Dance Masters: Twyla Tharp

Twyla TharpTwyla Tharp is one of my heroes for so many reasons. I remember watching a television special one evening with my Dad as a young girl and I heard there was going to be a special performance choreographed by Twyla Tharp. It was called Sinatra Suite. I got very excited by this because I loved Frank Sinatra and his music and the piece was going to feature Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was my most favorite dancer ever! I had not heard of Twyla up to that point, but after I watched what she had created I was forever filled with admiration for her work. When I saw Baryshnikov dance “One For My Baby” It moved me deeply and blew my mind! It was so aesthetic. Everything about it was so beautiful to me. It has remained for me one of my most favorite dances ever. After that I was always all about what Twyla was doing or saying.

Then years passed and I became a choreographer. I had just co-created a musical that got a lot of attention by many important people. We had done some things that were really out of the box of what was known and acceptable especially on the dance front. I remember feeling very challenged from one of my mentors at the time, about a piece I had choreographed in the show. He asked me why I had done a certain thing. I told him I focused on the relationship of the two people first and then I built the piece without music. The music came to me after I finished the piece and then I ran out of the studio to go buy it. (I’m dating myself here…) When I put the music to the piece it fit perfectly to the last note. He then proceeded to tell me that I couldn’t create choreography that way. This really bothered me because I felt it wasn’t the truth. I loved the process I went through discovering the piece that went against everything that I was taught or even saw.

Just after that a friend of mine, knowing how much I loved Twyla Tharp, invited me to see her new work. Here she was again inspiring me through a piece she had been commissioned to create with a composer who created all the music on junk. Talk about out of the box! After the show my friend brought me to the after party and there was Twyla. I thought to myself go talk to her and ask her if my process was wrong and so I did.

I will never forget her response, she said “The first 30 pieces I choreographed were all choreographed without music. The music was the last thing!” She looked me straight in the eyes and in a no nonsense tone said “You do whatever works for you.”  This set me free to continue and to trust my process however it comes to me. That’s the fun of it! I learned something very important in that moment about being an artist and it has stuck with me ever since. I am grateful she took the time to talk with me that day.

I hope you enjoy the videos I chose to share with you! 🙂