Twyla Moves (2021) Movie Script

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-There he is.
Oh, he has on
his yellow bandana.
How handsome.
Okay. So, Herman, let's talk
about what we're doing here.
We want to start to find
what we call the heartbeat
for the character
that you are.
Can you transfer and fall
back in the air?
Yes, you can.
The world of dance closed down.
The pandemic totally closed
the opportunities
for dancers to work,
dances to get made,
dances to get presented.
Maybe I can connect a dancer
with another dancer
through Zoom,
and we can create
a single thing,
and we can pull us together
even though we're miles apart.
Dancers have to work every day.
I have to work every day.
How are we going to do this?
-One thing you can always
expect from choreographer
Twyla Tharp,
that is the unexpected.
-Twyla Tharp has transformed
American dance
as both a performer
and choreographer.
Her work transcends traditional
definitions of the medium,
combining elements
of ballet and modern dance.
How are you?
-I'm good.
How are you?
-Good morning, Benjamin.
Would like to tell you
just a bit about this project.
-Misty! Girl!
-Whenever I see Twyla's name
come up on my phone,
I'm just like, I don't know
what to expect,
but I know
it's going to be exciting.
-Let's see if we can bring
St. Petersburg
and L.A. together.
People -- We can bring
people together.
This is about introducing
the four main characters
in a tale called
"The Princess and the Goblin."
It's going to be a reduction
of the entire novel,
less than three minutes,
in which the Princess Irene
is going to go
into the underworld.
That has a species of people
that have been
in quarantine forever,
and she is going to help them
find a way to be released.
So, Maria, the character
that you are playing,
her name is Irene.
The girl is the hero.
The character you are playing
is the Queen.
-Ah, of course.
The people who live
with you in the underworld
are in quarantine.
They've been in quarantine
for centuries, for epochs,
and they, too,
would like to get out.
How long have you been
in quarantine?
I think I'm going into
my ninth week.
We're making a piece in two
dimensions and four squares.
We don't have a stage,
but we have a virtual platform.
Let's get it on YouTube,
and let's share it with people.
I had just graduated
from college,
and I wanted space to work in
'cause I was going
to be a dancer.
There was a loft
on Franklin Street.
I went downtown
and found the street,
but not the building.
There was a man seated
on the stoop.
His name was Bob Huot.
Said, "Are you looking
for a loft?"
I said, "Yeah."
He said, "Okay, upstairs."
That was on the fourth floor.
I started up.
He was on the third floor.
The rent on this floor
was 50 bucks a month.
That sounded good to me.
And there was nothing --
literally nothing --
below Canal Street
but artists in these spaces,
which were illegal.
Became aware of other people
in the area
who had lofts
and who were working
and who were far more
established than I.
I had graduated in art history,
but these guys
were practicing art.
That's very different.
Suddenly, you're in front of,
you know, the guys
who are going to determine
the history of American art.
That's, "Whoa!"
I was a kid.
I didn't have any
tangible foundation.
These people had
all done something.
They were all moving on
from somewhere they had been.
I was still looking
for a place to start.
While I was still
at Barnard College,
I had also been studying dance.
I took ballet class
with your Igor Schwezoff.
I was taking classes
at Cunningham Studio.
I was taking classes
at the Graham Studio.
Paul Taylor was in class.
He was just starting a company,
and I just managed to get
into one of his rehearsals.
Marched in, sat on the floor
in the front of the room,
he said, "Who are you?"
and I said, "My name is Twyla.
I'm gonna be dancing here."
He was so shocked,
he didn't throw me out.
I was a very unpleasant
company member.
I would have fired me
long before he did.
I felt the work
was not challenging.
I didn't feel he was
challenging himself.
And I told him so.
He just looked at me and said,
"Well, maybe you better go out
and try trial by fire,
and I said, "Okay."
So, I would just try
to do a dance,
which was called "Tank Dive."
It was called "Tank Dive"
because I always said, "Okay.
Your chances of becoming
successful are about the same
as somebody jumping off
a hundred-foot pole
into a thimble of water.
Good luck.
We'll call it 'Tank Dive.'"
I used no music in "Tank Dive"
and for every piece during
the next five years.
What I needed to learn was,
"What could movement
Not movement to music.
Because if I do a phrase
to happy music,
everybody would be happy.
If I do the same phrase to sad,
they'll all be sad.
What if I just do the phrase?
What will they feel?
-I gave myself stuff to do
that nobody else was doing.
That was the point.
And nobody else was standing
still on relev
for a minute and a half.
It did what
it was supposed to do --
it launched a career,
like the diving board
that you use to dive
down into the water.
And then you got to
learn how to swim.
The next piece, "Stride,"
was done in what would
now be called
an alternative space,
which was a rooftop in Brooklyn.
I don't remember
how we snuck in.
It must've been
over a fire escape or something
to get in.
I was not trying to make
the world's greatest dance.
I was just trying to find
a starting place
that had enough
substance to evolve.
There you go.
We're together now.
Okay, guys, so here's
what we're going to do.
-When the pandemic started,
I had no idea what to expect.
I want to say I was surprised
that Twyla came callin',
but at the same time, I wasn't.
-And three, and...
-I've been working with her
for, I think, 22 years.
There's never something
that could hold Twyla back
from creating or working.
It feeds her.
It's something
that she has to do.
-Herman, you remember,
you've been trying to sleep,
but you've been woken up
because stone shoes here
is stomping around
and keeping you awake,
and you go over
to listen at the wall.
You're going to go over
to downstage left,
and you're going to pull him
through the wall.
That is a spatial difficulty.
-The way she approaches
it's not about the steps.
It's more than that.
-She's gonna yank you in to --
That's it, right.
There, we got it.
-When she comes into a studio
and says,
"No, you do this
because of that,
and because of that,
you do that,
and then all of this
is combined,
and this is the movement,"
and you're like, "Wow."
And then you try
to do the movement like that,
and it's so difficult.
Like, she's not sitting
and telling you what to do.
Like, she stands up
and goes into the space
and does it.
And then you try to do it.
And you're like,
"Oh, my back went out."
-We're all trying
to keep up with her
is the moral of the story.
-I've just pulled him
through the wall.
I'm gonna give him --
unh! -- a big yank,
and I'm gonna take him
around the space,
and I'm going
to throw him upstage.
Make a little more work
about leveraging
him around the corner.
Make more movement for yourself
going through.
That's it!
Now give it a hoist.
-The idea was so new
just in terms of, like,
entering into this new state,
you know,
where everything's virtual,
everything's on Zoom.
And even in this stage
of her career, in her life,
she's setting the standard
for where dance is evolving to.
-I, early on, felt the need
to have companionship
in the dancing
and also counterpoint
in the dancing.
That requires
more than yourself.
We began as all women
because we didn't want
to be told what to do.
We work together
as women can work together,
which is very tight.
We put a man in,
the chemistry changes.
The "Bunch of Broads,"
we called ourselves.
But I worked hard to have
diversity, you might say,
in the group,
both culturally diverse
but also physically diverse.
her movement is just huge.
She could fling really wide.
She was very, very strong.
Sheela was amazingly fast --
small, compact, very rhythmic.
Theresa was lanky
and a different
kind of weight in her body.
Rose was a classically
trained dancer.
She was very large.
She was almost
6 foot on point.
She auditioned for
the New York City Ballet,
but Balanchine thought
she was too tall.
I didn't care how tall she was.
She was a great dancer.
was a true lyric dancer.
There were no gaps
in her movement.
Sara was just luscious.
Sara was just great.
She was --
Everything she did
was right all the time.
She was a natural dancer.
So we were
a well-balanced group.
We had very little
rehearsal space.
And in order to get
more work time,
we just started
working in the park.
I started thinking
about distances,
and I started thinking about,
"Oh, somebody who's close,
you do this kind of movement,
and you'll see it.
But when they're 20 feet away,
you do that,
you're not going to see that.
You got to do
this kind of movement.
And if they're 40 feet away,
and then if they're
a hundred yards down there,
you got to do this."
Here are all these people,
they're having their lives,
they're walking around,
they don't have to buy tickets
and sit down.
You're interjecting
yourself into their reality.
There were football games
going through us
and horseback people,
and, you know,
babies are squalling
and bicycles
are going through the dance.
And you're saying,
"Yeah, we're just the same
as a bicycle or --
We're just an element
in the park."
That's not what
theatrical dance is.
Theatrical dance is separated --
here's the audience,
here's the event.
We were merged.
-And there was a very long,
slow adagio at the end
that went on forever,
and the sun
is setting behind it.
And that's how
you knew it was over,
because the energy
had run out.
"Medley" had been seen
by a curator
named Henry Geldzahler,
who was assembling a show at
the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
And he invited us to be included
in that show.
He put dance in the middle
of painting and sculpture.
We were doing work that,
you know,
fit into spaces
that were not staged spaces.
Stages were for
ballet companies.
I was not in that tradition.
I was in the tradition,
"Just get out there and do it."
We had no obligations
other than to dance
as well as we could dance.
And that ended.
Everybody began to need money.
Sheela and Graciela's
green cards ran out,
and they couldn't renew.
Theresa got married
and moved away.
Margery got married
and moved away.
We couldn't earn an income.
We couldn't develop a life.
We didn't have a studio.
I felt like we'd been building
but obviously a future
in dance at this point
was out of the question.
So I quit.
There was nothing
more to be done.
And I left New York.
Okay, Misty, this was right on
the beginning of your one.
And one, two, four.
And pull him across.
And take him around.
And give him a big push.
Good. Thank you.
Okay. That's the idea.
I thought actually you were
one count late pulling him in.
-What I don't know
is whether you guys
have got a time lag.
-Can we just count?
-Yes, totally.
See? Stop. Stop.
My one is one, one
before your one.
No, I don't think it's us,
I think it is the connection.
So, listen, guys, this
technology will make us crazy,
but you know what?
We'll fight our way through it.
There is a discipline to taking
a more restricted arena
and learning lessons
and finding potential there,
which is what the Zoom is.
The zoom is very restrictive.
I've always been my best tool.
I work whenever and however
I need to
so that
I've been able to evolve
a lot of material on myself.
Dances come from dancing.
I don't make a dance.
I dance, and then something
starts to make sense.
A dance will evolve,
if the idea is good enough.
I try not to get emotional
about the past
because you were so much younger
and the body
was so much more malleable,
and you just can't
allow yourself
to go back there and feel that.
So you have to go back there
and look at it
for the lessons
that you can use.
By 1970, I had married
Bob Huot,
the gentleman on the stoop
at 104 Franklin Street.
Bob Huot and I moved to a farm
four hours north of the city
in order to start a family.
I was pregnant.
I started working
on the farmhouse.
I started doing chores.
But soon Rose came up
and then Sarah came
because they didn't
want to stop dancing
any more than I did.
We're dancers.
You don't just stop dancing.
We had been too embedded
in the work we were doing
to just let it go.
So soon we were working again
on a piece called "The Fugue."
One, two, three, four, three,
boom, one, one, two, three,
four, three, two, one, one, two,
three, four, three, two, one,
one, two, three, four,
one, two, three,
one, two, three, four,
three, two, one,
one, two, three,
four, five, six, seven, eight.
I also had a studio
in the attic.
And I was able there to set up
a secondhand
Panasonic video deck
that I had brought
from the city.
And the project that I started
was to record movement
that I could do at different
stages of the pregnancy safely.
So, how does a body change?
This was going to be
an opportunity
to learn
some interesting lessons.
There was no other way to do it.
Bob, my husband, was not happy.
He was not happy to have
his family life disrupted.
And that time was being shared
between his family-to-be
and the work
that was being done.
I thought these two
could fit together.
He felt they could not.
Jesse was born.
Then I went in a totally
different direction after that.
I went back to New York.
We changed course
to start developing
a mode of engaging an audience
that would pay the bills
because now we had diapers
to buy.
Jess was our companion,
and Jess was a part of our lives
and part of our work.
He'd be in there on the floor
and he was always in the studio
with us.
-I was aware early
on that my parents
were very different
than everybody else's parents.
They believed in their art
as being the primary focus
of their existence.
Mom and Dad were on
very different wavelengths.
-Bob and I were divorced.
And he was on the farm.
I was working in New York.
I became the sole breadwinner.
And it was a change of heart
that was an artistic change
of heart
as well as
a romantic change of heart
because I was no longer willing
to be in the avant garde.
Now we were building dances
that were going to be performed
for paying audiences.
Up until this point, our
performances had all been free.
We used to be,
in the avant garde,
ragged hair hanging down
blue jeans are torn,
so on and so forth.
We started realizing
if we are going to become
a commercially viable entity,
we have to put on a show.
And it was suggested that our
hair needed to have attention.
I would go and set the example.
I went to Sassoon,
which was a big deal in dance
because we all
did the bun-head thing
or we had long hair or whatever.
And I had this hair
that was flying around.
We got costumes.
"Eight Jelly Rolls" featured me
in a role as a silent clown.
Those early pieces
were kind of tribute pieces
to American theatrics.
In vaudeville,
women did not do
the stuff Buster Keaton did.
So, I said, "Well,
I can do that stuff.
"Okay, guys can do it,
I can do it.
I can do a pratfall."
I didn't want to be stopped
by any of the sort of clichs
about what women could do
or couldn't do.
And it was a sort of progression
from austere, kind of in-silence
pieces to show-biz pieces.
Show the folks a good time.
-The pieces we do now
are nothing like
the pieces we did then,
but they're all rooted in the
same, you know, integrity
and intelligence
and desire to work
and find out what dancing is
and what we wanted to do.
-I made the fastest, hardest
dancing I could think of.
There are some
very literal gestures.
I mean, for example,
the banjo solo that I do
starts out with hitching a ride
down the street.
How do you do?
I'm knocking off my foot.
Oh, yeah, there it goes.
Oh, I see it. I see it.
I still need a ride.
How are you?
I'm washing my hands
of this whole mess.
Oh, I hate you a lot.
I'm bowing down here,
this cello.
I am shooting craps.
Shame on you.
You're a bad person.
Traffic goes this way.
Hello out there.
Again, I will polish the mirror,
and then bouncing a basketball.
And then this is my notion of
some Jewish something or other.
And then we have this
black bottom number put in
because it is called
"The Black Bottom Stomp."
And then we go
to the knock-kneed sheriff,
and the last
little dirty movement
that we can put in before it
comes to fast diagonal.
And that all happens
at this tempo.
-One, two, two, two.
Sara and Rose were the nucleus.
We were all women.
Then suddenly we got a man.
Ken Rinker was
the first man with us,
and he went into
"The Bix Pieces."
Because he was really good.
We had now grown to five.
We had an administrator.
We were called
Twyla Tharp Dance.
We were a company.
At one point, I had one of the
dancers do a phrase of movement
in a sort of modern dancing
kind of way,
and the other one is doing it
totally classically.
It was that section that
Bob Joffrey saw.
And Joffrey looked at it
and said, "Holy cow.
She could make a ballet."
So Joffrey came to me
after the "Bix"
and said, "Would you make a
ballet for my company?"
And, ah, one, two,
four, one.
Four and one.
I said, "Well, shall I start
with 'Swan Lake'?"
And he nicely said,
"No, I think it'd be good
to do something shorter first."
So then I said, "Okay,
I will do a ballet,
"but I need to bring
my dancers in as well
"because I can't just
abandon them.
"Sara and Rose here -- we've
been together for 10 years.
Ken just came in.
You'll take us all."
He agreed.
"Okay, fine, it'll be
two companies working together."
"It'll be a modern company
with a ballet company.
That's fine. We'll do that."
And I said, "And I think
I'll use The Beach Boys."
This is a ballet company, right?
We don't do The Beach --
He did. He said, "Okay."
-The Beach Boys is straight out,
hard-core pop music.
And I put it
into the ballet world.
And I'm sure that
the classicists, if you will --
"Oh, my God. Can this be?"
And I didn't think of it
from that point of view
because I thought that
the Joffrey ballet audience
wanted something with energy
and something that was fresh.
And The Beach Boys
had a vitality
and a "Let's get going here,"
you know?
Like, all of their songs
are about motion.
-When I was riding the subways
and was seeing the graffiti
painted on the sides
of the subways --
this was just happening.
These guys were just coming out.
I was like, "Whoa,
that is something else.
We need that behind us."
Because "Deuce Coupe"
turned out to be
about the sort of spirit
and adventure of teenagers.
And that seemed to me
the perfect background.
-These guys -- they were
wanted by the police.
We had to lock them up upstairs
so that they wouldn't
get arrested between shows.
They were outlaws.
-When I started to work
in the Joffrey,
for the men it was maybe
a bit challenging.
They were not accustomed
to having women
tell them what to do
or where to go.
Two, three, four.
The men in his company
really didn't want to hear
from a female choreographer.
And a number of them
went to Bob Joffrey
and said,
"We don't want to do this."
And Bob said, "That's too bad.
Get back in there and do it,
or you're fired."
I learned from "Deuce Coupe and
from working with Bob Joffrey
that I could do it.
For a young person to have a man
with his experience,
believed in my vision,
said, "Okay, kid,
you can do this.
You got a future."
That made one very confident.
If Bob Joffrey says
you can do it, go for it.
The Zoom has been a window
into dancers
that's very interesting
and very different
because they're at home.
-Hello, little petit.
Oh, he's fast asleep,
and he's getting very large.
Hi, Dad.
This is my son, Jesse.
-Hello. Good morning.
-You're coming into their home.
You're coming into time
shared with them
in a very different way.
And you're working on --
I really appreciate it --
through your dinner hour, right?
Now, you begin
with one little step,
one little beat to the front,
one little step saut
and a piqu arabesque.
That's it.
Good. Okay, good.
Very nice, Maria.
Very, very nice.
After you've done the mazurka
and the little bourre,
Curdie is going to be coming
in upstage left.
Okay. Good.
Alright. Good, Benjamin.
Very good.
You need to be just a little bit
more exaggerated
with your action.
When the earth shakes, it needs
to be a little bit bigger.
When she hits the ground,
it's gotta be,
"Oh, what's happening here?"
Do you know about me?
I'll tell you all
about my history.
I grew up working
in a drive-in theater
from the time I was 8 years old
until I went to college.
I saw probably 1,000 cartoons
as a young person.
My entire world view is formed
on that kind of time
and that kind of exaggeration.
The family's Quaker.
And they had stringent thoughts
about morality
and about discipline
and responsibility.
My mother was a concert pianist.
She started teaching piano
when the war came
in order to help support
the family.
So she herself had never
accomplished as an artist
what she wanted to.
And she was never known
as an artist.
She, from the get-go, planned
that this child of hers
was going to accomplish that.
Southern Indiana,
the community was very poor.
And my mother determined
that her children
were not going to get
the future she wanted for them.
And she moved the family
to Southern California.
She started all of her kids
on ear training
when we were not
even a year old.
By the time I was 2
I was already being taken
to a professional
children's teacher.
I was playing a children's
violin, small violin
by the time I was 4.
Whether it was dance or music
or percussion or painting
or elocution or German,
in case we had another war
with the Germans
I should speak German,
French because the ballet is
in French.
We needed to speak French.
Typing I can do very well.
Shorthand I had
in case all else failed.
My mother always went out
of her way
to find the very best teachers
that she can find.
She ended up driving
hundreds of miles every week
to have ballet lessons.
And I'm doing my homework
by the glove compartment light
while we're driving
to San Marino,
which is 120 miles round trip.
She'd drive it twice
or three times a week.
My brothers and sister
did have teenage years.
They did go to dances.
They were part of
the school activities.
They did have cars.
They learned to drive --
none of these things that I do
because I was much too busy
being groomed
to become something.
I do regret not having had
more interaction
with young people my age.
Feeling so isolated,
pulled away from everybody.
How to relate to other people --
I didn't have lessons in that.
Sometimes I think my mom
gave me lessons
in everything
that's possible in life
except how to live life.
Good morning, Maria.
Maria, please meet Benjamin.
Benjamin, meet Maria.
-Nice to meet you.
-Hello. Very nice to meet you.
-One of the big challenges
of this whole project
and what we're working
to do here
is establish that people
who are as separate as we are
can be connected.
And so you have to make the
impossible theatrically real.
Now, one thing
that's going to help us there
is spatial accuracy.
And go, Benjamin!
Okay. Hold on. Thank you.
Yeah. Thatagirl.
Back it off
to the edge of your hawk.
Is she going to bow first,
or are you, Benjamin?
Which would you say in this
kind of character role?
-I should, I think.
-Well, who do you think, Maria?
-I think me.
-She thinks her.
Why does Irene bow first?
-Because she was taught
all of these manners
and she's
a very well-behaved girl.
I don't know.
-And why did you think
he bowed first, Benjamin?
-Well, because I'm the man.
He needs to show her...
-There you are.
This is our culture.
We live in it.
MacDonald, the author, would say
that Curdie bows first
because Curdie is lower class.
She's upper-class.
But I like Maria's instinct.
She bows first because
she's an independent girl!
See what I'm saying, right?
Right on the heels
of "Deuce Coupe,"
the Ballet Theater called
and said, you know,
would I make a piece
for Baryshnikov?
Baryshnikov was one of the
leading male classical dancers
of the 20th century.
The guy was phenomenal.
His technique was like, "Wow!"
He was a huge star in Russia,
and he'd just defected.
And he hadn't performed
in this country yet.
I remember running into
Alvin Ailey
in one of the elevators
somewhere, some dance building,
and Alvin just looked at me
and he said,
"You're going to write
a piece for Baryshnikov.
You're crazy.
You're going to be eaten alive."
There was pressure.
It was big deal
in the dance world.
Here's arguably the greatest
dancer in the world.
What are you going to do
with this guy?
There are huge expectations
on the part of the audience
as to what he should be
doing for them.
He'd seen me dance before
we started to work,
which I thought was important
because that's what I was
going to push him towards.
...a costume for "Swan Lake,"
so that would be good, too.
I had to be able to evolve
for him a vocabulary
that enfolded some of
this kind of --
let's just, for lack of
a better word, call it slouch.
It's a totally different
kind of placement
from the classical ballet.
And he was all-in
to try to do that.
-Okay. Exactly. Okay.
-Was there any difficulty
that you had
from adjusting from a classical
style to Twyla's style?
-Sure, it was difficult,
very difficult, I think.
-In what way?
-Well, it's her style,
her ballet.
It's really hard.
-It's not easy, I think,
for dancers who know
perfectly modern dance.
-Sometimes. No, that's right.
-It's not, but it's --
Um, um...
-I don't think that
it's any easier or any harder
for, you know,
a well-trained dancer
who's either classical
or modern.
Okay, let's do it this way.
-This movement --
it's not natural for me
because I'm born in Russia,
you know?
-He actually
had just come to this country
and he was displaced.
He's Russian,
classically trained.
I'm from the Midwest,
modern dancer.
You could not have found
more disparate elements
to try to gather together.
I took a gamble,
and I opened him
in a totally unexpected way,
with him doing a kind of --
And the audience is going,
And then when
the curtain goes up, whack!
All he's got!
"Push" was lightning
in a bottle.
It was a moment in time.
It could only have happened
between the two of us
at that point in time, singular.
I was asked to make a duet
for a gala with Misha.
I had no experience partnering.
-What are we doing?!
-The same thing that we did
-Maybe it's possible
to just lay there,
and you will be in position.
-You're gonna do there?
-You're gonna do nothing?
-Yeah, yeah, that's good.
I like that.
-Oh, yeah. Oh, I like it.
I love it. It's a good --
-It's good, but it's...
The dynamic that I started
doing with partnering
was I would partner
as much as he partnered.
I would push, he would pull,
and so on.
In the classical ballet,
the woman is more passive,
and I started doing
equal pressure.
And that's what we actually
started working on.
-Oh, my God.
-I'm very grateful to Misha
that he made the moves
to alter his life completely
so that I could have the
opportunity to work with him.
-During the course of my career,
I've used many different
kinds of music.
Every kind of music
that moves me, I use it,
whether it's pop,
whether it's classical,
whether it's jazz,
whether it's historic.
I grew up totally exposed
to music,
practicing it, hearing it,
loving it, living in it.
So, having spent five years
dancing with no music,
I felt that I understood that,
and then I could use anything.
-Milos Forman saw "Push"
and asked if I would like
to work on "Hair."
-I was massively over-prepared.
I had done, like,
enough choreography
for like eight pictures.
I had so many arguments
with Milos
about every single scene.
I mean, there was the one
with the dust storm,
which was like 2 degrees
outside in December.
I said, "Milos, you can't
shoot in December outside."
He said,
"It gets warm sometimes."
So, everybody is out
there freezing to death.
It was an agony.
It's probably my favorite scene.
-We fly through water and fire,
which we actually did because
we didn't know any better.
We did all the stunts.
-Worked on the script
for one year.
We shot for a year.
We edited for a year.
It was a long haul.
-I just want to do the crane
just one more time.
And it'll just be the --
-The whole thing done again
on a different...
-I got to have three minutes.
-Got to give Twyla a three.
-Three minutes.
-Okay, it'll take time
to move the cameras anyway.
Would you like
to get out of the lights?
You think that will be better?
-You want to sit down?
-You have enough time.
-No, it's okay.
-What do you do
to recharge yourself
when you work long periods hard?
-Work more.
-More work. A work junkie.
When was your last --
-No, that's not fair.
That's not fair.
-Your life is nothing but dance,
one is told.
You have no recreations,
no side interests.
-I really have heard this.
Can you throw it all away,
take two weeks in the Caribbean
or whatever
and never think of dance?
-Well, I wouldn't want to.
-I mean, working is a
recreation, is what I'm saying.
-You have become kind of
a superstar in the dance world.
It's an embarrassing thing
to call anybody.
But is there any sense in what
you feel the pinch of celebrity
or being crowded by it
-I try not to pay any attention.
I don't know anything about
-But you don't feel the
pressures of --
-I just go to the studio
in the morning
and come out at night.
Tell me about "Baker's Dozen."
-In "Baker's Dozen," the music
is all Willie "The Lion" Smith.
"Hair" was a very long project.
When that picture was over,
I had to reestablish who I was
and what the company was.
The company had spent
a lot of time rehearsing
a lot of material that ended up
on the cutting-room floor.
So I took outtakes
and combined them with material
that I took from improvs
that I had done
when I was pregnant with Jess.
"Baker's Dozen,"
12 dancers onstage
and one in the oven.
-Say, there's someone
next to you posing as a child.
Stand up, young man.
Come to Uncle Dick.
Now just sit right up here.
Chunky little nipper, isn't he?
What's your name?
-You know what my name is.
-Are you the kid
I was talking to over there?
-It slipped my mind.
What is it?
-Is it Jesse?
-Jesse, are you a dancer?
I can tell by your
highly developed calves
and your lovely dance slippers
that you're probably not
following in Mom's footsteps,
at least in those shoes.
-Being a dancer,
which at the level I've danced
at, is a full-time job.
Making dances is another
full-time job.
Running businesses
is a full-time job.
And could I have cut out
from those three full-time jobs
10% to be spending
directly with Jess?
I'm not sure that 10% would
really have helped Jess.
-I don't want to say
my childhood was negative.
-You know, it was hard, yeah.
It was hard.
There was hard stuff.
But there's no guilt.
I don't think you have guilt.
-Oh, I have tons of guilt,
I do.
-You were an executive
running a company,
and I was cool with that.
But at the same time, I wanted
to know who my mom was.
I was definitely on my own.
-You saw me occasionally.
-I saw you.
I saw you light a lot of things
on fire in the kitchen.
-Well, I was trying to cook.
-Art kind of was
the top of the podium,
and then there were people.
Art was what was first.
It was challenging and lonely.
And there were scary things.
But even though you were
doing your thing,
I was exposed to so much.
And I grew up
in this weird world.
I grew up around people
who were so committed
to what they were doing.
I wouldn't go to the theater
because I didn't want to be
your kid in that world.
Like, I wanted to be your kid,
like your kid,
like your -- your kid.
-When "The Catherine Wheel"
it started with the idea
that technology could offer
a new look at a dancer.
"The Catherine Wheel"
has one of the first
motion-capture figures.
And it has some sort of
video experiments
that certainly helped me
with the foundation
for what we're trying to do
in the Zoom stuff.
-"The Catherine Wheel" is the
most ambitious work to date
by one of the pioneers
of contemporary American dance,
Twyla Tharp.
-Okay, yeah, now, how are you
getting that arm under?
Like, he's actually
lifting her leg.
Do it again.
-Her starting point was
the legend of St. Catherine,
the 4th century martyr
who strove to overcome
her human failings
in pursuit of an almost
abstract spiritual perfection.
She's depicted in
a non-human electronic form.
Sara is driven
by a hopeless ambition
to achieve the unattainable
discipline and control
of this computerized
-This seems desirable,
that for some reason
we should all strive to attain.
So she sets out striving to
become a perfect human being,
which is the case with many
dancers much of the time.
You are never good enough.
You should always be able
to do one more pirouette,
your elevation
always be a little stronger.
Your elevation should always
be a little more.
-I commissioned David Byrne
to write the score.
It was his first
independent work
apart from The Talking Heads.
-She wanted do a full-length,
you know, evening-length piece.
That was a big gulp for me.
I mean, that's a lot of music.
But it was also
very exciting for me
because she wanted it to be
unlike anything people
had seen before.
And she wanted it to be
on Broadway.
This was kind of putting a stake
in the ground
and saying, "Contemporary dance
can be on Broadway."
That's a big deal.
-I was in the studio
all the time,
which meant I was rehearsing
during the day
and then in recording studios
with him working at night.
I could tell
that she would drive the dancers
pretty hard physically.
These are top-notch,
trained dancers,
and she would push them
to the limits
of what they could do
And they'd get there,
and she'd push them further
and see if they could go
-To get through whole evening,
it was --
You had to get yourself
much more mentally prepared
than I've ever had to before.
-Well, it's the longest piece
I've ever done
and the hardest.
-There was worries of whether
we'd get through the evening.
-In the same way that
she was driving the dancers,
she was driving me,
kind of pushing me
to raise the level
of what I had done.
We got to about a little over
an hour's worth of material,
and she was asking for more
and then more and then more.
-And he just goes, "Is this it?
Am I done yet?"
And I said, "No.
"Just you go listen
to more Bach.
It's going to keep climbing.
We're not done yet."
-I'd never had anyone push me
like that before.
Turned out to be really good
for me.
I got a taste of how a show
like this got put together,
and watching Twyla
manage all that
was incredibly influential to me
because not too long after that
I started working with
Talking Heads on staging a show.
And so this was maybe
the beginning of me
starting to exercise
those muscles creatively.
With "The Catherine Wheel,"
we had become
a very large institution.
We were over 20 dancers.
We had a staff of 10 people.
I was doing too many jobs.
I mean, I was doing
commercial work
on top of touring the company,
and at the same time,
as I'm doing, you know,
this thing for John Curry.
-Peter Martins and Twyla Tharp
and Lynn Swann.
They're combining, really
combining, battle and football.
-We had toured Mexico,
and there I'd learned
about the Aztec
ritual sacrifice of humans.
This had a very big impact
on the next work.
"Bad Smells" we premiered
back to back with...
-...Frank Sinatra songs.
-In order to support
this mechanism,
we were doing a very large
number of fundraising events,
galas, photo shoots,
federal subsidies,
state subsidy, patronage.
We were touring 150 shows a year
over the world.
And I was very fragmented.
A piece of me
was doing over here
and then these guys
are on the road
and then these guys
are coming back.
Jesse was becoming
further distance
as I'm bouncing around here.
I was being very,
very destructive for myself.
I was going to have to stop
working the way I was
because this could not
be sustained.
It is the irony of success.
They want you to look like
what they think
you ought to look like.
And it becomes about repetition
rather than trying new things.
When I began to make dances,
that's what I was doing.
I was making dances.
And now there was no time left
to make dances
or to work in the studio
with dancers, to evolve.
The result of that period --
it should be fine to say
that I broke down.
It should be all right
to say that.
Anybody would, having that kind
of responsibility.
But it's not.
It's not okay to say that.
So, how do I say
that I kind of failed here?
Because, you know, you want
to be everything for everyone.
You can't.
So, now, Herman, let's talk
about life for a moment here.
Misty, I think, came back
too soon from her procedure.
She's out for two weeks.
She has to have an MRI.
-My back does not feel ready.
I'm feeling a lot of pain
and decided I needed to take,
like, another month off.
She ended up
bringing in Charlie.
-Charlie, I'm going to ask you
to do me a huge favor.
-I met Twyla
through her company.
I was 22 at the time,
and this was on the tail end
of maybe 60 different auditions.
And they all said
that I was way too short
and way too fat
to be taken seriously.
Twyla said,
"I would love to hire you
to be in the touring company."
A testament to Twyla's
is that if someone
like Misty Copeland
is unavailable
to finish choreography,
she's not going to say,
"We need to typecast
"and find the exact same type of
person to fulfill this.
"Does it provide new interest
because that person looks
different or is different?"
-I got replaced
by a short, white, bald man.
-I mean, this is
the queen of the underworld,
but if queens can be kings,
then kings can be queens.
This is Charlie Hodges.
He's in L.A.
There it is not quite
00 in the morning,
so he is working
through breakfast.
-Hello, Maria.
Maria is working
through dinner hours.
Oh, it's great.
We can work around the clock.
Okay, that's the idea.
Time lag here will totally
make me crazy, I am sure.
We're like in three
totally different times zones.
And I of course expect to see
perfect unison.
-Can I do
a synchronization test?
Six, seven.
-Uh, Maria is behind.
We're like four counts
out of sync.
Where's the sound?
Hold on.
We're having a technical
difficulty at the moment.
Can you understand me, sweetie?
I have no idea.
-Just got to be able to turn
at the right time.
-Why can I not understand him?
I need help.
Maria, can you try to jump
forward one count?
Charlie, count.
The problems are manifold.
It's one thing for me
to get dancers into unison.
It's another for me to have
a character actually convey
that they are in love
with this character.
And I'm not sure
that that is accomplishable.
Okay. Pretty good.
Is anybody watching
the screen here at the end
for our unison phrase?
We're saying, "Well, really, the
spaces join," and guess what.
Really, they don't.
The problem of getting a dancer
to get exactly to the same point
in their space
that will read
exactly the same area
that the other one's
coming in on
so that they actually --
Not going to happen.
Oy. I'm not sure that's
a good enough entry point.
Uh, I didn't buy that unison.
I did not perceive that it would
perhaps be as extreme as this.
I'll see you tomorrow.
Thank you very, very much.
Oh, boy.
-I had no idea I would end up
working here.
At age 20,
I started running budgets,
and we ran the tours.
And that was
the beginning of my work here.
I've had so many opportunities
to experience
all of these projects,
but in experiencing
these projects,
I've gotten to know my mom.
We've got a sustainable
You know, we've gotten to
a point where we're solid.
-So, honey.
-You know, we have got
some real issues here.
I think there's
some humongous problems.
I mean, you know,
she comes in, in black,
then she comes in, in yellow.
One day, Misty's there,
and then she's not.
Suddenly, she's Charlie.
I mean, what do we got,
a shape-shifter here?
The performers --
all four of them are fabulous,
but it's just technical issues.
I mean, you know, plus the thing
about all the backgrounds
are different.
Nothing feels as though
they're in the same space.
I mean, do you buy
that these guys are really
working together?
I think I like very much that
you're able to be together.
I like the intimacy.
Do you feel that you're able
to be intimate?
-I agree with that.
-This is a whole new territory.
-I don't know, sweetie.
It just is, like,
there are so many small flaws.
-"White Knights" was a film
that was written for Baryshnikov
and a wonderful tap dancer
named Greg Hines.
-And then we could continue
somehow from here.
-Yes. Here.
My job was to referee.
The challenge here was that
they were both great dancers,
but obviously of totally
different backgrounds.
One's a tap dancer, and the
other's ballet dancer.
Misha can't tap.
Greg doesn't have, you know,
a classical technique.
And it was trying
to get them somehow
so they could work together.
-We could do something like...
-I think we're getting
I think it's called the end.
We got the end, guys.
-At the same time I was working
with Misha and Greg,
I was improvising in the studio
by myself every morning,
making new material
for a new dance.
The company had
some really tough times
with overloads
of one kind and another.
And in order to make
another piece,
I had to make it differently.
It was a culmination.
"In The Upper Room"
is one of those very rare pieces
where you just bite
the bullet and say,
"I'm going to say it all
right here
and put it all on the line."
-For "In The Upper Room,"
I began with
the deeply grounded movement
of earlier works
in order to make one piece
that took hold of everything
that I had learned and felt
and experienced and believed,
and it was all going
into one dance.
Phil Glass's music
had a very important role
in how I heard music
for a very long time.
I felt a special
kind of power in it,
and I wanted to commission Phil
to do a score.
I've had many great experiences
working with many great
but two in particular --
Jennifer Tipton
and Santo Loquasto --
have worked with me
in over 50 pieces.
For "In The Upper Room,"
they make it possible
for dancers to materialize
out of thin air
in front of your eyes.
Once and for all,
the notion
of the grounded modern world
can be joined into the lighter,
speedier way of the ballet.
All of this
would become one work.
Great dancers
are great athletes,
and this is clear in
"In The Upper Room."
Performing it requires a blend
of power, grace, flexibility,
stamina, speed, and heart.
"In The Upper Room"
was wildly popular,
and, yes,
everyone wanted it to tour.
And it could perform
every night of every year
for the rest
of everybody's lives,
but that was not
what I wanted to do.
It wasn't what other people
needed to do.
The machine had taken over.
We were working for the machine.
We were working for the company.
It wasn't working for us.
We can't fulfill
what's being demanded of us.
It had to stop.
The company disbanded,
and I went on to do other work.
I'd like to begin with --
Charlie is going to be
standing in for Misty tomorrow.
Misty is not recovered back.
So Charlie is going
to be stone-shoed.
Okay, hold it!
Excellent, Charlie and Herman.
Very good.
Charlie, you want to be out with
the chan by the one, okay?
You were going -- You were
a hair late getting out.
Alright, not too bad.
Thank you, both of you,
very, very much.
-Hello. Hi, honey. Good morning.
We're gonna in put on
a piece of music.
I'm not going to tell you
anything about it.
Just do it on the timing
you want to use.
-I've had very classical
training at Vaganova Academy.
I've never done this before.
I'm used to doing, like,
all of these arabesques
and all of the very strict
classical positions.
So, after I finish
the rond de jambe...
-Yeah. Yep.
Yep, yep, yep.
Right. Now fall. Fall.
That's it! That's it!
Tight! Yes, that's it! Right!
Didn't that feel good, Maria?
It looked good.
-Twyla pushed me into making
discoveries about myself.
Twyla is really opening
the artistic freedom.
-Talk to me.
How did that feel?
-It's thrilling in a way.
Like, it's exciting.
-Oh, that's good.
-No, it's very interesting for
me to explore things like this
because I'm always like,
you know, like this.
But I want to break free
a little bit, you know?
-Right. Okay.
This is one of the things that
I would like to be
able to impart to you.
Keep your technique
for your whole career.
It's beautiful.
Don't ever lose it.
But learn how to work around it.
You pass through academically
and go somewhere else with it
and come back to it.
Alright. Thank you, Maria.
-Thank you so much.
-I'll see you soon.
-Thank you.
-I never stopped working
with dancers.
We toured.
We made new work.
And in 2002,
we were back on Broadway.
-I had made some movement
on Billy's music,
which I showed him.
Billy says, "I like that.
What do you want from me?"
I said, "All your music."
He said, "Okay."
About three hours later,
I have every single album
he ever made.
I put them
in chronological order.
I listened to them
from first to last.
I call him up three days later.
I said, "Okay, I have it."
-This is "Movin' Out,"
the first Broadway show starring
the magic of Twyla Tharp
and the music of Billy Joel.
Call Ticketmaster now.
-"Sing to me, Muse,
of the rage of Achilles."
It is Odysseus.
So, it is the hero
and the hero's return.
So, I heard in Eddie
his return after the war,
after the Vietnam war,
and the steps, the trials
he would have to go through
were those
of the returning warriors,
veterans from the Vietnam war
and the ways in which this
culture basically spat on them.
And that was the spine
of "Movin' Out."
And she had a vision in her head
about what she wanted.
It was so intense.
It was something
I couldn't say no to.
A lot of energy in a small
woman, almost intimidating.
And I thought, "Oh, this is
somebody who's --"
You don't want to get
in the way.
Like, get out of her way.
And that's how
the collaboration worked.
I pretty much stayed out
of the way, and she ran it.
Alright, here we go!
I'm a songwriter --
I'm literal.
I didn't really know
where she was going,
how to connect the songs and
make it work all as one piece
'cause they're individual songs.
But she was doing an allegory
with the lyrics.
And I don't -- That had never
been attempted before.
I was scared to death.
But she had the confidence
and the vision
to know it was going to work.
And these people are throwing
themselves around the stage.
You know, I was worried
about people getting injured.
It was so energetic
and so physically demanding.
You know, I felt like,
"Take it easy," you know?
"Watch out. Watch out
for the edge of the stage."
They were, like, risking
life and limb every night.
-Here I am in this impasse
with this Zoom quandary.
We're in all their
living spaces,
and I'm trying to make
theater out of it.
Who else are you going to call
but Santo?
-He's here.
Santo makes
theatrical experiences.
-How you doing?
-We need unity. He'll fix it.
They're in totally
different spaces.
That's the biggest problem.
And I'm trying to connect them
into a narrative.
If you were doing it properly,
they'd all be on the same set,
you'd have your crew,
you'd have it all set up.
-But it will ultimately
be like that?
-Oh, it will remain on Zoom.
-It will remain --
-It remains virtual,
as they say.
-It remains virtual.
You don't have a crew.
You don't have hair.
You don't have
all of the elements.
Your lighting is never going
to be comparable.
You are screwed.
Why don't we look at that
and see what it actually is?
It's fun.
-Oh, you're so cute.
I actually got a chuckle.
-It's --
-You warmed my heart.
-Well, you know, it's Jewish.
-Yeah, I know it's Jewish.
I did know that.
I knew I could bias you
that way.
-That's alright. I mean,
you know, what can I say?
-So, you see the issues.
Really, my question is this --
do you feel that it would be
more effective
if the backgrounds were alike?
If we had a void, which is
how we would shoot this
if we had them
all in one place --
-I love the funkiness of this.
-You do?
Been on Broadway too long.
-It's short.
-It's very short.
-I think it will become
like early dance in America,
if you will.
-We were early dance in America,
if you'll recall.
-Oh, that was you!
-That was us!
That was you, too!
-But you know what I mean.
-I do know what you mean.
-I worry that it looks as though
we're trying for something
which will be...
-Not accomplishable,
which is what I wanted
to talk to you about.
-No, no, this is --
this is very good
because it feels so unedited.
-I think it's quite marvelous.
Well, you've been busy.
-Thank you.
Yeah, right.
I have been very busy,
very, very busy,
for this allows me to be
in the company of dancers.
-Dancers give me their hopes
and their dreams,
and together we work to redefine
what is possible,
for they will find unimaginable
solutions to my dilemmas.
All dancers know that
there is only one way out,
and that is forward.
-So I can only say thank you
to so many dancers
who have sustained
my belief in tomorrow.
And thank you for your help
in digging us out
every single time.
Do I feel like overall
I've completed my mission?
Not yet.