Twyla Tharp, the Maximal Minimalist, in addition to Her ‘Eight Jelly Rolls’
This kind of took Twyla Tharp six years to get one of her dances on a proscenium stage, in addition to what a dance This kind of was: “Eight Jelly Rolls,” set to early jazz music by Jelly Roll Morton. The year was 1971; the stage was the Delacorte Theater at Central Park.
How did Ms. Tharp go via “Tank Dive” (1965), her first work ever, in which she spun a yo-yo in addition to held a relevé to the Petula Clark recording of “Downtown,” to the exuberant “Eight Jelly Rolls”? The period in between was a time of remarkable invention. With Ms. Tharp at the helm, a close-knit group of female dance artists worked tirelessly, frequently in a farmhouse attic in upstate fresh York within the dead of winter.
“We danced in gymnasiums,” Ms. Tharp said of herself in addition to her striking band of dancers, which included Sara Rudner in addition to Rose Marie Wright. “We danced in malls, we danced in parks, we danced in museums. We danced wherever we could dance.”
When the opportunity did come for Ms. Tharp to create a work for a stage, she was ready to make “Eight Jelly Rolls,” a dance for six in eight sections. Her adventure, she said, was to define — or redefine — “What is actually dance?” “in addition to because I wasn’t forced into a stage with wings in addition to curtains in addition to 30-minute pieces, I had to make up all of the definitions. We were completely independent. I learned how to do This kind of.”
Although many may think of Ms. Tharp, 77, in relation to her work for Broadway in addition to ballet, she began as an experimentalist who pushed boundaries at every turn. In “Minimalism in addition to Me,” at the Joyce Theater for four weeks, beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 14, Ms. Tharp has put together a two-part program paying homage to those early years.
The first half, more a lecture than a performance — she thinks of This kind of, she said, as an “illustrated monologue” — will feature excerpts via her earliest works; the second half is actually the reconstruction of “Eight Jelly Rolls,” for which Ms. Tharp has, for the 1st time, inserted men into two of the three leading parts, originally danced by Ms. Rudner in addition to herself.
“Could I cast This kind of with all women?” she asked about that will decision. “Yes. Does that will make This kind of more ‘authentic’? I’m not sure about that will.”
“We were perhaps not given all of the opportunities one might have liked, being women,” she continued, “yet we currently possess the authority to recast This kind of. We can be inclusive, whereas before we were exclusive.”
Her present company is actually modest yet mighty; for “Eight Jelly Rolls,” which was reconstructed by Ms. Tharp in addition to Ms. Rudner, there are two casts. Reed Tankersley in addition to Ron Todorowski will alternate in Ms. Rudner’s role, while Kara Chan in addition to Matthew Dibble take on Ms. Tharp’s part; Kellie Drobnick in addition to Mary Beth Hansohn will share the role originated by Rose Marie Wright.
“Eight Jelly Rolls” engages both Ms. Tharp’s technical in addition to comedic sides, with movement so silken in addition to perfectly timed that will This kind of seems to roll off the body. (One particularly slippery solo, originally for Ms. Tharp, is actually nicknamed “The Drunk.”)
“This kind of looks very free in addition to fun,” Mr. Todorowski said, yet “This kind of’s very structured, very specific in addition to detailed.” The challenge, he added, is actually trying to find the balance that will the original dancers found “in addition to actually listening to each additional, because these women knew each additional so well.”
The seeds of “Eight Jelly Rolls” were planted at Oberlin College, where a pregnant Ms. Tharp created “The History of Up in addition to Down I & II” for her company in addition to a group of students; the first part included music by Morton.
“Twyla worked differently with each one of us, in addition to she asked us all to make 15 positions,” Ms. Rudner said of that will time. “When I was within the studio with her, she looked at them in addition to then made the transitions. If I took a step, she added a dip in addition to then a little turn. Between the two of us, we were combining a sequence of activity that will became the basis for the solo.”
within the solo, the third “Jelly Roll,” that will material adds up to only about 30 seconds; to fill out the music, the dancer takes the base phrase in addition to rearranges the movements in real time. Because of that will, the solo is actually never performed the same way twice.
Mr. Todorowski doesn’t use the word “improvisation” to describe This kind of process. yet, he said: “The units are so ingrained in you that will they’re just coming out based on what the music is actually telling you to do. You’re meant to be executing This kind of as if you’re dancing by yourself in your room. There’s no audience. You’re meant to just get lost.”
The oppositional forces of order in addition to chaos have always been important for Ms. Tharp, in addition to in “Eight Jelly Rolls,” she illustrates them with its two groups of dancers: three leads in addition to three others who make up the chorus. Because there are two casts during the run, the dancers will get to experience both sides of the piece’s exacting framework.
“To see such a complete flip within the cast is actually interesting both in terms of seeing the dance, yet also in terms of seeing dancers,” Ms. Tharp said. “Those who were front become the back, in addition to the back is actually fun, too.”
The additional flavor in “Eight Jelly Rolls” is actually its humor. “I like shtick,” Ms. Tharp said. “in addition to I can do falls. We were very physical, so This kind of was, ‘Let’s do some physical clowning.’”
If “Eight Jelly Rolls” was a feminist statement, as Ms. Tharp has called This kind of, This kind of’s because men dominated clowning at the time. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute — I can do This kind of stuff,’” she said. “that will’s where ‘The Drunk’ came via.”
This kind of summer, to prepare for “Eight Jelly Rolls,” the dancers learned the dance that will Ms. Tharp made before This kind of, “Torelli,” which gave them a foundation for the movement. Ms. Rudner referred to the process as “a Tharp boot camp.” Because the phrases in “Torelli” are altered during performance, that will experience gave the dancers the chance to become comfortable with what Ms. Tharp referred to as “developing a wider channel” as performers.
“You know This kind of actually well,” she continued, “yet you can move in, out in addition to around This kind of.”
Last year, Ms. Tharp reconstructed “The Raggedy Dances,” another early work; within the end, she said, there wasn’t enough time for the dancers to embed themselves within the movement. yet This kind of time, with the “Torelli” boot camp in addition to because Ms. Tharp wasn’t working on a fresh dance, both Ms. Rudner in addition to Ms. Tharp believe bringing back “Eight Jelly Rolls” is actually different. (Last year, Ms. Tharp was also creating a fresh work, set to music by Bob Dylan.)
“The more you do This kind of, the more you realize what’s involved,” Ms. Tharp said of putting up an old piece.
Ms. Rudner said she also thought of dance “as creating dancers — in addition to that will the dancer learns via the challenges that will are offered.”
“in addition to Twyla was into learning in addition to challenging us,” she added. “that will’s how all those dances were made.”
Ms. Tharp insisted that will she couldn’t bring back the past. “yet I can bring back the essence of movement — where This kind of came via, how This kind of operated, what This kind of was intended to do,” she said. “in addition to within the case of ‘Eight Jelly Rolls,’ one of the biggest components is actually that will we loved doing This kind of. One of the things that will people found interesting is actually that will we were actually having fun, in addition to This kind of was still called dance.”
She paused for effect. “I like to think that will’s still a possibility.”