Twyla Tharp

By Layne

About Twyla

Twyla Tharp was born in India in 1941. Her family moved to California when she was very young. Around this time she also took up dance lessons. Tharp enrolled at Pomona College, where she trained as a dancer after finishing high school. She studied under Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham technique. She graduated in 1963 and debuted as a professional dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. When she was 23 years old, Tharp started her own dance company using her own technique, her most successful works were created in the 1980's.

"Creativity is an act of defiance" - Twyla Tharp

Twyla's Style

Twyla's work fused classical discipline with natural movements like running, walking and skipping. Her works were often humorous and edgy compared to the rigid ballet technique. She referred to her style as "stuffing" movement of phrases, often adding squiggles, shrugged shoulders, little hops and jumps to conventional dance steps. Her works are grounded and use plié more than ballet technique. Her choreography was vigorous; often adding boxing, tap dance, yoga, ballet and full out sprinting intertwined. She choreographed lots of locomotor steps such as hops, skips, and turns across the stage in simple geometric patterns. The dancers had to push through the difficult steps, intricate timing and aerobic demands of the choreography.
Twyla Tharp's Sweet Fields

Twyla's Contribution to Modern Dance

Twyla set foot in waters where no one had ventured before by challenging, formal, physical and humorous means of dance. Twyla's creative, engaging style captivated her audience. They were constantly astonished by the sheer intensity of the dancing and the creativity of her concepts. Tharp's unique style was recognisable and fresh. She changed the way people thought about the considered normal dance technique by challenging their beliefs. She helped change and morph modern dance into what it is today.

"Twyla's work pushed the boundaries of modern dance"

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Dancers from Tharp's company performing 'In the Upper Room' - 1986

How her works were received:

In Twyla's era of work, people had started embracing the idea of modern dance and her successful works like 'In the upper room' received a standing ovation nearly every performance.
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