Magazine article The Spectator

Energy Deficit

Magazine article The Spectator

Energy Deficit

Article excerpt

The second and final programme presented by the Twyla Tharp Dance Company has concluded, rather disappointingly, one of the sloppiest summer dance seasons I have seen in London. Not unlike the two recent works presented in the first programme - Roy's Joys (1997) and Yemaya (1998), reviewed last week - the three 1996 creations, Heroes, Sweet Fields and 66 demonstrated, in my opinion, that Tharp's current productions lack the vibrant and varied creativity of her earlier works.

There is nothing wrong in hanging on to successful formulas and solutions; after all to stick to a set of well-defined principles is what makes the style of a particular choreographer recognisable. Distinctive formulas and stylistic canons, however, need constant updating to look timeless and to suit the ever-changing cultural trends and taste, something that Tharp seems to have overlooked within the last few years.

None of the works mentioned above betrays or reveals any serious attempt at revising and revisiting both the construction of the dances and the movement vocabulary. Apart from the diverse themes that underscore each work, they all indulge in a tiresome reiteration of identical structural principles that have had their day. In addition, the immediate readability that once characterised most of Tharp's oeuvre seems to have been totally superseded by an intricate game of conceptual imagery as well as by a mind-boggling and often superfluous mixture of dance techniques that impinge heavily on a direct appreciation of the choreography.

These flaws are particularly evident in Heroes, a piece which seems to go on forever, bringing on stage all sorts of political, social, racial and gender issues, where the often overwhelming presence of balletic components makes little or no sense. It is true that Tharp has created several works based on the ballet idiom - from Push Comes to Shove to Mr Worldly Wise, to be seen again as part of the next Royal Ballet season - but, somehow, direct ballet references such as the ones spotted in Heroes clash vividly with the rest of the dance, looking out of place as if they had been introduced by someone who has little knowledge of that particular technique. …

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