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Twyla Tharp

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Twyla Tharp in her work Sue's Leg, 1975.


The early training of Twyla Tharp (1941- ) encompassed dance styles from ballet to baton twirling and the study of several musical instruments. Her signature technique is similarly eclectic, integrating classical discipline and vocabulary with avant-garde iconoclasm. Primarily as a choreographer, Tharp has worked in the fields of dance, theater, film, television, and video. Her selection of musical composers has been equally broad, ranging from classical masters to jazz and pop superstars, sometimes combining styles simultaneously as in the score for Push Comes to Shove (1976), which amalgamates variations by Haydn and Lamb. Tharp's aesthetic evolved during the highly experimental 1960s. She joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1963, but left two years later to form her own troupe. Tharp received early accolades for The Fugue (1971), which uses no music but is accompanied by sounds made by the dancers. Two years later with Deuce Coupe, to songs by The Beach Boys, she enlivened the Joffrey Ballet's innovative crossover pattern of inviting modern dance makers to choreograph for classical companies. Creator of more than ninety dances, Tharp has worked with major ballet and modern dance companies internationally and has received more than 100 awards. Her collaboration with filmmaker Milos Forman resulted in such groundbreaking movies as Hair, Ragtime, and Amadeus. She has been represented both on Broadway and on tour by theatrical productions such as Movin' Out and Come Fly Away. Tharp's autobiography Push Comes to Shove was published in 1992. www.twylatharp.org

Pictured left: Twyla Tharp in her work Sue's Leg, 1975, one of the influential works she choreographed to classic jazz recordings, in this case by Fats Waller. (Photofest.)


Read an essay by Marcia B. Siegel -- Selected Resources




Pictured below: A 1974 photograph of Twyla Tharp in her work Eight Jelly Rolls (1971). (Photograph by Tony Russell; courtesy of London Weekend Television.)

Twyla Tharp, Photo by Tony Russell




Push Comes to Shove, created in 1976 and aired in 1984, performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and members of American Ballet Theatre, was the first work Twyla Tharp choreographed for Baryshnikov, with whom she went on to have a successful artistic partnership.