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Twyla Tharp Trio of Performances with the American Ballet Theatre

Christine Shevchenko in Deuce Coupe. Photo: Gene Schiavone
A strong season of American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center continued impressively on the evening of Thursday, May 30th, with the Tharp Trio, three compelling dance-works by the innovative choreographer, Twyla Tharp, who has had a long association with the company.
Her classical antecedents can be detected in the first piece, the lovely The Brahms-Haydn Variations—originally titled Variations on a Theme by Haydn, after the orchestral work by Johannes Brahms to which it is set—which was given its world premiere by Ballet Theater in the year 2000. The stylistic influence of a choreographer like George Balanchine here provides a contrast with the more contemporary inflections of Tharp’s most celebrated productions. The excellent primary cast included Misty Copeland, Joo Won Ahn, Skylar Brandt, Arron Scott (replacing an injured Herman Cornejo), Stephanie Williams, Blaine Hoven, Zhong-Jing Fang, Calvin Royal III, Sarah Lane, and Gary Pogossian, with strong support from the admirable corps de ballet.
There is an explicit link with the historical ballet vocabulary in the second work on the program—the company premiere of Deuce Coupe from 1973, a piece with many beautiful elements set to music, sometimes glorious, by the Beach Boys—in that, throughout, the marvelous ballerina Christine Shevchenko performs steps from the classical ballet dictionary. However, along this one can simultaneously observe the populist choreography that has brought Tharp her greatest fame, with for example three Broadway shows set to music by Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, and Frank Sinatra. The penultimate sequence, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” was an example of one section that was especially powerful. The massive cast is too large to enumerate so I will only cite some of the more noteworthy dancers, including Stella Abrera, Royal, Isabella Boylston, Copeland, Catherine Hurlin and James Whiteside.
The most representative work on the program was the last, the mesmerizing In the Upper Room from 1986—set to wonderful music by Philip Glass—a not unworthy successor to the Jerome Robbins master work, Glass Pieces of 1983. Again, the ballet featured a huge cast from which I will only mention some of the most memorable: Devon Teuscher, Brandt, Duncan Lyle, Hoven (again replacing Cornejo), Cassandra Trenary, Scott, Boylston, and Thomas Forster. The conclusion elicited an enthusiastic ovation with which the choreographer thrillingly appeared on the stage.

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