Volume 16 • Issue 16 | September 16 - 22, 2003


ARTS



Twyla Tharp/downtown folks revive 60’s spirit

By Susan Phillips

Celebrating community and retro-fashion, 100 ordinary folk danced with Twyla Tharp on a Battery Park stage last Tuesday night to a packed crowd. The performance, titled “The One Hundreds,” sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, revived a work Tharp created during her farmer-hippie days in the 1960’s.

Because she found it hard to gather 100 professional dancers in upstate’s Shenango County, Tharp decided to teach the modern dance routine to novices.

“I wanted to appeal to the dancer buried in all of us,” Tharp told the audience Tuesday night.

The performance was part of a five-day Evening Stars Music and Dance Festival, the LMCC sponsored in Battery Park.

Tharp also wanted to raise up those buried hippies. Starting the performance with a 1960’s-era vintage clothing contest, the volunteer dancers competed for the “most visible” and the “most authentic” costume, judged by the audience.

Greenwich Village resident and Chelsea gallery owner, Frederieke Taylor, won the most applause with her vintage, red Vera Maxwell dress. Holding her prize, one of Tharp’s used and worn-out sneakers, Taylor beamed after the performance.

“It was so much fun, Twyla has so much energy,” said Taylor.

Taylor thought the 60’s era nostalgia was a nice touch to the community dance performance.

“It really works because it’s on the very personal level. It loosens you up and creates an immediate bond. People who never met each other were chatting.”

Once the call went out, there was no shortage of volunteers. Stock brokers, lawyers, dance critics, artists, real estate sales people, retirees and children practiced for 15 minutes before heading onto the stage for the grand finale 11-minute performance.

“The whole piece is a celebration of the fact that everyone can dance,” said Ellen Jacobs, publicist for Twyla Tharp Dance. “It’s a way of joining people together, a ’60’s idea that doesn’t exist anymore.”

A video montage of interviews, conducted by Tharp of the volunteer dancers, asked questions such as: “are we more optimistic now than in the ‘60’s?” It played on the side of the stage.

Five professional dancers from Tharp’s company danced the piece, synchronizing with early black and white film footage of the original “The One Hundreds” performances. No music accompanied the dance; instead Tharp narrated each piece with light-hearted tales of life on the farm.

“It was fabulous, there was such a good sense of humor,” said Karen Helmerson, who lives just two blocks from Battery Park and works for the New York State Council on the Arts. Helmerson participated in the community dance segment at the end. “I hope the audience had as good of a time as we did,” she said.

Two friends enjoying the good weather and the free performance, Eva Sjuve and Nuria Divi, did have fun.

“It was great to have the community involved,” said Sjuve, an artist from the Lower East Side. “It’s nice that [the opportunity to dance] is available to anyone, not many people do that.”

Tharp emphasized that movement should be a part of everyone’s life. “Movement is democratic,” she said.


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