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Twyla Tharp's choreography for 'White Nights' shown at IU Cinema



The combination of two very different dance styles, ballet and tap dancing, was perfected by Twyla Tharp, the choreographer for “White Nights.” 

“White Nights” was shown at 7 p.m. Aug. 23 at IU Cinema for the “Twyla Tharp Dance and Film Collaborations.” The movie was shown on the original 35mm film strip that was brought by the IU Library Archives. 

The film was old, and the audience was told that the strip could very well break in the middle of the movie. As a backup, the DVD version of the film was on standby and could replace the film in the matter of a couple minutes. However, the 35mm film performed perfectly.

“White Nights” is centered around a famous Russian ballet dancer named Nikolai Rodchenko, played by Mikhail Baryshnikov, and an American-born tap dancer named Raymond Greenwood, played by Gregory Hines.

In the film, Rodchenko abandons his home country of Russia, but is sent back against his will because of an emergency plane landing. Meanwhile, Greenwood escapes from the U.S. Army while fighting the Vietnam War and moves to Russia. 

Raymond is Rodchenko’s guard throughout the film, and he’s trying to convince Rodchenko to stay in Soviet Russia to perform. In contrast, Rodchenko likes the freedom of being able to travel the world to perform, so he tries to escape from Raymond multiple times throughout the film to get to the American Embassy. 

There are many dance scenes in the film choreographed by Twyla Tharp. Tharp wanted to bend the rules of traditional dance and create a new blend of different styles of dance, in this case tap dance and ballet. 

“It’s middle ground between tap and ballet," Tharp said of the choreography in the film. "It’s neither."

“I thought the movie was interesting," Madison Mora, freshman, said. "I liked all of the dancing parts because they were different than what I’ve seen before.” 

Dance played a key role in the relationship between the two main characters. However, the movie is not all dance. 

“I wasn’t expecting an action escape scene,” Cameron Barnett, senior, said. 

“White Nights” is part of a series at the IU Cinema promoting a new course through the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance. “Fundamentals of Movement and Creativity: Twyla Tharp” is offered in both the spring and fall and satisfies IU GenED A&H credit. It's open to all majors.

“We shouldn’t divide our areas here at IU,” Shawn Stevens, the professor of the Tharp course, said during a panel after the film. 

According to Stevens, this course would be helpful to any major and anyone interested should look into it. 

“You have kinesthetics, you have body awareness even when you’re not a dancer,” said junior Maddy McCarthy, past student of the Tharp class. 

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