Monday, June 2, 2008

Back in Ballet, Bending all the rules

Ms. Tharp, who had been discussing her new work for American Ballet Theater, “Rabbit and Rogue,” was quite sincere. A good part of the interview had consisted of her deftly sidestepping a discussion of personal motivation. Instead she concentrated on more abstract issues about the ballet, which will have its premiere on Tuesday night at the Metropolitan Opera House, with a score by the film composer Danny Elfman and costumes by her longtime collaborator Norma Kamali.

But any new work by Ms. Tharp is a big deal, and to avoid talking about the choreographer herself would be to ignore the singular place she occupies in the dance world. An innovator and a headline maker who has both rolled with the critical punches and occasionally been felled by them, Ms. Tharp, at 66, is in the curious position of being consistently identified as both a modern dance revolutionary and one of ballet’s few great living choreographers — certainly its only female one.

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