Shall We Dance?

Blumenthal Performing Arts wants the whole community to experience Twyla Tharp.

After half a century as one of the world’s biggest names in dance, Twyla Tharp could take a victory lap.

Her fans would likely welcome a “greatest hits” tour from the woman who choreographed five Hollywood movies (including Hair, with its famous scene of a ragtag band of hippies pirouetting through Central Park), four full-length ballets, four Broadway shows (including Ragtime and Movin’ Out: The Songs of Billy Joel) and scores of other dances.

But, no. “That’s not who this woman is,” said Matt Dibble, a veteran member of Tharp’s company. After working with her for 17 years, Dibble is still enamored of his boss. “She’s still creative, still demanding,” he said. “She’s tough on her dancers – but tougher on herself.”

There’s something almost spiritual about training with Tharp: “Being in her studio is like being in church. You lose your ego. It’s all about doing something good and genuine.”

Charlotte audiences will get to see the genuineness – and the genius – of Tharp when her company brings “Twyla Tharp Dance: Fiftieth Anniversary Tour” to the Belk Theater Feb. 25.

Everyone’s invited. A few reserved seats are available. The rest of the tickets are going for just $10. Team Blumenthal wants to make Twyla Tharp accessible to all.

Tharp, who has choreographed more than 160 works, written three books, earned a Tony, two Emmy Awards, the 2004 National Medal of the Arts and a 2008 Kennedy Center Honor, is still pushing boundaries.

Her anniversary tour is composed of new works. (“She doesn’t like looking back,” Dibble said.) A review of the show in The San Jose Mercury-News describes the dancers moving seamlessly from classical to “a bit of soft shoe, tango or two-step. [Later], they shimmied to the irresistible jazz rhythms of Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton while intermittently breaking into yoga poses.”

That’s Tharp. Since she launched her career in 1965, she’s always brought a bit of the pedestrian – and even the absurd – to classical ballet. At age 75, she’s still edgy.

The much-lauded chorographer who wrote in 2015 that “dance is considered an ephemeral art form, here today, gone tomorrow,” needn’t worry. Twyla Tharp is the opposite of ephemeral. She’s eternal.
“Twyla Tharp Dance: Fiftieth Anniversary Tour” comes to the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center Saturday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. For more information and to buy tickets, visit the show’s event page.