by Willard Manus
Memo to the Los Angeles Music Center: bring Twyla Tharp back and keep her here.
Tharp, who recently made her first Music Center appearance in twenty years, brought with her six dancers and five newly choreographed pieces which brilliantly showed off the company's prowess. Tharp, who had disbanded her first and much-larger company in 1988 and had taken some years off to rethink and regroup, is still searching for a permanent home, having abruptly vacated her last base in an old Presbyterian church in Brooklyn. But she has begun to tour with her latest, more-streamlined company, thereby affording L.A. the chance to not only invite her back in future but guarantee her some kind of annual residency at the Music Center--perhaps at the forthcoming Disney Concert Hall.
Should that come to pass, L.A. will be in store for some superb dancing. Tharp rarely disappoints with her choreography and her well-trained dancers always manage to astonish with fast and furious footwork, strength and suppleness, exuberance and experimentation. As one of her company members said, "Twyla Tharp Dance is an artistic venture that satisfies my soul. Twyla gives us the opportunity of taking everything we've learned and being free with it. We've been able to rediscover the feeling of why we love to dance."
Proof of that was evident in "Mozart Clarinet Quintet, K. 581" and "Surfer At the River Styx," two of the pieces done at the Ahmanson. The first was an elegant piece of work which featured dreamy movement punctuated with quirkily funny surprises (just like the music itself) and complex couplings. "Surfer," based roughly on Euripides' The Bacchae, was a complete change of pace: a dark, savage, frenetic look at life and death. The piece's rousing, all- percussive beat was supplied by the aptly-named composer Donald Knaack who uses junk materials to make percussive music: pots and pans, scrap metal, hubcaps, plastic jugs. New sounds and dances for the new century. (For information on Twyla Tharp Dance, visit www.twylatharp.org)