Tharp! | Performing Arts Sidebar | Chicago Reader

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Brat! Self-centered, contrary, ambitious, Twyla Tharp has never been boring. Even the poverty-stricken piece she made for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago a year ago, I Remember Clifford, reveals a feint in a new direction. Now, after disbanding her company in 1988 and doing pick-up gigs from Paris to Columbus, Ohio, she's formed a new troupe and choreographed three brand-new pieces. And with her customary swagger, all three are autobiographical--though she claims in an interview with the New York Times that one is not. I don't believe her: it's titled Heroes. In another rush of megalomania, these works seem to represent not only Tharp but the sweep of American history. The first, Sweet Fields, explores her Quaker background with Shaker-inspired dancing and early-American music. Tharp says the heart of the second piece, 66, is her family's journey west on that most famous of all highways, on which they also built a drive-in theater once they reached California. It's set to 50s music, the music of Tharp's youth. The image defining the end of Heroes is apocalyptic, coming out of a New Republic story about a remnant of the TWA crash, a red sweater in shreds: "OK, fine, you are a hero," Tharp told the Times. "You get to be the backbone of society, and you know what? It's gone, it's all just going to hang off you like tatters by the time it's over. But...you will have served." Set to a six-movement "symphonic ballet" by Philip Glass, Heroes sounds as if it's in the same vein as In the Upper Room (for which Glass also provided the music) and Fait Accompli, a vein inspired by Tharp's image of ferocious porcelain dragon dogs guarding Zen temples. Whoever she is, whatever she does, Tharp is never small or timid. Wednesday and Thursday, October 10, at 7:30; next Friday and Saturday, October 11 and 12, at 8; and next Sunday, October 13, at 3 at the Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe; $20-$50. Call 902-1500 for tickets, 722-5463 for information.

--Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Tharp! photo by Greg Gorman.

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