Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Boston Ballet's American Festival Showcases Home-Grown Talent Twyla Tharp, Eliot Feld, George Balanchine Works Exemplify Contemporary Movement

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Boston Ballet's American Festival Showcases Home-Grown Talent Twyla Tharp, Eliot Feld, George Balanchine Works Exemplify Contemporary Movement

Article excerpt

IF the United States, like Japan, designated individuals at the top of their field "National Treasures," American choreographer Twyla Tharp would be one. Her work exists on two planes, often simultaneously: that of jazzy, rollicking motion and polished, poised ballet. And the sheer ecstasy she inspires in dancers brings converts into the chapel of dance.

Nowhere is this more evident than in "Waterbaby Bagatelles," currently being performed as part of the Boston Ballet's American Dance Festival II -- the second in a two-part showcase of home-grown choreographer talent. This dance, which premiered here last year, is full of Tharpisms that make her work quintessentially American: funky solos, show-off tactics, cocky strutting, and sassy humor. But her dance vocabulary also includes precision, an unerring sense of direction, and smoothly coiled energy.

A bagatelle is defined in three ways -- any of which could point to Tharp's idea for the title: 1) something of little importance or value; a trifle; 2) a game something like billiards; and 3) a short musical composition.

The first impression of "Waterbaby Bagatelles" is visual: The dance opens with a bare stage except for four rows of Mediterranean-blue fluorescent bars, which run horizontally above the dancers' heads. The Santo Loquasto costumes bring out the theme of playing in water -- in fact, the first group of female dancers in silvery-blue looks like escapees from an Esther Williams movie. The music in Part I (much of it played by the Kronos Quartet) is monotonous percussion, but as the dance evolves, the sounds become more varied as orchestration is added. The momentum builds until it breaks out into a frenzied, joyful free-for-all.

"Waterbaby Bagatelles" showcases the Boston Ballet's men: They strut and preen while female dancers, playing groupies, watch and react to their every move. The women bob and wriggle as if caught in some fantastic current or carried along on successive waves. …

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