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New York Awards 2002

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Twyla Tharp, Lifetime Achievement

She’s always been an uptown girl. Back when the avant-garde prized stark, cerebral evenings of unadorned choreography, and bleak was a term of praise, Twyla Tharp and her dancers were tearing into Mozart, Torelli, Jelly Roll Morton, and Bix Beiderbecke with the supremely casual virtuosity that would become her trademark. She wasn’t the first modern dancer to explore ballet, but she was the first crossover artist to stop crossing over and simply unite the two camps in her choreography. So what if ballet and modern had been at war for decades? Tharp wanted access to everything. She also wanted jazz, soft-shoe, tap, rock, hip-hop, boxing, and baton-twirling, not to mention tight-rope walking; and she’s deployed all of them over nearly four decades of peerless dance-making. Movin’ Out, with Billy Joel’s songs and Tharp’s choreography, started as the kind of challenge she likes best: huge, uncharted, probably doomed. By opening night, she had redefined the Broadway musical, slathering the stage with rigorous, ravishing dance that tells a story while burning deep into the imagination. Next comes—whatever comes next. We’ll be there. -- LAURA SHAPIRO


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