Magazine article The Spectator

Foreign Affairs

Magazine article The Spectator

Foreign Affairs

Article excerpt

In the past, the long visit of a major foreign dance company was a recurring feature of the summer dance season in London as well as its highlight. This year, the absence from the capital of pirouetting foreign visitors has left many dance-goers gagging for international choreography. It is not surprising that last week they flocked enthusiastically to both the Barbican and Queen Elizabeth Hall to catch two different, yet equally interesting examples of American dance.

Since the early, glorious days of the American post-modern dance movement, Twyla Tharp has been regarded as one of the most fascinating exponents of the socalled `new dance', a reputation she continues deservedly to enjoy. Unlike some of her contemporaries, Tharp has moved gradually away from formulae and principles which have had their time, embarking on an exploration of diverse dance idioms. That is what provides her work with timeless immediacy and accessibility.

The first of the two programmes at the Barbican illustrated perfectly how the American choreographer has never completely rejected the distinctive canons that underscored her early creations. On the contrary, she has managed to amalgamate them with what she finds from experimentation. In both Roy's Joys (1997) and Yemaya (1998) the typical Tharpian components to be seen in the earlier The Fugue (1970) are still clearly evident, even though presented through a more mature perspective. I found the 1970 work far more enticing than the two recent ones. It is in The Fugue - danced to the sole rhythmical stomping of three male interpreters - that the deep exploration of both the movement possibilities and the movement idiom reaches its apex and is manifested in full.

The other two more recent dances are based on the same formula as Tharp's renowned Nine Sinatra Songs (1982) namely a set of dances set to a collection of musical pieces with the same common denominator, whether it be composer, singer or cultural provenance. The choreography's refined complexity gets somehow lost in the almost carefree mood that underscores each work. In addition, I am not sure if each creation would not benefit from some cuts. In the long run, the alternation of soft, tender moments and more jazzy bustling ones becomes slightly tiresome.

The New York Ballet Stars, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, proposed, as the name of the group implies, quite a different repertoire. It would appear that the intention of the artistic director Antonia Franceschi, whom we admired not so long ago as a powerful dancer with Mark Baldwin, is to provide dance-goers from the Old World with a good taster of what ballet has been and is today in America. …

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