Monday, June 23, 2008

Twyla Tharp at American Ballet Theatre

For the past two decades or so, Twyla Tharp has tended, in her new dances, to recycle features of her earlier successes, but in “Rabbit and Rogue,” which just had its première at American Ballet Theatre, she seems to repeat every single thing that has worked for her before. It’s as if she had made a list and then checked off each strategy as she reused it. Tharp’s last two projects have been failures. Her Bob Dylan musical, “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” (2006), closed after just a few weeks on Broadway. Then, earlier this year, she made a piece for Miami City Ballet—“Nightspot,” about Miami club life—that, while it was warmly applauded by the Florida audience I saw it with (it had an Elvis Costello score and lots of red costumes), was actually a desperate-looking mess: a fact that she was probably aware of. In both pieces, Tharp explored a territory relatively new to her—dream, hallucination. It is therefore no surprise that, having had so little luck there, she chose, in her next ballet, to do nothing new to her.

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