Exhilarating dance, and a superb introductory dialogue with
Song & story lover | Midwest, USA | 07/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Catherine Wheel" originally premiered on Broadway to rave reviews. Twyla Tharp re-choreographed the piece for television using digital animation, a computer-generated dancer, and reverse-action photography. We can thank BBC TV/WNET 13 for giving Tharp that opportunity. This hour-and-a-half presentation is so rich with the fresh and daring choreography that Tharp is known for, and, thankfully, having access to the video allows for viewing the performance again and again in the privacy of one's own home.
The video begins with an interview with Tharp, where she discusses her fascination with Saint Catherine, who strove for the sort of "abstract perfection" that many artists, including dancers, seek to attain but never realize. Tharp also describes several symbolic elements used in the choreography for this dance, and there is also an opportunity to hear the fine dancers in Tharp's dance company speak of the challenge that this performance represented for them.
After this introduction, the screen goes dark for a second and then begins 'The Catherine Wheel.' The dance and the dancers are captivating. On the back of the video is this review from 'The Village Voice' which sums up my own feelings after viewing this video: "You won't ever have seen people so beautiful, so brave, so engaged with the moment."
The final segment, 'The Golden Section,' is provocative and intensely moving. Surely this must represent some of America's finest dancing. The choreography is intricate, with layer upon layer of complexity, and yet the net effect is Beauty. Almost...dare I say...perfection."
K. Clay | Atlanta, GA | 02/15/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I originally saw the final movement of The Catherine Wheel, "The Golden Section," performed live by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (arguably the best modern dance group in the world). It was completely far and beyond any contemporary performance i had ever seen. Everyone in the audience was gasping and amazed throughout the piece, and left speechless at the end. The choreography was so powerful and intricate, i had to see it again. So i decided to do some research and buy the DVD.
I should have known better than to expect the same experience and amazement from a DVD of 80's dancers compared to a live contemporary Ailey show. I believe that dance as an art form should be seen live, from the audience, with a view of the entire stage at once. Choreography--especially choreography as complex and intricate as Tharp's--is intended to be seen from far enough away that one can see all the dancers at once and still be able to read their facial expressions. Therefore, i understand that attempting to capture something as deep and potent as The Catherine Wheel on video is basically an impossible undertaking, but i was still disappointed with the way it was done for this DVD.
I really don't appreciate the prolonged close-ups of individual dancers, or extended shots of half the stage or of one couple at a time, when there are four couples on the stage all dancing different combinations. I also don't see the point of filming the dancers from the waist up. It's like only reading the top halves of the pages in a novel. It just seems to me that whoever was in charge of the cinematography had never been to a dance performance before.
Perhaps if i hadn't seen the show live, i wouldn't know what i was missing and i would think it was great. But the camera work on this DVD cuts out a lot of movement, and the technological additions interfere with the overall flow of the work. The piece is plenty abstract in its original form, so the digital interference and lack of full-stage perspective makes the whole thing nearly impossible to understand.
As a professional dancer and choreographer, i honestly expected more. I have all respect for Ms. Tharp and her work--seeing "The Golden Section" live was life-changing--but i do not think this DVD does her justice."
Tharp saves the best for last
Song & story lover | 09/07/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Twyla Tharp's video, "The Catherine Wheel," provides a great blend of modern dance repertory. The bulk of this video shows an abstract look into family life, right down to the family pet. Although it may seem odd, technically speaking Tharp successfully characterizes family life through her dancers/actors. Her greatest triumph however, is the Golden Section. This brief section following "The Catherine Wheel" is an awesome extravaganza of full out movement and dance. Tharp mixes large group, small group, and partnering in this section and does so with artistry and grace. She leaves you wanting more and forgetting some of the oddity in the section prior. "The Golden Section" is what made me a lover of Twyla Tharp's work. The music in this section is by David Byrne, who provides a perfect musical outlet for the vigorous and powerful movement displayed. The video ends with an interview/discussion with Tharp and her dancers. This valuable footage lends insightful information from the choreographer and her dancers on not only the making of the video but the thinking behind the creation of "The Catherine Wheel.""