Maybe you saw N.C. Dance Theatre perform Twyla Tharp's "Nine Sinatra Songs" last season. Maybe you didn't. Either way, there's really just one thing you need to know about Tharp's "The Golden Section," which is coming up next week.
"There's no story. It's just dance - fun," Shelley Washington says.
As a member of Tharp's onetime dance company, Washington performed in the premiere in 1981. Back then, "Golden Section" was the finale of "The Catherine Wheel," a full-length theatrical piece by Tharp and rock musician David Byrne. The show's earlier parts included story lines about the breakdown of the family and the threat of nuclear war.
But with the start of "Golden Section," those somber topics were brushed aside - literally. The stage was cleared of props, the light brightened, and the dancers "stormed the stage with a new, positive energy," in Tharp's own description.
Next week, "Golden Section" will close NCDT's last program of the season. The performances, opening Thursday, will give female choreographers the spotlight.
Tharp's work shares the bill with creations by Emery LeCrone, a former member of the NCDT 2 training company who's now based in New York, and Jacqulyn Buglisi, a former Martha Graham dancer who has a New York company of her own.
A twist: LeCrone's work will employ only men; Buglisi's, only women. Then "Golden Section" will bring them all together.
As the 13 performers hurtle onstage - sometimes backwards - or sling one another through the air or flit through slivers of space between their colleagues' limbs, they have to be daredevils as much as dancers. Ex-Tharp dancer Washington, who taught it to NCDT, can look at it from the dancer's point of view.
"There are a few scary moments," Washington says. "Well, not scary, just - 'Wow,'" she adds, as if she were a dancer just being told what she'd have to do. (Maybe Washington should have stuck with calling it scary: Later, a dancer had to get stitches after his head collided with another dancer's foot.)
During a rehearsal, at the end of one speedy sequence, Washington tells a dancer that looking down to get her bearings is not allowed. But she understands the urge.
"Oh, my God," she says later. "If I had to turn, then switch direction in the middle of the turn, then (jump) the other way, I'd probably look down and say, 'Help me! Help me!'"