Sharp as Tharp

Richard Lutz views a dance masterpiece in Birmingham.



Moving Stateside is a trio of American modern dance pieces brought to you by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. And there is no doubt the highlight is The Upper Room choreographed by Twyla Tharp.

I am not sure anymore just how many times I have seen this 25 minute piece. But each time is a joy and enough to lift an audience off its bottoms for a rightful standing ovation.


19431_sThe piece is electrically fuelled by techno-music by New York composer Phillip Glass with its roots in jazz, blues and classical chords. The pulse builds, seemingly never stops and propels the dancers into what seems a seamless composition of  ballet, acrobatics, tap and modern dance movement.

It is hypnotising.

Twyla Tharp is an American star in her own right- she has performed or created dance for the stage, for tv and for films and now in her mid seventies is still going strong. Just like her masterpiece.

All is helped by the Norma Kamali costumes. The BRB begins the performance in monochromatic black and white stripes a la prison uniforms and slowly bursts into hints of red then full-blown colour. All this as Glass’s music relentlessly builds.


In The Upper Room is preceded by two other works to reflect American dance.  Serenade, choreographed by George Balanchine with music by Tchaikovsky, is elegant, a bit formal and static. Lyric Pieces with choreography by Jessica Lang and score by Grieg, is more inventive and fluid using back fanlike fabric to create its surreal mood.

But the star is In The Upper Room, in a category of its own.

Birmingham Hippodrome until 21st February. Tickets: