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Twyla Tharp at City Center 2022


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I’m just in from the Friends of City Center dress rehearsal. She has assembled a beautiful group of dancers, and In the Upper Room held up surprisingly well for me. I look forward to the actual performance which I attend later this week. 

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I went last night.  Terrific night of dancing.  As always, In The Upper Room was completely electrifying. So wonderful  to see K. Gilliland on the stage again.  Such a shame her career at NYCB was cut short due to recurent injuries.   Ulbricht was completely in his element in this material.   He and Delgado were stunning together in Nine Sinatra Songs.  My only critique was lack of unison in certain places in In the Upper Room.  

 

Edited by abatt
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I attended last night and thought it was a thoroughly wonderful performance. The dancers are an assorted group, with different body types and from different dance backgrounds, and you can see that, but they work together in the most beautiful way. Many of the dancers are familiar to me from our NYC companies, but I especially enjoyed the too-rarely seen Kaitlyn Gilliland, the ferocious Jeanette Delgado (incredible in Nine Sinatra Songs), and the beautiful Julian MacKay and Benjamin Freemantle, neither of whom I've seen before and who are obviously beautiful classical dancers.  This program is a total crowd-pleaser, appealing to the newbie and dance aficionado alike... and I couldn't help but think about my mother and wish she were still alive so I could take her to see this, I know she would love it! I may be back tonight. 

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1 hour ago, cobweb said:

I attended last night and thought it was a thoroughly wonderful performance. The dancers are an assorted group, with different body types and from different dance backgrounds, and you can see that, but they work together in the most beautiful way. Many of the dancers are familiar to me from our NYC companies, but I especially enjoyed the too-rarely seen Kaitlyn Gilliland, the ferocious Jeanette Delgado (incredible in Nine Sinatra Songs), and the beautiful Julian MacKay and Benjamin Freemantle, neither of whom I've seen before and who are obviously beautiful classical dancers.  This program is a total crowd-pleaser, appealing to the newbie and dance aficionado alike... and I couldn't help but think about my mother and wish she were still alive so I could take her to see this, I know she would love it! I may be back tonight. 

Seconding absolutely everything cobweb said! Twyla Tharp put together an astonishing group of dancers. I encourage anyone in the vicinity, to do their best to get to a show. Just wanted to add that I found particular pleasure in seeing Daniel Ulbricht in this rep with his wonderful clarity of movement and captivating presence. 

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I agree with everyone, the Tharp show was fantastic in so many ways. The dancers really amounted to an embarrassment of riches. The ABT/NYCB home team - Trenary and Ulbricht - were standouts, as were our stompers Gilliland and Peterson. So were Delgado and two dancers I'd never seen before - MacKay and Freemantle. Wow, I would go see either of them in anything.  All the rest of the dancers were great, too.
 
It was super interesting seeing ITUR under Tharp's personal direction. One thing that really stood out was how controlled the fog was. I've seen MCB do it, and seen at least 6 performances by ABT over several revivals. The fog often overwhelms the stage and the dancers. Not here. It was mostly contained to the back of the stage so you could really see the dancers when they were dancing, but they disappeared into it at the back of the stage.
 
The pace was relentless and exhilarating, but the actual steps looked much clearer and more fully formed that what I remembered seeing in the past. I did notice a lack of unison in a couple of places but I'm not sure unison was what Tharp was going for, and I noticed it mostly when Ulbricht and MacKay were doing side by side pirouettes. Considering how much taller Mackay is I don't think its possible for him to get those long limbs around as quickly as Ulbricht, and I don't think Ulbricht is capable of slowing down!
 
I have seen ABT do Sinatra Suite many times, but this is my first time seeing 9 Sinatra Songs. I don't know if Tharp tweaked the choreography for "That's Life" but it sure felt different from what I remember at ABT. There the woman looked like a submissive rag doll being abused by the man. Here, Delgado and Ullbricht went toe to toe and it was more like a really tempestuous relationship. Borrowing cobweb's description, "ferocious" is the perfect word to describe Delagdo's performance. I found 9 Sinatra songs inventive and enjoyable, but ITUR absolutely should have been the closer.
 
So glad I'm going to see it again tonight, then it's on to ABT!
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2 hours ago, nysusan said:
 
I have seen ABT do Sinatra Suite many times, but this is my first time seeing 9 Sinatra Songs

I went in sure that I had seen the Sinatra piece before, but I didn't realize that Sinatra Suite must be different from Nine Sinatra Songs. I don't remember ever seeing this before. I wanted to add that I found Jacquelin Harris and James Gilmer, in the first song, totally beautiful. He was a dashing, charismatic partner and she was so so musical and elegant, with an ineffable je ne sais quoi. 

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2 hours ago, FPF said:

I believe that Sinatra Suite is excerpts from Nine Sinatra Songs.

Yes, I believe Sinatra Suite came a year after Nine Sinatra Songs, and it's done by one couple. Originally Baryshnikov and Elaine Kudo. 

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Just to add - after seeing the wonderful Tharp show on Thursday, I got to thinking about Tharp her various interpretations of Sinatra recordings. One of my favorite interpretations of One for My Baby: 

 

Edited by vipa
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I'm Just in from another performance of the Tharp show, and I can honestly say that last night and tonight have been two of the most incredible, exhilarating and joyful dance performances I have seen in YEARS. Whoever has made this possible — Twyla Tharp, City Center, the dancers and coaches — I thank you. 

I think it was totally the right call to do In the Upper Room first. Let’s face it, most of the audience is dying to see In the Upper Room, and anything that comes before it will seem like an opening act while we impatiently wait for the main show . With the catharsis of In the Upper Room over, my mind felt more clear to enjoy Nine Sinatra Songs. Also the audience enthusiasm for In the Upper Room spills over into Nine Sinatra Songs, which received a rapt enthusiasm I don’t think it would have gotten as an opener. I know I've seen some of Nine Sinatra Songs done by ABT as Sinatra Suite, but that seems to have left no memory, and this felt entirely new to me. I was blown away. It is psychedelically beautiful, with dresses, colors, dappled lights, and legs sailing all over the stage, carried along by the OMG voice of Frank Sinatra. His voice seems to stop time, he holds you suspended in the present, evanescent, moment. I was highly impressed with how unsentimental the choreography is, how strong the women are - it's not just ruffles and romance, the men and women face off as equals. This is especially evident in the section with Cassandra Trenary and Benjamin Freemantle, even more so with what I would call the mutually consensual aggression of Jeanette Delgado and Daniel Ulbricht. If I had to pick the number one standout performance of an incredible evening of dance, it would be Delgado in "That's Life." 

I think this was a brilliant selection of dancers. in In the Upper Room, the grounded, buff Martha Graham guys contrast beautifully with the airy ballet guys, making everyone look just great. And I greatly appreciate the introduction to Julian MacKay and Benjamin Freemantle, like @nysusan says above, I would go see these guys in anything. Tharp's oversight significantly tightened up and brought out details we don't usually see, like Cassandra Trenary's repeatedly pushing her hands out to her side, pushing the guys away from her. Finally, like @vipa says above, I urge anyone who can get there to see this show. It is truly special. There was a very limited selection of seats available for tonight, so I busted my budget for a front-row grand tier seat, and oh my. Totally worth it!!!

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Based on the recommendations of those in this thread, got one of the last few tickets to today’s matinee.  I could only stay for ITUR but oh, it was magnificent.  Best I’ve seen it look across countless performances and companies.

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On 10/21/2022 at 11:15 PM, cobweb said:

I think this was a brilliant selection of dancers. in In the Upper Room, the grounded, buff Martha Graham guys contrast beautifully with the airy ballet guys, making everyone look just great. And I greatly appreciate the introduction to Julian MacKay and Benjamin Freemantle, like @nysusan says above, I would go see these guys in anything. Tharp's oversight significantly tightened up and brought out details we don't usually see, like Cassandra Trenary's repeatedly pushing her hands out to her side, pushing the guys away from her. Finally, like @vipa says above, I urge anyone who can get there to see this show. It is truly special. There was a very limited selection of seats available for tonight, so I busted my budget for a front-row grand tier seat, and oh my. Totally worth it!!!

I am still delirious from today's show - gosh I don't know why they didn't do more than what 4 or 5 shows? They could have done twice as many and it still would have sold out.

Cobweb, I completely agree re a brilliant selection of dancers and how the Graham dancers (and Ailey) contrasted wonderfully with the ballet guys. I am thrilled I finally got to see Lloyd Knight - wow! MacKay and Freemantle - two more wow's!

Daniel Ulbricht is a very special dancer; I've seen him not only at NYCB a few times but at some galas and specific performances, like today. But, in both pieces this afternoon he looked truly at home, tearing up the stage clearly in his "zone". Whether he was paired with Trenary or later with Delgado (fantastic partnering with both), or dancing solo, he was riveting. I have never understood why he's so underutilized at NYCB where he seems to be pigeonholed to the jester type of roles. Today, he was set free and he tore it up. It was something I won't forget.

Trenary was simply gorgeous, divine, sumptuous, exquisite - not enough adjectives to describe her today. I've seen her as one of the stompers at ABT and this was a debut role for her and she was magical. She and Freemantle had an unbelievable chemistry in Sinatra Songs. I would love to see them dance together again.

Villaverde and Memoli (my first time seeing both) were also knock-outs, especially paired in Sinatra.

The entire cast was amazing. I wish I could see it again.

 

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On 10/21/2022 at 7:33 PM, vipa said:

Just to add - after seeing the wonderful Tharp show on Thursday, I got to thinking about Tharp her various interpretations of Sinatra recordings. One of my favorite interpretations of On for My Baby: 

 

Let me add to the collection: Sinatra singing on stage while Baryshnikov danced "One for My Baby." I don't know when or where this was performed, but I think it might have been Reagan's second inauguration:

 

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1 hour ago, ABT Fan said:

I am still delirious from today's show - gosh I don't know why they didn't do more than what 4 or 5 shows? They could have done twice as many and it still would have sold out.

I actually found myself entertaining fantasies that they could do an open-ended run, Broadway-style. It would take a lot of viewings before I felt I had had enough of it. And it's such a crowd pleaser it would probably draw in lots of tourists and newbies too. Just my dream...

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2 hours ago, ABT Fan said:

I am still delirious from today's show - gosh I don't know why they didn't do more than what 4 or 5 shows? They could have done twice as many and it still would have sold out.

Cobweb, I completely agree re a brilliant selection of dancers and how the Graham dancers (and Ailey) contrasted wonderfully with the ballet guys. I am thrilled I finally got to see Lloyd Knight - wow! MacKay and Freemantle - two more wow's!

Daniel Ulbricht is a very special dancer; I've seen him not only at NYCB a few times but at some galas and specific performances, like today. But, in both pieces this afternoon he looked truly at home, tearing up the stage clearly in his "zone". Whether he was paired with Trenary or later with Delgado (fantastic partnering with both), or dancing solo, he was riveting. I have never understood why he's so underutilized at NYCB where he seems to be pigeonholed to the jester type of roles. Today, he was set free and he tore it up. It was something I won't forget.

Trenary was simply gorgeous, divine, sumptuous, exquisite - not enough adjectives to describe her today. I've seen her as one of the stompers at ABT and this was a debut role for her and she was magical. She and Freemantle had an unbelievable chemistry in Sinatra Songs. I would love to see them dance together again.

Villaverde and Memoli (my first time seeing both) were also knock-outs, especially paired in Sinatra.

The entire cast was amazing. I wish I could see it again.

 

ABT Fan, I was there today, too, and I wholeheartedly agree with everything you've written! What a joyful exhilarating experience!  I was especially struck by Daniel Ulbricht!  Not only was his dancing stellar but his partnering was top notch. I've always wondered why he is so underutilized at NYCB (those endless jester-type roles -- ugh) and kind of assumed it was perhaps because he couldn't partner up to NYCB's standards. But that is certainly not the case -- he was a strong and fluid and connected and intuitive partner today. It actually makes me mad on his behalf at his lack of opportunity at City Ballet. Why hasn't he had a career like Juaquin De Luz??  Freemantle and Trenary were a magical pairing in Sinatra Songs -- such chemistry. Trenary was a star throughout. Not only is she a true ballerina but she is a real DANCER. Is there anything she can't do? And she exudes such a warm, bright spirit. I'm a huge fan. The whole cast was stellar. MacKay was another surprise! I've only ever seen him dance very classical ballets but he attacked the choreography with such fierce abandon and energy! It was unexpected. Oh, and Jeanette Delgado! Talk about fierceness! And the three Martha Graham men were show stoppers!  I could go on and on and on :) My only regret is that I didn't go to an earlier performance so that I could go again. Best dance performance I've seen in years!

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I think this level of athletic and artistic ability requires a short run.  These dancers were doing superhuman work, and I'm not sure they could do more than a few days of consecutive performances at this high level without injury.   

I think Ulbricht doesn't have the ideal body type for a danseur.  He has never had great line because of this.   That's why he tends to be cast only in modern ballets or as the jester.   However, in the right roles he is priceless.  Tharp is definitely his wheelhouse. 

Tharp in fact has done some great work on Broadway for extended runs (Come Fly Away, Movin Out), but she has also had at least one awful bomb (the one with Bob Dylan's music).  

 

Edited by abatt
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On 10/21/2022 at 5:46 PM, vipa said:

Yes, I believe Sinatra Suite came a year after Nine Sinatra Songs, and it's done by one couple. Originally Baryshnikov and Elaine Kudo. 

I think the choreography is a little different in places as well (?)  Baryshnikov and Kudo are on video and it's a very good recording. Kudo in particular stood out for me, going toe to toe with Baryshnikov and making it look easy.

I'd like to thank cobweb for starting this thread and everyone who reported on the performances here. I'm emerald with envy of everyone who was there.

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Even a week later, I find various images from Upper Room and Nine Sinatra Songs going through my mind. I keep seeing Jacquelin Harris' legs sailing over the stage, and Jeanette Delgado fearlessly leaping sideways into Daniel Ulbricht's arms. I wish I could see that in slow motion - how does she launch herself sideways? 

I am wondering about the title, "In the Upper Room." Does anyone know the story behind this, or what it refers to? I know that google is my friend, but I thought I would start here with so many knowledgeable dance fans. 

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 The ballet has no specific religious content in the ballet, but according to Christian Pentecost the disciples of Jesus were gathered together in an upper room, and the Holy Spirit descended upon them with a rushing wind and tongues of fire.  I think here dance is like a Holy Spirit  that the dancers serve with wild abandon and unrelenting service.  

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On 10/29/2022 at 11:05 AM, cobweb said:

I am wondering about the title, "In the Upper Room." Does anyone know the story behind this, or what it refers to? I know that google is my friend, but I thought I would start here with so many knowledgeable dance fans. 

I'm working on an article about it right now. The whole work was composed before Tharp came up with the title—it actually premiered as "Untitled Glass Work." The title was taken from the Mahalia Jackson gospel song of the same name. One of the dancers was listening to the Jackson in rehearsal breaks, and Tharp asked about it and liked the title. 

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