after the dances have had time to gel, wouldn't be a bad idea, however.

Ms. Tharp said her quest while in Washington was to figure out "what and how is something American." She began the program with a brief, classically-inspired work to music by Winton Marsalis, then swung the company and herself into three humorous selections accompanied by the music of Duke Ellington.

Two complete dances, a narrative ballet tentatively titled "The Exquisite Corpse" (featuring Stacy Caddell) and a take-off on the "Legend of Don Juan," were redolent with Ms. Tharp's often quirky humor.

The balance of the untitled works gave the audience an opportunity to understand the nuts and bolts of choreography.



What: Twyla Tharp in Washington, "New Works"

Where: Kennedy Center Terrace Theater

When: 7:30 p.m.; through Oct. 2

Tickets: $18

Call: (202) 467-4600

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