Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

A bold conception, said to be first-class,
with varied styles of gesture, steps, and play,
plus music, avant-garde, by Philip Glass”
I’m speaking of a Twyla Tharp ballet.

The scoring calls for strings, flute, lots of brass,
and electronic noises. All convey
remarkable monotony, alas.
The chords will not resolve, nor go away;

redundant sound continues to unwind,
progressing, yet immobile, incomplete”
a cruel teasing of the ordered mind”
while, sneaker-clad or slippered, flying feet

and twirling bodies, solo or entwined,
exhaust themselves, obedient to the beat”
a tarantella of the classic kind,
with fiery intensity, yet neat.

The dancers’ movements are their very thought,
as muscles and idea impose belief
in will and weightless being, beauty-fraught,
suspended for long moments, madly brief.

At last, the stubborn threads of sound are caught,
ascending in close harmony, a sheaf
of light. Too late: it ends. The music’s wrought
its magic; now, time, fleeting, is a thief.