A half century of dance: Choreographer Twyla Tharp celebrates 50 years

Two Twyla Tharp veterans, Matthew Dibble and Rika Okamoto, perform in "Yowsie." Ruven Afanador photo
Two Twyla Tharp veterans, Matthew Dibble and Rika Okamoto, perform in “Yowsie.”
Ruven Afanador photo

While many choreographers would look to a 50th anniversary tour to program a greatest hits package, Twyla Tharp, who will be at The Granada Theatre tonight, does the opposite in a career of bold moves. Instead she’s created an evening of two new works. “Preludes and Fugues” raids the extensive pieces in J.S. Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” and bears the influences of all those that came before her in modern dance: Merce Cunningham, Jerome Robbins, Martha Graham and George Balanchine. And “Yowzie” turns from classical to jazz, with bright costumes and a soundtrack of early ragtime and jazz.

“Preludes” is “the world as it ought to be,” she says, “and Yowzie is the world as it is.” Ms. Tharp is quoting herself, and it’s a phrase that graces the evening’s program in her artistic statement. That tension between fantasy and reality has long been part of her work.

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Friendly advice: Brooklyn Rider is a quartet not afraid of the new

The boys ofBrooklyn Rider recently released "The Brooklyn Rider Almanac" and will performworksfrom the album at Hahn Hall Sarah Small
The boys ofBrooklyn Rider recently released “The Brooklyn Rider Almanac” and will performworksfrom the album at Hahn Hall
Sarah Small

There some classical quartets dabble in contemporary composers while making sure to keep some Bach or Beethoven handy, Brooklyn Rider has shown its commitment to the shock of the new by commissioning a whole album of new works and then touring it.

“The Brooklyn Rider Almanac,” released on Mercury Classics this last September, contains an hour’s worth of commissioned works from artists like Bill Frisell, Christina Courtin, Gonzalo Grau and others. Not everybody involved is a classical composer. In fact, at Thursday night’s performance at Hahn Hall, Brooklyn Rider will premiere “Ping Pong Thumble Thaw” by Glenn Kotche, drummer of the rock band Wilco. The work was commissioned by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

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The Grey Suit Chronicles – Why North by Northwest is still so much fun today

Cary Grant in a scene from "North by Northwest" Margaret Herrick Library photo
Cary Grant in a scene from “North by Northwest”
Margaret Herrick Library photo

North by Northwest” screens tonight in the Sunken Gardens as part of UCSB Arts & Lectures free Hitchcock screenings, and even if you have seen this classic before, it’s always worth the revisit.

Just think: after Alfred Hitchcock delivered his finest, most psychologically dense film, “Vertigo,” he decided to return to the chase, the travelogue in essence, to go back to “The 39 Steps” with this film. “North by Northwest” features a lot of familiar themes from Hitchcock: the innocent man accused, a blonde femme fatale, and familiar landmarks like the United Nations building and Mount Rushmore. This is why video essayist Thom Anderson called Hitchcock a “high tourist” director, for his love of such.

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Photos courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures
Photos courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures

For a man who despised Los Angeles, John Lautner created some of the grandest versions of modernist architecture in the city, buildings and private homes that bring back the space-age future of the ’50s, yet also were all specifically built to fit into their surroundings, not stick out from it. In this recent documentary, “Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner,” that closes off UCSB Arts & Lectures’ Art Architecture series, Mr. Lautner’s life is traced through loving explorations of his surviving work.

Mr. Lautner’s own voice drops in here and there to occasionally elucidate the history of a home, and his accent and tone is classic Midwestern, clipped, efficient, nasal. It’s the voice of a man who devoted his life to work, and we hear anecdotes of hours, sometimes days spent looking at a topographical property map before a sudden flurry of sketching and creation.

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Commitment-Phobia – Mike Birbiglia’s one-man show frets about marriage

Mike Birbiglia stars in a one-hour comedy special Joshua Massre photo
Mike Birbiglia stars in a one-hour comedy special
Joshua Massre photo

We’re causing a lot of break-ups across America!” says writer, comedian and actor Mike Birbiglia on his most recent film, “Sleepwalk with Me.” The film, based on his one-man-show and a spot on “This American Life,” details how Mr. Birbiglia figures out that he’s not ready for marriage to his longsuffering girlfriend, while at the same time beginning his career in stand-up … once he dropped his corny jokes and started to tell the audience about his relationship. The film makes uneasy viewing, as Mr. Birbiglia never flinches — in fact, he indulges — in showing his most weasely, reprehensible behavior. For commitment-phobes, it’s not a date movie, though it’s a funny one.

“Ira Glass and I have heard people have broken up after seeing it,” Mr. Birbiglia says. “And we don’t know how to take that. We don’t want to be the break-uppers, but if the movie affects people then that’s good.”

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