“Let’s Dance!” When the legendary Twyla Tharp takes the stage and says these words you know you’re in store for a great evening.
I admit attending the 17th annual Command Performance presented by TITAS and the AT&T Performing Arts Center was a last-minute decision. But one I am glad I made. I can’t believe I almost missed seeing Twyla Tharp in person and the world premiere of her new work Armenia. I also wouldn’t have seen dancers from notable companies such as Alvin Ailey, American Ballet Theatre, The Joffery Ballet and Parsons Dance Company perform some of the most inspiring and groundbreaking works I have ever seen.
I was deeply moved by the first piece titled Splendid Isolation III (pictured above) performed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater members Alicia Graf Mack and Jamar Roberts. Breathless is the word that comes to mind when describing Mack and Roberts dancing. Their movement was so smooth and fluid it made you wonder if they were actually breathing. The dance felt like one long exhale. Even in moments of stillness (see picture above) you could feel the energy flowing from their bodies. And the long white skirt Mack was wearing only added to this allusion.
The first half of the show ended on a light note with Joshua Grant from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo performing a fresh rendition of the Dying Swan solo originally created for Anna Pavlova in 1905. I have been lucky enough to see Les Ballets Trockadero perform previously so I knew what was coming, but it was fun watching the audience’s reaction. Ballet has always carried this stigma of being too serious and complicated to understand. Grant’s solo was anything but serious or complicated and yet, it was still ballet. Dressed in a traditional tutu, pink tights and pointe shoes, Grant put on a technically flawless and extremely exaggerated performance. He took the swan role quite literally with his flapping arms and bobbing head. I personally liked the symbolism of the feathers shedding off his tutu. The audience got a kick out of his drawn-out death, which included multiple convulsions.
The second half of the show included the world premiere of Twyla Tharp’s Armenia. What I enjoy most about Twyla’s choreography is it’s corkiness. The cocked head, knocking knees, heel toe walks: these are all movements I associate with Twyla. She also doesn’t like to waste movement. In Armenia every musical note had a movement attached almost making it a blur to watch. But Chalnessa Eames and Charles Hodges know how to make the movements look sharp and effortless.
All the performances were great and the audience was so very appreciative. The Winspear Opera House in the Dallas Arts District was packed, which I found surprising. But after seeing this show I understand why the Command Performance is so well attended. It was a truly inspiring night and it gives me hope that maybe dance especially ballet isn’t a dying art form.