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Q&A with Twyla Tharp

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A Q&A with Twyla Tharp in The Atlantic.

DS: One of the descriptions I saw of your career was saying that you were avant-garde early on and became more mainstream, which I immediately assumed that you would reject as a characterization. How do you respond to that? Is there some truth to the notion that your ideas were more radical early on and that you developed them for a larger audience later on?

TT: I think the distinction between avant-garde and mainstream is way too facile. When I was a kid, the avant-garde to me was boring because it was just the flip side of being really successful. And my most avant-garde piece is one I actually want to reconstruct for the 50th. It's called "Re-Moves," and it was done at the Judson Church in 1965. It's a rectangular sanctuary area uptown, with a clerestory stained glass windows in it and chairs along three sides. The audience comes in through the side, with a curtain. The first piece was done in the front area, on the periphery of the area. For the second part, we moved back under the overhang so that half of it happened behind the curtain, which you couldn't see and the other half you could. Then through the curtains came this huge plywood box that essentially choked the center of the space. And the third part was us working around the perimeter of that box, so you only saw one third of the action. The fourth part was inside the box and it was us rehearsing the next piece; so you heard us working, you saw nothing, and there you go. It was called "Re-Moves," for obvious reasons -- a sort of metaphor. The thinking was that work exists in its future. Of course, we did not take curtain calls -- we assumed the audience would have left long ago. Fine by us!

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