Some Unnecessary Program Notes

| 10.14.2016 |

(here I will tell you nothing useful about anything you’re about to see)

On the tour bus. It’s the day after our opening in Mesa, AZ. I’m going to describe my dancing in this program we’re touring. I should for context’s sake, yes?

Too soon. I close my computer and sleep.

On the tour bus again. We’ve completed three of our scheduled performances. Mesa, Tuscon, AZ, and Modesto, CA. I have anecdotes galore from only a few days of work, many of which I’d like to share. But shouldn’t I talk a bit about these dances first? Bring my blog along on the adventure that is the actual performance?

Blank journal, blank screen.

On the tour bus again. We have completed four of our scheduled performances + an exceptionally festive matinee for elementary school children, and at this point, as I stubbornly attempt to put my repertory here into a digestible journal entry, I take a minute to appreciate that my job on this tour is to dance rather than to verbalize Twyla’s work.

A few of my futile attempts, included below:

On Beethoven Opus 130:

Following a lush, seductive, ballroom-like scene, a brief adagio retrogrades itself as I transition from almost human, innocent charm to otherworldly manipulator of my male counterparts. I join my cohorts in a frenzied and energetic but still precise fugue of 8s and 6s (against Beethoven’s 4s, which ostensibly emphasize the second beat of each measure and send any dancer trying to count according to the score on a very choreographically counterintuitive but ultimately mathematically satisfying musical chase).

On Country Dances:

We’re all on a farm here. This much I’m pretty sure I know. My character’s a bit loony, and she may very well be in love with (or related to?) her charmingly dense male colleague, who seems unable to differentiate among the three ladies that trade themselves in and out of his duets.

The script here is gloriously — or dangerously — flexible and allows the dancers to reimagine their place in it with each run. The lyrics to several of the songs (roughly: “all you folks came out to help me celebrate my birthday, didn’t ya” or “she said she wouldn’t marry me if the rest o’ the world were dead”) lend dimension to each potential character.

On Brahms Paganini:

My favorite solo to dance, maybe ever.

Mounting evidence suggests it is a furious then more faint echo of the male tour de force that opens the Brahms, but with an identity that is still its own. There’s something elusive about it I haven’t quite grasped yet. To be continued, I hope.

My shorts are getting tighter with each performance, which is somewhat disconcerting. Does linen shrink in the dryer?


Erase, erase, erase.

I don’t know enough about these three dances (or I know too much?) to be able to write about them with any kind of coherence. I can’t use any fancy dance speak either, because I’ve never had the patience or the interest to study it (in college I majored in psychology). Lately I don’t even remember what most ballet steps are called.

I just do them.

Here, Twyla might fold her arms and ask, matter-of-factly, “so what did you learn today?”

I learn something every day from these dances. To me this work describes itself as some of the most rewarding, difficult, diverse, exhausting, and risky physical and mental training I’ve ever attempted. Mental training courtesy of Twyla, of course, who often requires that we vigorously defend the choices she allows us to make within them so that we establish for ourselves an identity and some stakes.

Each piece is layered, ever-changing, and still distinctly representative of different periods in Twyla’s choreographic career.  In them I am a loner, a vixen, an apparition, an accidental clown, a seductress, maybe someone else’s shadow. And always still myself.

These dances best describe themselves and myself to me when they’re done, not discussed.

For more on the program, try Twyla Tharp’s website, which offers information about each creation and also some pretty spectacular video footage of early performances:

Country Dances (1976)

Beethoven Opus 130 (2016)

Brahms Paganini (1980)

For even more on the program, come see it! I’m gunna put my feet up on the seat in front of me and go back to sleep.

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