Dance Double Header: Twyla Tharp Dance and Bobbi Jene

Sometimes the dance gods dish out back-to-back goodness. This week was one of those weeks. On Thursday I attended the Twyla Tharp Dance performance at The Joyce Theater, and then the next evening — thank you CUNY Dance Initiative for your post — I won free tickets to see a documentary called Bobbi Jene, about a dancer who leaves (my favorite dance company) Batsheva in Israel and moves back to the U.S. to create her own work. So where to start?

Twyla Tharp Dance and Bobbi JeneTwyla Tharp. I have never seen her dance company perform, but I had read — actually, devoured — her book on creativity. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life taught me so much, I even dreamed about it. (I have her other book, The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together on reserve at the library.) At The Joyce that evening, I saw The Raggedy Dances and enjoyed the whimsicality; The Fugue, with it’s theme of tension/release; and the groovy Dylan Love Songs. The dancers were fantastic. Really — all of them were supremely talented, and Kellie Drobnick stood out in particular. I wish I could say I absolutely loved the choreography, but in all honesty, it was just a little too literal and theatrical for my tastes. I will tell you what I did love, however: the ENTR’ACTE, where Twyla Tharp came on stage with her dancers and showed us what a rehearsal was like. She even danced herself, and it was wonderful to behold. Truly. This unexpected, surprise performance (it was not printed in the program, but added as an insert) was so startlingly different than the entire evening’s choreography that I encourage more exploration in this area. I could have sat through much more of this. Much, much more.

Now Bobbi Jene. None of my friends were free at such a last minute to head to the Quad Cinemas to see this documentary, so I arrived early and gave my extra ticket to a young dancer who had recently taken a class with Bobbi Jene Smith. That made my day, and I settled into a documentary that I knew would feature a dancer that performed with Batsheva, and I was excited to see clips of the company performing. (I have blogged about them numerous times. The most recent post is here.) What I didn’t anticipate was the effect that Bobbi Jene herself would have on me. By the end of the movie, when I saw clips of her performance entitled A Study on Effort, I had already fallen for her. She is real, authentic, vulnerable, present, trusting, and brave. Her dancing and choreography embodies those qualities. I have never cried at a dance performance, and the tears flowed spontaneously when I saw her solo performance in this film. Her ability to be so vulnerable freed something inside me. I used to work right next door to The Invisible Dog Art Center, where she has performed this piece in conjunction with PS122. I regret not knowing of her work sooner. I wish I had been there, and I hope to see her dance one day. If she is not on your radar, she should be. If you love documentaries about dance, you should seek out Bobbi Jene.

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