If you can move, you can dance. If you can see, art is all around you.

Twyla Tharp. I had been looking forward to this 50th anniversary tour performance at the Auditorium Theatre for a while now!

One of the first texts I read in college was the introduction of Tharp’s book The Creative Habit. Just stepping into my own routine for the first time in my life, I thoroughly embraced her thoughts on rigor and routine in developing creative ideas. This text really was formative for me. So with this performance coming, I checked the book out from the library to grow closer to her thoughts on creativity and to what had enthralled me as a college freshman.

The performance

Even in the program notes, she lets us into her creative process yet doesn’t let the dance become overwrought with conceptual narratives. Dance is simply movement.
The Bach pieces had a exquisite balance of formal ballet influence mixed with signature “Twyla” moves. In contrast to the rigidity of ballet, they seem to be how the body wants to move. Especially the coupling. The pair work was innovative and fluid. There would be tight arabesques and then bodies swaying together at the hips, as if you popped into a Latin night club.
The conclusion tied together the piece and united the dancers in a circle. (Which called to mind this image of a Matisse painting, that was an influence to her (I read that after I saw it at intermission)). Free and jubilant. The dancers went through a journey and came back together, united in doing the choreography from the opening. The work came full circle. I also think it goes to show how powerfully visual images resonate in this piece.
Henri Matisse Dance II
 After intermission, Yowzie exploded in full, vibrant color.

dm1tharp27z-800

RIka Okamoto

Twyla Tharp

 

 

 

Rika Okamoto is simply remarkable. It is clear watching her that she has worked with Twyla Tharp in diligent study. Something about the joy she exhibits and an indescribable nature of her movements reminds me of videos and photos of Twyla Tharp herself.

Check out this side by side. It really is remarkable how well she exhibits the style.

I simply couldn’t take my eyes off of her when she was on stage, particularly in Yowzie.

Lack of precision gave way to really show how individual dancers move. Even the bows were differentiated. I really think her work shows us about life as simple as it can be whole also hinting at the complexities of the relationships and the people around us. She lets her dancers be themselves, embody their character and life and then juxtaposes them together like a breakfast club of dance personalities.

What is the future of dance?

Especially in dance and classical music, today we start to expect robotic precision. Recording technology fights for our attention and the market for dance companies becomes even more elevated. During the performance, I thought about how great it is that this type of free-form performance can be sustained. But for how long? With video streaming and our dependence on technology, where is the place for live performance?

Perhaps grass-roots performance organizations can fight against this stigma of art-making being only reserved for the perfect.

I went to see The Luna Troop‘s dance concert the following night after I saw Twyla Tharp. Their mission is to include non-professional dancers and give them performance opportunities reconnect them to the joy of dance. Their age range spans 5 decades!
J. Lindsay Brown and dancers of Ensemble Espanol also graced the stage with Rogers Park High School dancers too. It was really inspiring to see these Chicago community organizations coming together
Twyla Tharp’s company is not the standard ballet troupe. The age range of dancers is wider and they are not forced to blend in with precise synchronization like a band of robot soldiers. Her work makes bounds to challenge what we think of as a professional dance group.
Seeing these two performances back to back, I felt delighted that a variety of dance groups can exist doing innovative work on a large scale and a small scale. (Keeping in mind this is Chicago and large, urban cultural hub) Though so many activities vie for our attention, dance is still something that is electrifying live and can move us at many different levels on precision, especially when love of the craft guides the movement.
Everyone can be an artist!
 Something beautiful about the world of technology that we live in is that we are given so many opportunities to get our art out there. Immediately iPhoneography came to mind when thinking of how to transfer the idea that art doesn’t have to be high-brow precise to be good art to visual art. We don’t need Michelangelo technique to capture a moment. We have cameras, filters, tilt shifts and ways we can make the art of everyday, fantastic with a device we carry around with us all the time.
There are even large scale awards and competitions. http://www.ippawards.com/ Not to mention instagram! @artofchi recently had a contest for the best scene of a chicago landmark taken in an innovative way.
Check it out!
I took a few picture that I thought the design aesthetic was pleasing. And I liked the unity of the circle like Twyla Tharp used in the Finale of the Bach piece.
circle
As a culture, embracing everyday art more gives more opportunities to enrich our lives with sharing human experience. The arts should not be a craft only for a select few, the more people they can reach, the more we are connected. Let’s innovate and keep creating no matter what level, because there are always more ways we can engage with art.
We are all artists, no matter what age, skill, or ability. 
I’m particularly looking forward to the aMID festival this Winter that “celebrates the underserved performative body of the aging artist and challenges commonly held views regarding the age demographic of a dancer or physical performing artist.” This will be an exciting show and I think a lot of these themes of countering precision and celebrating that age can’t even hold back the joy of dance. It’s one to put on the list!
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