Over the moon with Frank at the ballet
It might be the first Broadway piece ever done by a classical company, concede Twyla Tharp’s assistants on the Royal Danish Opera’s Old Stage. Stacy Cadell and John Selya have been sent from New York by America’s grand dame of contemporary choreography to stage her Come Fly Away with dancers from the Royal Danish Ballet.
A couple of weeks prior to its Danish premiere, Cadell and Selya introduce the piece to an excited audience. Come Fly Away is set to music sung by Frank Sinatra and premiered in Atlanta in 2009. Only then it was still called Come Fly With Me and used a slightly larger ensemble. Tharp subsequently made a version for Broadway, and when yet another version opened in Las Vegas in late 2010, the work had to be renamed Sinatra, Dance With Me. “In Las Vegas, they needed Sinatra in the title,” explained Tharp’s assistants.
The Sinatra music is indeed a thrilling element of the show. Fourteen live musicians will be on stage to accompany Sinatra’s recorded voice. To the leader of the little orchestra, Danish jazz bassist Chris Minh Doky, playing “around” Sinatra’s voice makes the performance a time machine – rather than a museum. Tracks include the favourites ‘Let’s fall in love’, ‘Fly me to the moon’, ‘You make me feel so young’, ‘One for my baby’ and ‘The way you look tonight’. “The music really helps”, confirmed Cadell. “Who wouldn’t want to dance to that music?”
The show tells the story of four young couples whose joy and sorrow, excited new love and desperate break-ups unroll over the course of one night. The action takes place at a nightclub (a somewhat exclusive one, Cadell and Selya agree, given that there are only eight dancers plus six extras) and the audience follows fragments of narrative and each dancer’s transformation throughout the evening. Regarding the choreography, the Danish staging combines songs and choreography from both the Broadway and the Las Vegas versions. “Copenhagen is getting the greatest hits,” promise Cadell and Selya.
Tharp has a taste for glamorous costuming. For Nine Sinatra Songs, her 1982 character study of 14 dancers to Sinatra music, Oscar de la Renta designed the outfits. For the Copenhagen version of Come Fly Away, Tharp’s friend and costume designer Norma Kamali has created several new glitzy attires for every dancer.
Twyla Tharp’s long career as a choreographer began in 1965 after she had been training with Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company.
The boundary-transcending movement style of her works is perhaps best described as combining ballet technique, elements of jazz and boxing with everyday movements. Tharp has by now created more than 160 works, including choreographies for her own company and acclaimed ballet companies such as American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, the Royal Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet or the Joffrey Ballet, for star ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, for the films Hair, Ragtime or Amadeus and even two figure skating routines.
Come Fly Away
Gamle Scene, Kongens Nytorv, Cph K; starts Sat, ends Nov 28, performances at 20:00 (unless stated) on Sat, Sun (15:00) Thu, Oct 4, Oct 5, Oct 6 (15:00), Oct 8-10, Oct 12, Oct 15, Oct 18, Oct 30, Nov 1, Nov 2, Nov 5, Nov 12, Nov 15, Nov 21, Nov 22, Nov 26, Nov 28; tickets 75–595kr, www.kglteater.dk; 105 mins including interval