(Swans - November 21, 2011) On those rare occasions when two artists of equal brilliance connect, a powerful symbiosis is born and art is powerfully replenished. Something of that sort happened at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood a few weeks back when Twyla Tharp's choreography coalesced with the songs of Frank Sinatra and a special kind of fusion rocked the theatre.
Tharp has transformed the art of modern dance, producing a kind of aesthetic frenzy that stretches the imagination of both her dancers and those members of the audience who never believed ballet could delve so deeply or produce such tantalizing results.
The dances are accompanied by many of the songs, which, over the years, have become unmistakably associated with the crooner from New Jersey. As these numbers sizzle in the background, Tharp's dancers weave a series of vignettes about frustrated love, rejection, and rapture. Throughout the run of eighty minutes, there is a constant undercurrent of sexuality with male dancers tossing female partners from one suitor to another while elements of breakdancing and moonwalking compete with modern choreography accompanied by the recorded voice of Sinatra as he bemoans lovers lost and hearts broken. The show's title, Come Fly Away, is very apt as these dancers are airborn for most of the performance.
Over the years, Tharp has developed a style that is all her own, combining athleticism and narrative. In traditional ballet we are enthralled with the brilliance of the dancers' technique; with Tharp we follow a clear-cut storyline: lovers at odds with one another, pursuits and rejections; a tendency to express heartbreak and using movement to embellish a story that expresses romantic collisions. This is the same subject matter that becomes joyously upbeat in Sinatra's songs in which lost loves are bereaved.
On the face of it, the combination of a crooner and a slew of modern dancers would appear to be incompatible, but in this fusion one art form replenishes the other.
The title is very apt. The invitation to Come Fly Away is escapism of the highest order and well worth the trip.
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