A new interview with Twyla Tharp, by New York-based dance writer Gia Kourlas, is now available online on the website of Dance Magazine. It’s well worth a read. Here is the link.
Reading the article so soon after seeing In the Upper Room in Melbourne, I was inspired to search through my bookshelf for Tharp’s autobiography, Push comes to shove, published in 1992. There I read a little about the genesis of and inspiration for In the Upper Room. In particular, I was fascinated by Tharp’s account of the role of the two women who open and close the work. Tharp writes:
In picturing the great ferocious and brave porcelain dragon dogs that guard Zen temples, I was also seeing a family of small black-and-white china bulldogs that were kept in the front parlor of my Gram Bertha’s farmhouse. These had been passed down from Sarah Margaret Cherry Confer, my small Quaker great-grandmother who held the world together through all adversity. As I cast Shelley [Washington] and Chris [Uchida] in this role, to guard and organize the stage, I realized we had been building the strength for them to take on this work for more than a decade. These two women had become the ultimate in what I think of as my power women.*
She then goes on to talk, in a wonderfully analytical manner, about the structure of the work and where and how these two women (whom she called the Bomb Squad) fit into the whole. Now I look forward even more to seeing In the Upper Room again when the Australian Ballet’s 20:21 program goes to Sydney.
Michelle Potter, 2 September 2015
* Twyla Tharp, Push comes to shove: an autobiography (New York: Bantam Books, 1992), pp. 305–306.