Pasatiempo - - MUSCLE MEMORIES -

While many in the Santa Fe au­di­ence on Sept. 22 will be long-time fans of the dances of Twyla Tharp, sev­eral lo­cal res­i­dents know her work more in­ti­mately.

Ray Kur­shals, who owns Pi­lates Santa Fe and has been teach­ing the method here since 1993, danced in the Twyla Tharp com­pany from 1976 to 1986, ap­pear­ing in such fa­mous works as Baker’s Dozen and Nine Si­na­tra Songs, as well as work­ing in the movies Hair and Amadeus and ap­pear­ing on Broad­way in Sin­gin’ in the Rain. “It was a dream come true to work with Twyla,” he said. “I danced for Ron­ald Rea­gan at the White House and got to per­form all over the world. I loved her work. It was chal­leng­ing to dance and it was new.”

Cather­ine Op­pen­heimer, co-founder of NDI New Mexico and in­stru­men­tal in found­ing the New Mexico School for the Arts, was one of the last two bal­leri­nas hired by Ge­orge Balan­chine at New York City Bal­let. It was there that she first came into con­tact with Tharp. “Her process was cool — and her move­ment style was re­ally dif­fer­ent. Bal­let is usu­ally about pointe, about get­ting your weight up and over your toe shoes. She was down and un­der. The move­ment was com­ing from un­der­neath, from your ham­strings. It was hard to do.” Af­ter Balan­chine died (in 1983), Op­pen­heimer felt that things weren’t right for her at NYCB. She au­di­tioned for Tharp and be­came an orig­i­nal com­pany mem­ber for In the Up­per Room ,a piece since ac­quired by many bal­let com­pa­nies, fea­tur­ing mu­sic by Philip Glass. In the piece, she was re­quired to dance in sneak­ers and then change into pointe shoes. There was a lot of run­ning back­ward. “Twyla would start with four of us work­ing out a tiny sec­tion of a phrase. Then she’d say, ‘Go away and fig­ure out what it is.’ We’d work for hours and then come back, and she would say, ‘Now re­verse it.’ It was an eye-opener.” — M.W.S.

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