Fierce, Musically Driven Twyla Tharp Dance Comes to Spreckels

Twyla Tharp fans are in for a tantalizing night, as she sends a fierce band of dancers to the Spreckels Theatre Oct. 22, as part of her 50th Anniversary Tour.

s48-twyla-1020x400“We are fierce because she is so versatile and has done it all,” says Ron Todorowski who has danced with Twyla Tharp Dance since 2002. “All of my experience with her is beneficial, because she knows how to tell a story without speaking. She’s the most disciplined artist I know.

“Twyla gets up before the sun and works six days a week. If you show up for rehearsal on time, you’re late.”

Since graduating from Barnard College in 1963, Tharp has choreographed more than 160 works: 129 dances, 12 television specials, six Hollywood movies, four full-length ballets, four Broadway shows and two figure skating routines. She received one Tony Award, two Emmy Awards, 19 honorary doctorates, and the list goes on. She’s a super achiever.

“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.” – Twyla Tharp

Tharp–a dancer, choreographer, and author–merges ballet and modern dance. Her dancers must have technical clarity and theater experience.

She surrounds herself with dancers such as Todorowski, who has danced with Complexions, Cedar Lake, and Parsons, and on television and Broadway.

Ronald Todorowski has performed with Twyla Tharp Dance since 2002, including the dance musicals "Come Fly Away" and "Movin Out."

Ronald Todorowski has performed with Twyla Tharp Dance since 2002, including the dance musicals Come Fly Away and Movin Out.

“Rehearsing in a studio with her is inspiring and life-changing,” Todorowski said. “Twyla is very serious, and she wants people around her who share that seriousness. She has a great sense of humor, but she pushes herself and all of us.

“It’s electric and infectious when she has an idea. She works fast, and we have to keep up.”

Even at 75, a silver-haired Tharp continues to demonstrate complex choreography.

“She’s very active and she’ll jump into someone’s arms without hesitation, “Todorowski laughed. “We all cross-train to keep up physically. We do cardio and warm up with a ballet barre and a lot of yoga to stay in balance.”

Eight dancers will perform three dances with range of musical styles at the Spreckels on Saturday: Country Dances, Beethoven Opus 130, and Brahms Paganini.

Tharp's "Beethoven Opus 130 is a new work. Courtesy image.

Tharp’s Beethoven Opus 130 premiered in 2016.  Performed to String Quartet in B-flat Major, Opus 130, by Beethoven. Costumes are by Norma Kamali.  Dancers include:  Matthew Dibble with Kaitlyn Gillialand, Ron Todorowski, Daniel Baker, Ramona Kelley, Amy Ruggiero, Reed Tankersley, and Ashlee Dupre. Courtesy image.

Country Dances premiered in 1976, with costumes by Santo Loquasto.  Recorded music includes: Texas Quickstep (The Hired Hands); Fifty Year Ago Waltz (The Hired Hands); Rat Cheese Under The Hill (The Kessinger Brothers); Cacklin’ Hen And A Rooster Too (The Skillet Lickers); Took My Gal A-Walkin’ (Charlie Poole and The North Carolina Ramblers); Fresno Blues (Johnny and Albert Crockett); Alabama Jubilee (The Hired Hands).

Country has quicksteps, and the costumes are country too,” Todorowski said. “Costumes for Beethoven are soft, fitted pants and a low V-neck, with long and baggy sleeves. The Brahms piece is light and we move freely.”

Ms. Tharp thinks of every detail and is intensely smart, he says.

“She has dedicated her life to her craft, and I’m lucky to be in a room with her to experience her artistic process,” Todorowski said. “She works every day and gives you every step.  We work on the movement, but she knows every musical note, entrance and partner cue.”

Twyla Tharp Dance stops in San Diego for one night only as part of the 50th Anniversary Tour. Touring is a challenge for dancers because every stage is different.

“Some stages are very hard,” Todorowski said, and we know that after all the jumping it’s going to hurt the next day. Surfaces are different too.  We do a lot of slides. We have to be aware of hazards and seams in the marley (vinyl floor covering) and try not to get injured.


“The Brahms piece requires extraordinary timing and precision.  I partner with two different people in Beethoven and one is taller than the other.  Every time you partner with someone, you have to consider their unique body and where to hold them in lifts.

“As dancers, we make it all look easy and comfortable. It’s beautiful, athletic illusion.”


La Jolla Music Society presents Twyla Tharp Dance, Dance Series Saturday, October 22, 2016 at 8 pm at the Spreckels Theatre, 121 Broadway San Diego, CA 92101

Tickets:   $75, $50, $35, $20 (800) 745-3000 or order online at

The Dance Series continues with Beauty and the Beast – Malandain Ballet Biarritz, at the Civic Theatre, Mar. 18, 1017, and Black Grace, at the Spreckels Theatre, Apr. 8, 2017.


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