Monthly Archives: July 2016

Twyla Tharp 50 Years


gay wwwTwyla Tharp and Three Dances
by Wickham Boyle
Tuesday Jul 12, 2016
Twyla Tharp is a 73-year-old pixie with lots of attitude who has shaped the flow and flux of modern dance. Tharp began her dance career in 1965 spinning a yo-yo while arched forward like a ski jumper, in her first piece, called “Tank Dive.” It was performed at Hunter College after her graduation from Barnard College. 2016 marks her fiftieth anniversary of dancing, choreographing and the Joyce Theater is part of a global celebration of her work.

Although raised in the Midwest and California, Tharp is a citizen of the world who has created work that shakes audiences, reviewers, fans and foes to their core. Tharp created dances to “Sinatra on Broadway,” and work for classic ballet companies worldwide. Her 1973 work “Deuce Coupe” is heralded as the first to mix modern and classical dance moves all to the beat and blare of the Beach Boys. Her Broadway musicals include “Movin Out,” “Come Fly Away,” and her choreography electrifies films like “Hair,” “Amadeus,” and “White Nights.”

She has written three books, her 2003 book, “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.” provides life skills for the creative outlaw. She is a mother, a grandmother and the mother hen to many dancers who have passed through her tutelage and heard her roar, and rage. Until July 23 audiences can thrill to “Twyla Tharp and Three Dances,” three very different Tharp dances from favorites to a premiere.

Twyla Tharp Dance in 'Brahms Paganini'

Twyla Tharp Dance in ‘Brahms Paganini’ 


Tharp has joked that she was named for a champion hog caller and her 1976 piece called “Country Dances” seems to hearken to a county fair where four dancers jockey, arabesque and joke wildly to country music like “Took My Gal A’Walkin,” and “Rat Cheese under the Hill.” There are seven different, often hilarious songs and dances to tickle the soul. Tharp has a wonderful way of making us laugh at the usual by upending it.

A pas de deux might just as well be two men, women as the duo, or in this case a very tall, elegant, amazing dancer Kaitlyn Gilliland partnering with the hapless John Seyla who seems to be astounded and often wonderfully tricked by moves made by Gilliland, as well as Amy Ruggiero and Eva Trapp. The four are costumed by Santo Loqusato in mock county gear, embroidered shirts, flare skirts and they whirl across the stage, vie for attention or just up and leave the stage and storm off. It is classic Tharp; funny, irreverent and beautifully wrought so that the audience never anticipates the next step or the next giggle.

The second offering, “Beethoven Opus 130” is a New York City premiere; the world bow was June at Saratoga. Here the full company, eight dancers, Matthew Dibble, Kaitlyn Gilliland, Daniel Baker, Ramona Kelly, Amy Ruggiero, Eva Trapp, Nicholas Coppula, and Reed Tankersley take the stage in marvelous Norma Kamali costumes with evocative lights provided by Stephen Terry. This piece is pure elegance and combustible energy.

The dancers take form as twosomes, or as a full flock of black birds flitting and flying across a bare stage. Again it is diva Gilliland who captivates in a stunning way. Even though there are seven other dancers performing with bravura gusto one can not stop watching Gilliland in her flowing tulle with appendages that seem to elongate with every pirouette and grand jete. Here again the partnering morphs and confuses, the classical mixes with the Marx Brothers and everyone is seduced. It shows that Tharp in on point to perfection even as the decades unfold.

The evening’s final piece is “Brahms Paganini” from 1980. Jennifer Tipton’s lights bath the Greek god-like Reed Tankersley in white light as he performs a daunting solo dressed in Ralph Lauren’s pure white trousers and shirt. He spins and leaps pretending to lose his way, only to start and stop and beguile us over and over in the portion entitled Book I.

At moments the audience gasps can be heard as the work becomes acrobatic and then back to endless turns and leaps on and off the wings. He is finally joined by the rest of the company in Book II all performed to “Brahms Variations on a Theme By Paganini Opus 35.”

By the final curtain call the house was on their feet screaming as Twyla Tharp was hauled up onto the stage and lifted as a conquering hero. She proceeded to mug and gracefully bow while grinning ear to ear. A perfect elf who had once again created magic.

“Twyla Tharp and Three Dances” runs through July 23 at The Joyce Theater, 175 Eight Avenue in NYC. For tickets or information, call 212-242-0800 or visit

TURN ME LOOSE: Joe Morton is beyond amazing

People toss terms around in reviews and at cocktail parties like “tour de force.” It means a magnetizing performance or show, and we are all hungry for it. If you are looking for a show, a performance, an experience that is up front, brilliant and stunningly smart, run to see acting icon Joe Morton in Gretchen Law’s play “Turn Me Loose.”


Joe Morton plays Dick Gregory

Joe Morton plays Dick Gregory , Joe Morton IS Dick Gregory  


“Turn Me Loose” is the story of comic genius Dick Gregory, the first black stand-up in the ’60s to make white audiences laugh at the absurdity of bigotry. Gregory morphed one of the most successful show business careers of the postwar era into a life of activism, sacrifice and danger alongside Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and other Civil Rights leaders. Wielding razor-sharp wit, Gregory hacked away at myths about race, poverty, war, and politics.

Joe Morton has gained incredible popularity from his recent work in the television hit “Scandal” however his work and fans span decades from “Brother From Another Planet” until this game changer at the jewel box Westside Theatre. Morton doesn’t play comedic genius and activist Dick Gregory he becomes him. From Gregory’s launch in the ’60s until his work continuing right up until today Morton sweats, and hums, groans, weeps and sings us through not only Richard Claxton Gregory’s life, but also the march of the Civil Rights movement through the election of Barack Obama.

Gregory was brilliant. He had an edgy educated, humor that allowed him to stand up to racists from Alabama during his first gig at the Playboy Club in the early ’60s. Gregory’s introduction, given by the very good actor John Carlin who plays many interstitial roles during the play, says, “You may not like him, but you won’t forget him, Dick Gregory.”

In author Gretchen Law’s play, when Gregory encountered heckling from the audience calling him “Nigger,” Gregory’s response was to tell his audience that in his contract it calls for him to receive an extra $50 every time that epithet is hurled.

The play is set up as a nightclub that spans over 50 decades, it is a solid set by Tony winner Leon Rothenberg and its intimacy encourages the audience to respond from time to time. John Gould Rubin’s direction empowers Morton to own every inch of the stage.

He is engaged in a clubby monologue on a stool, he leaves the stage to sit on the apron, wiping his brow telling the tale of the death of Medgar Evers and his own tiny son. A chilling saga where Gregory unfolds a foreboding of death only to receive a call from his beloved wife Lil, with whom he had 10 children, saying their son Richard has died.

Medgar Evers insisted that Gregory go home to his family and Gregory believes it was his son’s death that saved him from being assassinated, as he was constantly standing by Evers’ side.

It was the great Medgar Evers’ last words that inspired the title of this powerful play. As the time shifts from the 60s to today we learn through comedy and exposition facts like “there are more black men imprisoned today than there were enslaved in 1850.” We are forced to come to recon with the tragic path our country has taken and yet to revel in the way that someone like Dick Gregory can pluck humor from the most terrible situation and let it resonate.

Joe Morton is never off stage and never out of character fro 90 minutes, He is drenched and stooped as an old man and upright and dancing as the spry young Gregory. At the close of this show that takes you see sawing from tears to guffaws the entire audience is on its feet before lights have fully dimmer, and many are screaming for MORE, MORE, MORE!

“Turn Me Loose” runs through July 17 at the Westside Theatre, 407 W. 43rd St. For tickets or information, call 212-239-6200 or visit