Twyla Tharp’s Fiftieth Anniversary Tour At UCB’s Zellerbach

22 Oct

A not-quite full house at UCB’s Zellerbach Auditorium October 16 greeted the superb twelve-dancer ensemble Twyla Tharp assembled for her Fiftieth celebration of making dances. That did not deter the vociferous response after the curtain of the final of three and a half pieces of the program; two and a half were all Tharp high energy, filling almost every note choreographically, utilizing casual and classical movements.

Of all the noted choreographers working today, bridging the millennium, Tharp’s background gives her the American chops of post-World War II; suburbia, with its mass market entertainment diversions. Read her biography growing up in the outer reaches of Los Angeles, working in her mother’s drive in movie theater, the grueling travel to dance classes, and there’s the making of her sensibilities, drive and the so-so of conveniences. She not only was formed outside the envelope she out does that amorphous territory.

The clear triumph of the evening was the finale for audience response. Titled Yowzie, set to rerecorded music by jazz greats like Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller, it centered roughly around Rai Okomoto and Daniel Baker as a stoned couple; Haight-Ashbury funk was writ large with a dash of New Orleans, reinforced by a bewildering array of patchwork tie-dye hues in Santo Loquasto’s costume designs. Rai Okomoto was simply extraordinary – not only in technique, formidable along with the other eleven dancers, but her postures, gestures and responses simply glued my attention. It also is a pity that Daniel Baker is not dancing with San Francisco Ballet.

Danced in front of a rust-hued steel girder image backdrop above black curtains for entrances and exits, Tharp’s vignettes were not only on target for accuracy in gesture and posture, a huge disaffected youthful population paraded its cheek, wit and energetic alienation before us. One of the richest veins started with two burly gays, queening movements eliciting laughter, appreciation, body alignment the epitome of male posture, with a dropped wrist gesture crying to be sculpted and enshrined at 17th and Castro.

A final comment is wondering aloud will San Francisco Ballet commission works by another woman choreographer. The last one I recall was from Lila York. I’m sure Tharp could come up with something intriguing.

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