If proof was needed that Twyla Tharp is a genius of a choreographer, it was provided last night in her 'Diabelli' performed at the Barbican Centre.
Allen Robertson's helpful programme notes explains the origins of the Beethoven piano score; in 1819 the little-known Viennese composer Anton Diabelliwrote a 45-second waltz and immediately fired it off to some fifty composers inviting each of them to produce a variation. Beethoven produced 33 and these, played by Nikolai Demidenko, provide the music for Tharp's joyous piece.
Ten tautly-toned dancers (5 women, 5 men) dressed in chic black tuxedo-like costumes step, jump, roll and stretch through Tharp's witty and inventive steps. The miracle here is how Tharp's movements match the widely varied music, some of which is slow and reflective and some of which is fast and jolly. So we get some jokey bits - men leapfrogging over each other and one chap expectantly bending over and getting an unexpected smack on the bottom, a cod 'fight' where a man's head is repeatedly and comically banged to the floor, all movements perfectly matching the music. And tender moments too; Tharp provides wonderfully sensual and tender lifts, so we see women with arms and legs protectively drawn up being softly swept onto men's shoulders. Impossible to log all the richness and variety of Tharp's choreography, but it's important to say that she isn't perfect. Invention failed at some point (after all, there are just so many steps) and, about two-thirds of the way through the hour-long performance, some repitition inevitably crept in. But did we mind? No we didn't, and the show got a roaring and well deserved ovation. Impossible to name the dancers, but one couple (Andrew Robinson & Gabrielle Malone?) got huge cheers - the dance in-crowd were obviously present. Ms Tharp herself, a no-nonsense grey-haired woman, took a bow with the dancers, but I was delighted that the biggest cheer went to the deserving pianist Nikolai Demidenko, a shy fellow whose rosy blush warmed us all.
There is one more performance tonight. If you can get a ticket, go.