Twyla Tharp company celebrates 50th anniversary with tour



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Alex Brady, the company manager for Twlay Tharpe's dancing company, leads a group of IU dance students in dance lesson Tuesday at the Musical Arts Center. Twyla Tharp Dance will be performing tomorrow night at the IU Auditorium. Buy Photos

Thirteen dancers — seven men in neutral beige and six women in jewel-toned dresses — stepped onto the auditorium stage Wednesday night. They took the stage in pairs or solo to dissonant and frenzied trumpets.

These dancers make up the dance company whose performances are choreographed by Indiana native Twyla Tharp.

This performance marked one of the stops on the company’s 50th anniversary tour. Since 1963, Tharp has choreographed more than 129 dances, as well as movies, Broadway shows and other productions.

The performance was divided into two parts. Company manager Alex Brady said Twyla describes the first part, “Preludes and Fugues,” as the world as it ought to be, and the second part, “Yowzie,” as the world as it is.

There’s no particular style,” Brady said. “It’s dance. It encompasses every form of movement. You’ve got ballet, jazz, modern, yoga and then Twyla’s wiggles.

And she’s assembled it in her own unique, creative,
sometimes humorous way.”

As well as the traditional balletic leaps and twirls, there was swing dancing, robotic moves, a dancer who ran across the stage with his partner on piggyback while jumping up and down, and even some head banging and arm thrashing.

“This is one of the more professional dance recitals that I’ve seen,” IU freshman Simone Swanson said. “I like that it wasn’t all serious, there was some comedy.”

The first piece utilized classical piano and orchestral music, and the second was centered around a backdrop of New Orleans jazz. These musical choices highlighted the
differences between the acts.

“They are each a different slice of life,” Brady said. “The first piece is so well-crafted, it really shows her knowledge and amazing genius. It’s very weighty from a dance perspective, and the second piece is lighter and more fun, just a complete contrast of the earlier piece. They’re both well-balanced.”

On Tuesday, Tharp was awarded the IU President’s Medal, which is the highest honor President Michael McRobbie can give, according to an IU press release. The granting of the medal expressed not only recognition of her talent for the arts, but also the time Tharp and members of her company spent prior to the performance with students in the Department of Theatre,
Drama and Contemporary Dance.

Daniel Baker, a company member, and Brady spent this time teaching two classes for both contemporary and ballet dance students.

On Tuesday, Brady taught a master class for ballet majors.

“Twyla developed these classes because when you stage a ballet, you’re only focusing on where the dancers are going, what count they’re dancing it on and getting to know the choreography,” Brady said. “You give them the ‘what’ but they don’t get too much time to explore the ‘how.’ Having a class gives them an idea of how to approach her movement rather than just giving them the steps.”

Brady said he danced in the company for 15 years before taking on the job of company manager.

He was involved in the development of the two pieces in the show.

“I joined the company because I had the chance,” Brady said. “It was just the right time in my life, and it turned out to be the best time of my life.”

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