HOUSTON – Okay, theater buffs, think hard: dancer, choreographer and director Twyla Tharp has taken modern dance to Broadway when?
Don't avoid the question by responding that she has collaborated with film directors Milos Foreman on, among others, Hair, and Taylor Hackford on White Nights. Don't try to impress anyone by pointing out that the television special Baryshnikov by Tharp, which she co-directed, won two Emmy Awards as well as the Director's Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement. And it won't do you any good to recall that in 1992 she was bestowed a fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation.
When has the creator of such modern dance standouts as Tank Dive, her first piece; Eight Jelly Rolls, to the music of Jelly Roll Morton; and Push Comes to Shove, originally created for American Ballet Theatre and widely know as a vehicle for Mikhail Baryshnikov, done some fancy footwork on the Great White Way?
The easier answer is her 1985 staging of Singin' in the Rain. But bonus points are given to those who remember her 1981 collaboration with David Byrne, The Catherine Wheel.
Under the auspices of Society for the Performing Arts, Tharp brings her 14-member company to Houston's Jones Hall on April 16, for one performance only, in Tharp!, three new dance theater pieces of vastly different styles, created and honed on the corps of young dancers hand-picked by Tharp from auditions held across the United States. "Sweet Fields" explores American spirituality as found in American music of the 18th and 19th centuries. "66" depicts the famous Highway in the 1940s, the main path to the West, the land of myth and dreams; it's set to "bachelor pad" music of the likes of Esquivel and Dean Martin. "Heroes" reunites Tharp with composer Philip Glass for the first time since their ealier collaboration In the Upper Room. "Heroes," a symphonic ballet, is termed a musical response to the David Bowie/Brian Eno album of the same name.
Tharp! plays Jones Hall April 16. For tickets, $12 - $40, call (713) 227-ARTS if in Houston or (800) 828-ARTS if out of town.
By Peter Szatmary