Tharp was in the audience Thursday. It was, perhaps, a rare
moment of repose for her. At 70, she shows no signs of slowing down, nor
is there any dearth of her work on the landscape. The Atlanta Ballet
premiered her first full-length children’s production, “The Princess and
the Goblin,” two weeks ago. Her Sinatra musical, “Come Fly Away,” will come to the Kennedy Center in April.
feels like a celebration is in order, and this program is just the
thing. The works are well-chosen, so full of character, inventive
movement, whimsy and tart observation. And perhaps the greatest pleasure
was seeing them interpreted by such winsome and eager dancers.
came off especially well, with Jonathan Jordan in the Baryshnikov role.
He noodled around with such relish, swiveling his hips in those snug
velvet britches — part Lothario, part bored jester — as if he were
making up the steps on the spot. The not-so-subtle, deliciously deadpan
rivalry between Maki Onuki and Sona Kharatian bore the perfect edge.
the humor aside, what’s thrilling is the way Tharp whips together her
own invented moves with brisk ballet technique, varying the accents,
giving the ballerinas a powerful musical emphasis here, unexpected
delicacy there, mixing up the rhythms in the ensemble — in effect,
scoring the choreography like a jazz composition. (The music is Joseph
Lamb’s “Bohemia Rag 1919” and Haydn’s Symphony in C, Op. 82.) That’s
part of the joke, too — and part of the brilliance.
So it goes in
“Surfer at the River Styx,” which aims for mystery but is at its best
simply the unleashing of big, barely contained male energy in the
currents of Donald Knaack’s live percussion, hammered out on trash-can
lids and such. The labor wasn’t masked in the exhaustive solos — for
Jared Nelson, the anti-star in a loose T-shirt and cargo shorts but with
a star’s stamina and cool, and Jordan again, carving out a fiery string
of turns and floating to a serene, controlled finish. But that made
them all the more heroic.
The Washington Ballet has looked better
in “Nine Sinatra Songs” than it did Thursday; not every couple was at
ease. Many of the pairings didn’t look like they’d last five minutes.
But it was such an exuberant finish, those stylish men sweeping their
partners overhead to “My Way,” spinning them in their arms as if they
were swirling to a Strauss waltz. You’d almost think Tharp was one of
Twyla Tharp: All American
will be performed by the Washington Ballet on Saturday at 2:30 and
8 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F
$20-$125. 202-467-4600 or