The Washington Ballet is mounting an all-Twyla Tharp program at the Kennedy Center beginning Wednesday. The performances consist of “Nine Sinatra Songs,” combining the Rat Packer’s tracks with sensual ballroom dancing; “Surfer at the River Styx,” featuring six dancers and an original score by Donald Knaack; and “Push Comes to Shove,” Tharp’s famous crossover ballet created for Mikhail Baryshnikov.
While that production is all well and good for professional ballerinas, there are mere mortals out there who want to twist and shout at parties without looking ridiculous. We consulted Washington Ballet company members (and married couple) Sona Kharatian and Jonathan Jordan on how to dance when you’re going out.
You already have what you need: “Everybody has a body,” Kharatian said. “And I think bodies should be in motion.” There you go. No excuses.
What it’s all about: “Dance, to me, is about having fun and expressing enjoyment,” Jordan said. “If you’re going out to dance, you should go out with the idea that you’re going to get your blood moving and have a good time.”
How does it feel: Kharatian swears that, contrary to what you may believe, dance is not about coordination or flexibility or grace. “It’s all about attitude,” she said. “You want to feel confident and relaxed at the same time, because you’ve got to be relaxed to feel the music. Feel the rhythm, in your body. Be loose.”
Strength in numbers: If you’re feeling self-conscious (or even if you’re not), Jordan said, “dance with your friends.” Even the professionals do it! “We usually go with a group.”
Study, buddy: “I’d suggest to somebody, if you don’t feel confident, to take a class,” Jordan said. “You can take a dance lesson for any type of dance. [Kharatian and I] take hip-hop sometimes.”
Home-schooled: “Practice at home,” Kharatian said. “With a mirror or without a mirror.” Jordan said: “We use a mirror day in and day out to see how our bodies move while we’re doing choreography. I think there’s a definite benefit to being able to see yourself and what you want to look like.”
The sincerest form of flattery: “It’s fine to look at somebody to see what they’re doing” and try to imitate, Jordan said.
Put your whole self in: “It’s the same for us doing choreography: You find your own way to do the steps,” Jordan said. “You do it the way you feel. It makes a big difference when you make it your own expression.”
If all else fails . . . “Bounce,” Jordan said. “Step, touch, step, touch.”
performs “Twyla Tharp: All American”
at the Kennedy Center, Wednesday through Feb. 26. $29 and up. Visit washingtonballet.org.