Joyce Theater

by Laura Diffenderfer

In August, two of Twyla Tharp Dance’s founding members, Sara Rudner and Rose Marie Wright, reunited to help to reconstruct Tharp’s 1972 work THE RAGGEDY DANCES, in which they both originated roles. The importance of these two figures in relationship to Tharp’s work can’t be understated. In Marcia B. Seigal’s book on Tharp, "Howling Near Heaven: Twyla Tharp and the Reinvention of Modern Dance," the dedication calls them out explicitly: "For Rose and Sara and all the others who made Tharp dance." Tharp dedicated her 1976 season at the Brooklyn Academy of Music to Wright, and Rudner, who danced with Tharp for 20 years, remains a dedicated ally and champion of the choreographer.

In Tharp’s studio, Seigal writes, you find “the most subtle form of competition and cooperation, a process so intuitive, so intimate that no one can say in the end whose dance it is, and none of the parties to that dance can be removed without endangering its identity." We reached out to Rudner and Wright to see what memories emerged for them in the reconstruction process.

“Imagine early 1970s in downtown NYC,” says Rudner. “Pre-Tribeca. Pre-Giuliani. Franklin Street, fourth floor walkup, no mirrors, old pine floor, seemingly endless rehearsal hours. Deep learning.   Revisiting the dance after 40 years stimulated my neuro-muscular and musical memory; and a recognition of who I was then and how ‘she’ lives in me now. The reconstruction and teaching sessions also reunited me with Rose, as we puzzled through Twyla’s challenges, yet again, with a work ethic and humor I will always cherish.”

For Wright, the restaging brought back “many memories--some painful, some humorous. Many hours of rehearsals, reworking passages, adding details. From the inside of the piece we danced with each other closely, having fun playing the games and playing off of one another, respecting each other and the work.  Looking at the piece today I realize that it is a joyous dance--pedestrian and full movement with mental challenges.” In reconstructing it, she, Rudner and longtime Tharp company member Rika Okamoto, who also helped restage the work, laughed a lot, Wright says. “Twyla would sometimes join in, too,” she adds.


Above, Wright jumps over Rudner in a performance of THE RAGGEDY DANCES at ANTA Theatre in 1972. Photo by William Pierce.

Below, in this video of THE RAGGEDY DANCES, shot in a 1972 rehearsal in Tharp’s Franklin Street studio, you can see Rudner in black on the left, Wright in white in the middle, and Tharp in grey in the fore. Company member Kenneth Rinker appears behind Tharp.  

Below, more than 40 years after THE RAGGEDY DANCES creation, Wright and Rudner turn hand in hand as they teach current Tharp company member Kellie Drobnick a section of the work.

Featured image at top: Sara Rudner and Rose Marie Wright in THE RAGGEDY DANCES at the ANTA Theatre in 1972. Photo by William Pierce. 

You can see Tharp’s current company perform “THE RAGGEDY DANCES,” as well as “THE FUGUE,” from 1970, and the world premiere of “DYLAN LOVE SONGS” at The Joyce Sep 19 – Oct 8, 2017.