Review: Dancers' skill shines in engaging, energetic Tharp masterworks
Contrasting masterpieces by contemporary choreographer Twyla Tharp provide an exhilarating opening for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 44th season. The evening's magic is an amalgam of Tharp's genius, brilliant performances and effective music.
Classical ballets are filled with idealized visions of romance and supernatural characters and events, but Tharp's creations breathe with modern sensibilities, including her deftly eclectic movement vocabulary.
“Nine Sinatra Songs” which opens the program, was first performed in 1982 and is set to recordings he made a couple of decades earlier. It consists of seven romantic duos plus two ensembles of paired dancers. The costumes are elegant: the men all in tuxedos, the women in couture silk dresses in contrasting colors that were designed by Oscar de la Renta.
The night's performance Oct. 26 at the Benedum Center went from strength to strength, beginning with the sensitivity of Hannah Carter and Robert Moore in “Softly As I Leave You.”
Elysa Hotchkiss and Alejandro Diaz created a cool surface and inner heat in “Strangers in the Night,” in which Tharp, with just the right touch of tango spice, moves beyond the smoothness of the song to an edgier experience.
Similarly, Tharp's version of “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” is a bold yet mainly elegant treatment of inebriated lovers, with moments of awkwardness that elicited laughter from the audience. Julia Erickson and Nicholas Coppula were superb in their fluidity, oversized movements and quick changes of pace and feeling.
Tharp's clever solution to the challenge of setting Sinatra's signature song “My Way” is to bring back each of the couples we've seen, showing they are each different. When “My Way” serves as the fourth song, it is performed by three couples. As the ninth song, it is performed by the entire cast.
The other songs between the two versions of “My Way” were also very well characterized. These duos culminated in “That's Life” performed with gripping intensity by Amana Cochrane and Nurlan Abougaliev.
“In the Upper Room” completes the program. It was first performed in 1986 and is a more primal experience. Dancers appear out of and disappear into a heavy mist at the rear of the stage. The music by Philip Glass was composed for this piece. Its pulsing nature is hypnotic and energizing.
The cast is divided into Stompers and Bomb Squad, the latter from the ballet world. Costumes label the two groups, down to the shoes. Stompers wear sneakers. Bomber ladies wear pointe shoes. Tharp's dance language draws on many worlds, including ballet, modern dance, tap dance, yoga and even, briefly, boxing.
The ballet's dancers were precise, evocative and unflagging in their energy. It was a tour de force for them, as the choreography is for Tharp. The way she brings together many elements and infuses them with invention and irresistible energy is a brilliant vision realized.
This performance will be repeated at 2 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Benedum Center, Downtown. Admission is $25.75 to $96.75. Details: 412-456-6666 or www.pbt.org.
Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ejections, heated moments mark Pirates’ win over Reds
- Making environmentalism divisive
- New Steelers cornerback Boykin clarifies remarks about Eagles’ Kelly
- Zimbabwe alleges Murrysville doctor illegally killed lion
- Pirates notebook: Burnett says ‘surgery is not an option’
- Outdoors notices: Aug. 3, 2015
- French riot police push back migrants at Channel Tunnel
- Rossi: Looking at the next great Steeler
- Israeli teen stabbed at pride parade dies
- Penguins not alone in top-heavy approach to salary cap
- Ability to clog the trenches crucial to Steelers defense