twyla tharp dance

twyla tharp: the catherine wheel

How I got to photograph Twyla Tharp’s company so soon after I began photographing dance is a miracle. Kathy DeShaw, who helped promote the Dianne McPherson show, worked for Twyla and told her about the pictures I did for Dianne. All of a sudden, I was in the empty orchestra section at BAM, photographing a Twyla Tharp dress rehearsal.

As you can imagine, I was so excited to be there. In a few months I went from shooting in little box theaters to the large elegant stage of BAM. All of Twyla’s dancers were so perfect. I had no idea I was photographing one of the best modern companies in the world. I still knew so little about dance. It would spoil me for the rest of my life and raise the level of what I expected out of a dancer and choreographer

My vision of how a dance should be presented on stage matched Twyla’s perfectly. I think because of all of her work on movies, Twyla’s choreography works so well within the frame of a camera. During her dances, potential pictures are everywhere. While photographing a Twyla Tharp piece, I could always find two or three dancers perfectly composed for an image even as they continued to move across the stage. As one dancer left the group another would enter, always maintaining the composition. Even when shooting close-ups, I could sense how the organization of a group would morph into the shape and composition I was looking for. 30 years later, I’ve never felt this bond with another company except possibly Cedar Lake Dance.

Twyla Tharp dancers photographed September, 1982

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