Speakeasy with Twyla Tharp 

The world-renowned dancer/choreographer talks candidly about her inspirations for Come Fly with Me

Tony Award-winning dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp once again explores the dynamics between music and love through her latest production, Come Fly With Me. Using the sounds of Ol' Blue Eyes, she tells the love stories of four couples during one evening at a club. As always with Tharp, viewers should expect a night of great dance, vivid colors, and “the exploration of ‘Romance’ with a capital ‘R.’” Come Fly With Me opens Wed., Sept. 23, 8 p.m., at the Alliance Theatre.

Like most little girls, you started dancing at a young age. When did you have that “This is it” moment when you realized dance would be a part of your life forever?
When I graduated from college. I had a choice to go to graduate school or to dance and I decided that dancing was what I did best so that’s what I’d do.

Was there anyone or anything in particular that helped you to make that decision?
Not really, I just loved to dance.

What is your favorite piece that you’ve choreographed?
Oh, that’s not fair to ask! They’re like children. Every one of them has a purpose.

“Sinatra Suite," “Once More Frank, and “Nine Sinatra Songs” are among your most widely recognized pieces. With Come Fly With Me, you’ve created another show inspired by Frank Sinatra. How is the current show different from your other Sinatra pieces?
It became about a character, not simply couples dancing. Not that there’s anything the matter with couples dancing, but that’s one approach. When character is introduced, that suggests that perhaps narrative might come into play, which is the case with the current Sinatra. There are four couples whose relationship evolves during the course of one evening at a club. So, it is in fact a dramatic presentation as well as a dance presentation.

OK, so why choose Sinatra’s music to do all this? You could tell a love story with almost any artist’s body of work.
Yes, but you couldn’t have the history that I do. Nor could you make the return to the scene as it were. Are you familiar with Proust? In the last book, after the narrator goes into the library and experiences his entire lifetime from a mature point of view, the entire story is seen from that point of view. [Similarly] in order to accomplish such a revisit I needed to have — and was grateful to find that in fact I did have — a bedding of material that I could look at from a greater reach than I had had when I was living inside it.

Music is clearly one of your greatest sources of inspiration. From where else do you draw ideas for your choreography?
Well, I majored in art history in school so obviously I’m very aware of the visual component. I think that when you see this piece you’ll be very pleased with the colors. The designers worked together very, very well and I think very beautifully on a color palette. So that certainly fed into the work.

The other component [that contributed to] the sense of these couples — including who they are and their relationships — comes from reading that I’ve done in the last couple of years, primarily the 19th-century novel, and primarily Tolstoy and Balzac with a little Dickens thrown in because he’s so perverse. But really they’re all perverse. [laughs] Anyhow, that informs my sense of how men and women see one another and function together to some degree.

What contemporary music are you listening to right now that might inspire future work?
Right now I’m listening to no music but Sinatra.

Nobody else? You don’t have any free time to pop in your iPod?
No, I have no free time. Imagine what’s involved here. There’s no detail that goes onstage that a director does not touch. I’m embedded in this project. This is what I’m doing. This is who I am right now.


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