Twyla Tharp Biography, Life, Interesting Facts


Twyla Tharp

Birthday :

July 1, 1941

Also Known For :

Choreographer, Ballet Dancer

Birth Place :

Portland, Indiana, United States of America

Zodiac Sign :


Chinese Zodiac :


Birth Element :


Twyla Tharp is an award-winning American choreographer and dancer born on July 1, 1941. She also worked as an author during her active years. Twyla Tharp has done several dance works and has since become a world-acclaimed dancer and choreographer. She formed her own dance company Twyla Tharp Dance in 1966. Twyla Tharp was known for performing with classical music, jazz, and pop music and has toured in several countries around the world. Her choreography Deuce Coupe performed with the music of The Beach Boys has since become first crossover ballet. Her other choreography Push Come to Shove, 1976has been one of her best works ever. Twyla Tharp Dance has since 1988 merged with American Ballet Theatre.

Early Life And Education

Twyla Tharp was born to Lucille and William Tharp in 1941 in Portland, Indiana. Twyla Tharp attended Pacific High School, San Bernardino and had some dance lessons at the Lynn School of Dance. After high school, Twyla Tharp went to the Pomona College and later transferred to the Barnard College in New York City. There Twyla Tharp graduated with a degree in arts and history in 1963. It was there that she met the likes of Richard Thomas, Martha Graham, and Merce Cunningham. Growing up Tharp’s mother who was enthused with performing arts encouraged her to take lessons in dance, piano, drum and others like German, French and shorthand lesson. Twyla Tharp also had to work at her mother’s drive-in movie theatre in Rialto, California. She joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1963


Dance Career

Twyla Tharp moved from the Paul Taylor Dance Company to form the Twyla Tharp Dance in 1965 at age 23. The company initially suffered some setbacks but was able to come out with the debut choreographyTank Drive. Her works were mostly done with classical music, contemporary pop, and jazz. To showcase her works, Twyla Tharp didn’t work only in the US but regularly traveled across the world to perform in the years 1971 to 1988. Her brilliance in the crossover ballet came to bare when Twyla Tharp choreographed Deuce Coupe in 1973 and Push Comes to Shove, 1976 which the music of The Beach Boys and Mikhail Baryshnikov respectively.

Her work in Deuce Coupe is considered the first crossover ballet whiles Push Comes to Shove stands crossover ballet best example. Her dance company later merged with American Ballet Theatre in 1988. The company has since organized world premieres of 16 of Tharp’s work. Twyla Tharp also worked with Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Royal Ballet, Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and several others. Tharp did lots of work on Broadway in the 1980s. Her debut work was when Twyla Tharp Dance performed When We Were Young in 1980. She followed it with her collaborative work with David Byrne, The Catherine Wheel at the Winter Garden.


Revival Of Twyla Tharp Dance

Twyla Tharp in 2000 saw the new to revive the Twyla Tharp Dance which she did with new dancers. The group became vibrant and the choreography Movin’ Out which featured a song by Billy Joel won an award. Movin’ Out did very well and had about 1,331 performances on Broadway. This was followed by a nationwide tour in 2004. In 2005 she choreographed the record making, The Times They Are a-Changin’with themusic by Bob Dylan. The show became the highest sold and highest grossing till March 2006. Twyla Tharp in 2009 continued her good works with the performance of Come Fly with Me which was done with a song from Frank Sinatra. Some of her later works include The Princess and the Goblin and Waiting at the Station.


Films, Books, And Television

Some of Tharp films include Hair, 1978, Ragtime, 1980, Amadeus, 1983, White Nights, 1985 and lastly I’ll Do Anything, 1994. Being a bookworm during her young years, Twyla Tharp has also written books like Push Comes to Shove an autobiography, 1992, The Creative Habit: Learn IT AND Use It for Life, 2003 and The Collaborative Habit, 2009. In 1976, Tharp choreographed Sue’s Leg for PBS program Dance in America. She also co-produced Making Television Dance, 1977 a production which won an award at the Chicago International Film Festival Award. Tharp also directed The Catherine Wheel for BBC Television, 1983.


Honors And Awards

Twyla Tharp has received several awards and honors throughout her career. Out of these are two Emmy Awards and 19 honorary doctorates. Others include National Medal of the Arts, 2004, Bernard Medal of Distinction, Tony Awards for Best Choreography and Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Tribeca Film Festival. In 1993, Twyla Tharp was inducted into Academy of Achievement and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and anhonorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 


Personal Life

In 1964, Twyla Tharp Tharp got married to his schoolmate at Barnard, Peter Young. The two, however, divorced later on. She then married artist Bob Huot, but that marriage too never lasted as the two divorced. The two, however, had a daughter, Jesse.

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