Both programs in Twyla Tharp Dance's two-day Power Center residency, on March 23 and 24, include two works choreographed specifically for this sextet. Surfer at the River Styx, an intense dance drama performed on both days, packs a sustained emotional punch aided by Donald Knaack's unconventional percussive score. According to Tharp, it's an examination of hubris loosely based on Euripides' Bacchae. But inhabiting this allegorical shell is signature Tharp: full-out physicality with a driving rhythm and beat. Her dancers attack the eclectic material with enthusiasm and attitude. Four costumed in black represent the river, while the two conflicted souls (one in surfer garb) perform athletic solos on their journey to the other side. Poignant and provocative, the piece concludes on a redemptive note.
It would be a shame not to see the smart new Twyla Tharp Dance before the current cast of dancers is reshuffled, or it grows into a grander style of company altogether. Take someone who claims to be unmoved by the expressive power of modern dance. Such preconceptions should be put to rest straightaway.
[Originally published in March, 2002.]