Until 1970, Ms. Tharp was an experimentalist who made dances without music. It remains remarkable how quickly she established herself as a musical choreographer, and a daring one, too. Often in “The Raggedy Dances” she leaves passages of dancy music unused, but elsewhere her troupe moves through the silent breaks between musical items. It’s as if we’re being allowed to hear most, but not all, of the scores that impel the dancers; she’s one of the rare choreographers who can bring this off persuasively.
“The Fugue,” even though it hasn’t been performed for 14 years, is less of a stranger. Wearing heeled shoes, its three performers, often facing the wings of the stage, perform a series of mini-fugues; they tap, clap, slap, and occasionally count through an enthralling range of structures. Upper bodies bend and arch formally; it’s a marvelously rigorous piece. It has been performed by three women or three men or a blend; the current arrangement, for two women (Ms. Chan and Ms. Gilliland) and one man (Reed Tankersley), is a compelling statement of gender equality. And I like very much Santo Loquasto’s current costumes, with glowingly russet shoes and belts offset by black shirts and trousers.
“Raggedy” and “Fugue” leave a far stronger impression than either “Entr’acte” or “Dylan Love Songs.” Ms. Tharp has sometimes talked dancers and audiences through a staged rehearsal sequence in the past; she does so again in “Entr’acte.” White-haired, brusque, solemn-faced and amusingly no-nonsense, she immediately registers as a character; she’s virtually another vaudeville act, especially as she throws herself into lifts. She and her troupe are all such good movers, so full-bodied and so abounding in dynamic contrasts that “Entr’acte” is certainly entertaining. It’s also bizarrely diffuse, but it’s tempting to overlook that.
“Dylan Love Songs,” for six dancers, is mainly a sequence of duets and solos. At intervals, John Selya enters, apart from the others, in a loose overcoat and broad-brimmed hat. As he stands, observes, moves, we’re allowed to guess that he’s playing a version of Bob Dylan.
Ms. Tharp differentiates between the mood of each of the Dylan numbers used here — a curious anthology — and yet the effect is monochrome. Mr. Tankersley, who in recent years has emerged as a Tharp star, is both energetic and refined, with the more experienced Matthew Dibble often a perfect counterpart, but Ms. Tharp’s subject here seems less Mr. Dylan than her own stylishness.
I never believed for a moment in Mr. Selya (in the past one of her greatest stylists); here he’s posiness personified. Rika Okamoto made a few appearances in clownlike mode. And the superficial nature of these two performances diminishes the whole piece. The others are all more alluring, but the characters they play and the loves they enact have no real depth.
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