Apollinaire: Call out to choreographers: How about a Dylan dance lovefest to chase away the Twyla Tharp blues? Eva responds. Apollinaire responds to the response

The reviews are in for Twyla Tharp’s song medley with chipmunks on trampolines, “The Times They are A-Changin,'” and they’re not negative enough.
It’s not that critics think the Broadway show is any good, but too often they’re so baffled by how bad it is that they refuse to believe their eyes and ears: they think they must have missed something (for example, Newsweek or the Star-Ledger).
C’mon. Tharp chose Billy Joel tunes as the soundtrack to her last musical–the moral of which was, aerobics will set you free. Of course she doesn’t know what to do with Dylan.
Any number of choreographers would, though.
Wouldn’t it be neat to have a Dylan dance fest? Choreographers could respond any way they wanted: to a single image in a single song, to the cadence of his singular voice, to the old weird America his songs steal from. They could even take a song and loop it a la Steve Reich. Anything.
Then they could invite him (and he wouldn’t come).
P.S. I’ve only seen Dylan once. A friend said, He’s getting old, he may die, we can’t wait any longer. So we got in my junky car–or maybe it was his junky car–and drove down the peninsula to sit on a green hill and watch a tiny figure at its base. Dylan was happy, a little drunk, and none of the songs came out like anything I’d ever heard before. He did a little two-step while singing and strumming that was more interesting and sexy than anything going on in the Tharp.
Eva Yaa Asantewaa responds:
For years, I’ve been telling anyone who’d listen that I’d love to see a musical built around the great songs of Stevie Wonder. Now that I’ve heard about the results of Tharp’s Dylan project–a dubious idea to begin with–I will never again argue for a Stevie Wonder jukebox musical. And can we all board a time machine and go back to the days before this sort of thing became a trend?
Apollinaire, it might be interesting, indeed, to see individual dances inspired by Dylan’s elusive, incantatory, and fierce poetry. There are probably choreographers who might be up to the daunting task. But the idea of stringing Dylan songs together and splicing them into some concocted narrative sounds beyond silly to me. No offense to Billy Joel fans, but what you might get away with with the Piano Man’s more straightforward pop tunes is one thing. Dylan is quite another.
Apollinaire responds: yeah, I agree: Making a narrative out of Dylan’s elusive and allusive songs is foolish. The terrible thing is: Tharp didn’t have to. She could have done whatever she wanted. Dylan gave her free rein. The fact that the tunes were his would have brought people into the theater to see what she was up to regardless. She could have used it as an opportunity to stretch the Broadway audience. Instead she condescended to them.
I do think it would be neat if choreographers did like musicians: covers of a songwriter they admired. Or they could do “covers” of a choreographer they admired. Of course, that happens all the time in large companies. It’s called “repertory.” I wonder what the downtown equivalent would be? Tere O’Connor tweaking a section of Cunningham’s “RainForest”? Imagine: a night of Cunningham “covers”!
Come to think of it, postmodern icon Yvonne Rainer’s revamp of Balanchine’s “Agon” for “Sourcing Stravinsky” at Dance Theater Workshop this spring was a cover. The modern dancers doing the Balanchine moves looked positively ridiculous–what a bunch of clods! But I think the moral of the story was: Balanchine’s choreography is so strong, it will survive any fool.
Not a moral that needs to be made, I don’t think. In pop music, the idea of the cover is that the interpreters add something to the song, rather than just beating it up and leaving us with the pulp. The Sex Pistols’ version of Sinatra’s “My Way” is an example of how far out you can go and still reveal something about the original.

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